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Five things to consider when changing websites.

Posted on Jan 13th, 2006
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    Every year or so, companies decide to go and update their website. Not just a few pages, but usually the entire design and structure. This can be a big factor in search engine optimization and whether it’s positive or negative depends on how you do it.

    There are lots of things everyone has to keep in mind when changing websites. Most things need to be thought of before hand, not after, and any issues should be addressed before a new site goes live.

    Here are five things to keep in mind.

    • URLs
    URLs are very important. Not only are search engines referring you traffic, but what about links from other peoples‚Äô sites, bookmarks, press releases or social bookmarking sites? You could have hundreds of links out there and you don’t want to forget about them or else your visitors may be coming to a ‘Page Not Found’ error instead of an information page.

    There are two things you can do to avoid dead links.
    1) Keep the same URL structure. Don’t change the page names or directories. If you keep the structure the same, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
    2) Since most people do change the structure, or they remove old pages, rename pages or just move things around, we have to document that. Keep track of all the old URLs and new URLs. Then you can create 301 redirects so that any requests from the old URL will land the visitor at the new URL. This is the completely search engine friendly. Using any other method of redirection is not advised.

    Redirect 301 /old.htm

    Keeping control of your URL structure will prevent visitors and search engines from hitting dead ends and missing your content.

    • Create Site Maps
    Visitors may not embrace your new site very well, as they may feel lost. The best thing to do is make sure you have a good site map that outlines the entire site. This will make it easy for visitors, and search engines, to find all the new pages and information on your new site.

    • Create an XML Site Map
    As we discussed a few days ago, creating XML site maps is quite easy. Creating one and submitting it to Google, Yahoo and MSN will help get the new URLs indexed.

    • Rankings
    Make sure to check out your stats and rankings to find out how people find you. If a page has good rankings, you want to make sure to keep that in mind when making any edits to the new version of that page. Editing the title tag, dramatically changing the content or renaming the page name without implementing a 301 redirect can all cause rankings to drop as the page won’t be the same as before. Remember, the more you change on a page, the more search engines may change your rankings. Good or Bad.

    • SEO
    Believe it or not, it all comes down to search engine optimization (SEO). Everything on the new site must be evaluated and updated before the site goes live. Give your SEO a call and have them check out the new site on the development area before you make it live. Even a gap of a few days between when it goes live and when your SEO sees it can make a big difference in lost rankings and visitors.