20th September 2022
Redirects: The key to keeping your traffic after website migration.
You have a brand new website in the works – the design is looking great, development went smoothly, it’s time to go live! A few weeks in your organic traffic keeps falling and falling, with no signs of recovery. Why’s that?
Quite possibly, there was no redirect strategy in place…
What are redirects?
It’s a way of telling search engines about changes in your website, telling them that URL A is now URL B.
Redirects are commonly used to:
- Tell search engines about your preferred version of the website (ie HTTPS protocols vs HTTP and www vs non-www URLs), so matter which one you go to, you get redirected to the right version of the site.
- Avoid duplicates by redirecting URLs with a trailing slash to URLs with no trailing slash (kota.co.uk/work/ goes to kota.co.uk/work)
- redirect an uppercase URL to a lowercase URL (kota.co.uk/WORK goes to kota.co.uk/work), as URLs are case sensitive.
And, there’s the important aspect this post focuses on – addressing the changes to your website’s architecture and content, such as during a redesign.
Why it’s crucial?
Without redirects, you’re putting your organic search rankings and general user experience at risk.
From search engines’ perspective, suddenly all (or most of) the URLs are broken, therefore your pages don’t answer the search queries they used to. In this case, your website can no longer rank for those, so you lose the rankings you have built over the years. Even if you have a corresponding page on the new website, it will take time to build back the rankings, as you’re now starting from scratch.
All backlinks from other websites to your website are also now going to become dead links, probably lots of them! This impacts the authority of your domain, and in turn, your search engine rankings – your website is no longer a reliable source for this information.
Lastly, think of the frustrated users who clicked a link only to go to a link that doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a high chance they would leave your website, and you could lose a potential customer. It’s bad on all accounts!
How it’s done?
As explained above, starting to think about redirects at the very last moment isn’t a great idea. We recommend starting at the very beginning of the website redesign project.
- Audit of existing website: start with seeing what works and what doesn’t, address areas of improvement on the new site.
- Content & website architecture: what’s the current structure vs the planned one, carefully consider pages you think should be removed (if any).
- User experience (UX): changes in the navigation, categorisation, internal linking etc; think how pages are grouped and how quickly users can get to the relevant content.
- Keyword rankings: check what pages rank for valuable keywords and work on maintaining them, website redesign is a good opportunity to think about future opportunities and having the right set-up to work towards them – think long term and map out your keywords on the new site.
- Page authority & backlinks: learn what the most reputable pages are, with quality backlinks from other reputable websites.
- Traffic volume: Ensure high-traffic pages exist on the new website.
Main redirect types
301s and 302s are the most commonly used redirect types. Here’s what they do, in a nutshell:
- 301: a permanent redirect that passes the authority to the new URL, the main type of redirect with regards to website migrations.
- 302: a temporary redirect that allows you to keep the old URL indexed even though it’s redirected (unless it’s left in place for too long, then it gets treated as 301), the equity isn’t passed on the new page, as it’s just supposed to be temporary.
If you’re curious about other redirect types, read this overview on Google Search Central.
Considering the redirect strategy is key from the very beginning of any website project. Make sure to give your team enough time to allow for design and dev changes where needed.
If working with an agency, discuss their capabilities before starting your partnership, or collaborate with a dedicated SEO agency.