We come across this more often than not. Companies have built up a fairly strong SEO presence on a website that is now dated. Here are some tips on how to maintain your SEO rankings while upgrading to the latest web technology.
Step 1: Strategy
Prior to getting down to the business of building your new site, ensure that you have a strategy in place. You now have the opportunity to look at your current SEO strategy and throw away what was not working for you while keeping what was working for you. Do yourself a favor and look at what pages are popular to your readers and or clients, pages that are hardly visited need to be tossed and replaced with more up to date, vibrant, compelling content. You may also find that certain keywords are ranking well but you are not getting the conversion rates that you want, that would be a clear indication to update the landing pages for those keywords with a well designed call to action put in place.
Step 2: On Page / On Site optimization
I have an expression that I use in just about every seminar on SEO that I give “Everything on every page is done on purpose by design” this holds true to every page on your site. Each element on your new site must be thought about both from a users point of view and from a logical flow point of view. Take time out to design your page layout, look at it both from a user experience point of view as well as ensuring that SEO compliance’s are met. Simple SEO techniques should never be forgotten. Does the description meta tag accurately describe what the page is about. Remember we are trying not to surprise the users.
As an SEO specialist I am leaning away from keywords on the content side (keywords from the user side or client side of SEO is still critically important) When creating content for your new site don’t worry too much about keyword density and or keywords for that matter. I know there are going to be many SEO specialists out there that disagree with me, however I am convinced that the main search engines have moved far away from simply counting keywords on your web page then deciding what it is about. If you are writing good authoritative content, the search engines will know what it is about. Just like the way in which contextual advertising is placed on pages I believe that the search engines are looking at your pages from a contextual or thematic point of view.
Furthermore from an on page optimization point of view, don’t forget to ensure that your sites URL’s are clean, allow the name of the page to match the content in a natural way.
Step 3: Navigation
Wherever possible try to maintain the same navigation that you had for good ranking pages. Pages that have ranked poorly in the past are part of what I call “sunken cost”, they never helped you in the past, get rid of them going forward. For those pages that you feel have to go! – Do not forget to create a 301 redirect for those pages, therefore if anyone should land up going to the old pages they are handled in a graceful and SEO friendly manner. Ensuring that as your new site is built out that your users still have a good experience is important so doing the 301’s is important.
Step 4: Create the robots.txt / sitemap.xml
Creating a sitemap is imperative, it helps the search engines discover any new content as well as existing content on your site. Do not forget the all important robots.txt file, this file lets search engines know where they should index and more importantly where they should not index.
Step 5: Monitoring your progress
Now you are done! Before you can sit-back and relax, ensure that you monitor your rankings. There are a host of tools out there for monitoring your rankings, personally I like Inspyder’s Rank Reporter. This tool allows you to monitor your keywords as well as send you email reports whenever you require them.
Of course monitoring is nothing without adjustment. Make sure that you keep on top of what is happening with your site. Add new content on a regular basis, keep it fresh and alive. Users do not like visiting sites that have nothing new to offer.
Hopefully these 5 simple steps will help you in maintaining your SEO rankings as well as ensuring that you have every opportunity to rank higher for your selected keywords.