One of the most exciting challenges that marketers can face is working together to create a new website. It’s an opportunity to look at what really makes your institution unique and revive your brand in an exciting and innovative way.
But, a new website and migration should be approached tactfully and methodically. Failure to do so could result in less traffic, fewer conversions and overall less online visibility – hardly something that will make a splash at your next marketing review. An exhaustive SEO strategy needs to be scoped out and implemented before you begin migrating to a new website. Luckily, one of our resident SEO experts, Harry, has outlined his top tips below…
Recognise your strengths
It is easy to be dismissive of an old website, but rather than take a sledgehammer to it and start with a clean slate, an SEO strategy could help you extract the finer pieces of the site and help identify what is working and what could be improved on.
But why should the manner of my website’s demolition bother to me, I hear you ask? Well, unless you want your current positioning to be bulldozed away, with the links, ranking keywords and all the other factors that propped up your rankings in search engines, it should matter to you; a lot. While naturally, you may have misgivings about your current site (hence why you want a new one), it is very unlikely that it was entirely useless, and in fact, you probably owe much of your organic traffic from keywords your webpages are already ranking for. Lose these ranking keywords, lose traffic – it’s that simple.
Those all-important backlinks
A commonly overlooked component of website migrations is the presence of inbound links. It is essential to hold onto the portfolio of links pointing to your site. Think of links as not just gateways to guide users to your website from other external sites, but as a sign of endorsement too. A link to your website is the internet equivalent of a footnote reference in an academic thesis, and as such is highly regarded by Google, as it assumes your site is an authority in your field. So, failure to match all of the URLs from your old site to your new one will effectively create ‘dead links’ – one less thumbs up in the eyes of search engines.
Also, should a prospective student click to follow a link to your institution on another website and they discover that the link is dead, it’s unlikely they will go out of their way to find where it’s meant to be going. How many times have you clicked a link to only be transported to a page that greets you with the ‘404 – Page not found’ error message, and how many times have you quickly clicked away in annoyance? Again, that’s just one less prospective student finding your website.
Know the right time to send search engines and users to the new site
Okay, so your new website is ‘under construction’, you know this, and the team knows this, but the question is – does Google know this? Unless it is non-indexed, chances are Google will have access to every rough draft of the new site. And you don’t need us to tell you that this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Whilst your website resembles a building site, a hodgepodge of half-complete webpage copy and broken links, you really wouldn’t want your prospective students to stumble upon this, get confused and begin to question the professionalism of your institution. That is why non-indexation is imperative for maintaining your brand and limiting confusion as much as possible during the construction of your new website.
In addition to the problems it can cause to human users, it can also invoke the wrong kind of reaction from search engines. If for example, Google bots were to find existing content on both the ‘live’ site and the one under construction, both websites could incur the wrath of Google and receive heavy penalties for lack of content or having duplicate copy. Not only will this be shooting your new website in the foot before it’s even live, but your current site may also have to pay the price too.
A work in progress
Now your website is up and running, it’s time to sit back and watch the student enquiries and conversions roll in, right? Unfortunately, this might not be in the case right away. If you were lucky enough to have the website problem-free when it was launched, chances are it won’t stay that way. Like a living organism, websites can get bugs and develop problems. Ideally, the health of your website should be monitored post-launch and then again every couple of months there on in. As long as you keep on top of what is working well for your users, and what is working well for your organic rankings, you’ll be moving in the right direction for the perfect new website.
Are you planning on migrating to a new website? Looking to improve your SEO strategy? Speak to our experts about your SEO challenges by getting in touch here.