When changing websites the biggest mistake most people make is not redirecting their web pages. I have been seeing this for nearly 25 years now and I have no idea how such a novice mistake is made over and over and over again.
In 2014 I saw a Chapel Hill NC real estate agent completely destroy their web presence. This was a successful agent who sells half million dollar homes. They let their web designer rebuild their website and they did not redirect the pages. The results were devastating as traffic dropped from 130 hits a day to 3. I just checked out their Analytics account and it is 28 months later and they are still attempting to recover from this disaster.
Won’t Google figure it out?
Hell no. Eventually, yes, Google will crawl the pages. If your page dedicated to “peanut butter” has moved, sure, yes, Google will eventually discover it, crawl it, and index it in search results.
This doesn’t mean squat. Any links the pages had are permanently lost without a proper 301 redirect in place. This means the pages have lost their page authority. With the links going nowhere the entire website loses power as well.
Is redirecting difficult?
It makes no sense why someone would not redirect a web page. If someone tells you that you do not need to redirect a page do not bother attempting to educate them as they will very likely attempt to argue with you. This is SEO 101 and was considered a best practice back in the 1990s.
Think of it like moving your home. You tell the post office you’ve moved so that your mail can get to its destination without skipping a beat.
Redirecting is as simple as editing a file on your webserver. For some CMSs, such as WordPress, there are even plugins available which will modify this file for you so that you do not need to get your hands dirty. Be sure you use a “301 redirect” which is a permanent redirect.
To make a very long story short, when changing platforms, sometimes your URLs will change. In the peanut butter situation, you would redirect your old URLs like this:
Old URL: site.com/peanut-butter.shtml
New URL: site.com/peanut-butter/
Hire professional help
If any of this sounds foreign it is best to hire a professional as this is likely the least of your potential problems during a site move.
I have handled everything from troubleshooting traffic issues on websites with over 3 million pages to HTTPS conversions for high profile attorneys running Justia or FindLaw sites; if you need assistance with a site move and ongoing SEO help feel free to contact me today.