How to keep your SEO rankings when you upgrade your website

Any major change you make to your website will have an impact on your SEO rankings.

Whether you’re optimising your site for the mobile web, adding a blog, building an entirely new webpage or relocating your site to a new URL, you’ll see your page ranking go up and down as the search engines reassess your webpage. 

Though a few small undulations in page ranking are common when updating a site, it’s important to ensure the hard work you’ve put into optimising your site isn’t lost in the long term. If you’re not careful, all the time and effort you’ve already put into link building, keyword research and creating high quality content could go to waste when you upgrade your site, putting you back at square one when it comes to SEO. 

To help ensure this doesn’t happen, and to show how your SEO rankings can actually be improved by updating and migrating your site, we’ve put together a quick guide to keeping your SEO rankings when upgrading your website. 

Know your starting point

Unless you know how well your current website is performing, you won’t know whether or not your upgrade has been a success. Before you start work on your webpage, take note of your site’s Key Point Indicators (KPIs). Note down how many unique site visitors you receive, how many conversions are made every day, your level of organic traffic, your keyword ranking and any other factors that are relevant to your site. 

Know your weaknesses

Before you can decide what upgrades are necessary, it’s important you find out exactly where you’re going wrong. Even if your URL performs well in the page rankings, there are likely to be a few areas where you can still improve. Complete a tech audit on your site to uncover any weaknesses, keeping an eye out for internal errors, pages with thin content, spammy links and any other elements that could negatively impact your SEO rankings. 

Make a plan

Now that you know where you’re starting from, it’s time to make a plan. Decide exactly what you want to achieve from your upgrade, looking at factors like mobile optimisation, navigation, loading times and design. Consider whether your site will need to be offline for a period of time during the upgrade and be sure to plan this down time when traffic to your site is at its lowest. 

Use expert advice 

If you have an in-house team of SEO experts, or if you’re using an outside agency, make sure they’re involved at every step of the upgrade. Expert knowledge is crucial when it comes to maintaining page ranking, with skilled and experienced web masters able to not only preserve a site’s page ranking, but also to boost SEO during an upgrade. 

Set up redirects 

If you’re migrating your site, 301 redirects will tell Google, and other search engines, that your site has moved permanently. This should preserve any incoming links to your site and will ensure users can still find your webpage. However, as chains of 301 redirects are bad for SEO, you first need to check there aren’t any existing redirects within your site. 

Test, test, test

Before you launch your newly upgraded site, it’s crucial you test every element. Make sure all of your redirects are working as they should, ensure incoming and outgoing links are correct and go through every page to check your content, design and functionality. 

Let people know 

If your site has moved permanently, you’ll need to notify Google of your new URL. This is easy to do via Google Search Console, however it’s important you don’t make the notification until you’re happy with your new site. 

Keep looking for errors 

For the first few weeks after your site has launched, keep a keen eye out for errors. Even if you checked your site thoroughly before it launched, errors can crop up when users start visiting your webpage. Any errors that do appear should be fixed as quickly as possible. 

Check your KPIs

Once your site has been running for a while, check your current KPIs against the values you took before the upgrade. This should give you a good indication of whether or not your upgrade has been a success. 

With a little bit of planning and knowhow, you can not only keep your SEO rankings when upgrading your site, you can actually improve them. This should result in a site that’s fully optimised, that performs as well as possible on the modern web and that gives your business the online presence it really deserves.