So you’ve decided to redo your website. Perhaps your business model has changed and you need to reorganize your company’s website to reflect those changes - or maybe your site just needs a facelift. Either way, if you’re going to alter your website’s URL structure, it is imperative that you implement the proper 301 redirects, otherwise two terrible things could happen.
1) Your users will be confused
Your regular customers may have the URL to their favorite post or page on your website memorized or bookmarked. After you launch your new site, this URL will take them to a 404 page, leaving them confused, or worse, angry. A 301 redirect, on the other hand, will take them right to where the page now lives on your new site. Result: happy customer!
2) You will lose your search engine rankings
Let’s face it – you’ve likely put a lot of time and effort into making sure your website has some authority with the major search engines (if you haven’t, stop reading and call us now!). If you choose NOT to implement 301 redirects, all your old pages will result in 404 pages and they will eventually lose their search rankings. Worse, Google may have a hard time figuring out where this content now lives on your new site. There’s no guarantee it will rank as well as it once did, in fact it’s highly unlikely. Using a 301 redirect, though, will help Google find the new page on your new site and, in most cases, there is little to no loss in rank. Result: happy Google & more traffic.Take a look at the following two case studies from Practical Ecommerce.
When 301 redirects are properly implemented, there is an initial, brief drop in traffic while Google sorts things out. After Google processes the 301 redirects and figures out where your content now lives, your rankings will tend to recover and little to no search traffic is lost.
On the other hand, without 301 redirects, Google can no longer find its way around your site, in fact, it’s almost as if you’re starting over from scratch. Search engine rankings will drop off drastically and may never fully recover.
Here are two examples taken from a client of ours who opted NOT to do a 301 redirect when they launched their new site last spring.Here is a chart plotting their Google ranking for Keyword #1:
And here is Keyword #2:
You can clearly see that their site eventually recovered and they were able to improve upon their search rankings thanks to our team, but look how long it took for that to happen. They had to endure almost a full month of not ranking for their primary keywords. How much money would that cost your business?Let’s do some math.
Let’s say your website gets 1,000 visits per month for one of your primary keywords. If your site loses its rankings for even just two weeks, you’ve just lost 500 visits per month for that keyword. If your conversion rate is 3%, you’ve just lost 15 conversions. If each conversion is worth $100 to you, you’ve just cost your business $1,500 (on only ONE keyword) because you failed to implement 301 redirects.
The key takeaway here is to delve into your site’s analytics and analyze, say, the top 50 pages that are receiving the most traffic. Make sure you look at ALL traffic sources, not just organic search. Remember, people may type a page in directly or have it bookmarked. Then, before you re-launch, implement the proper 301 redirects. This will ensure that both users and search engines can still find your valuable content after your new site goes live.
Making this effort today will help you to maximize the benefits associated with launching a new website, without risking a drop-off in search traffic.