What Happens If You Change Your Website and Lose Links?
Launching your new website is a moment of truth. Does everything work? Does it all look good? Are sales still coming through? But even after you breathe a sigh of relief, you could find out weeks or months later that your traffic has declined. Where did it all go?
That’s what Patrick Stox sets out to solve for us in a fascinating how-to that highlights one of the trickiest problems in SEO: lost links. Links are one of the main drivers of SEO; the more sites that point at you, the more relevant you must be, and your rank in the search results rises accordingly. Of course, SEO is much more complicated than that. These days, Google looks at the value of your content itself first and foremost, and it’s very picky about what it considers “good” links that will improve your rank. But make no mistake, even the best content will not fare well if no one else is linking to you.
That’s why losing links can be a crisis. Typically, if a company experiences reduced traffic after rolling out a new website, the problem is that some of the links that pointed at their old site now lead nowhere. This can be true whether you redesign/restructure an existing website or switch to a whole new domain. Either type of shakeup can lead to broken links and loss of SEO advantage.
What Went Wrong
So why do links go missing? After all, if your URL is the same or you put in a redirect, they should still point at you, right? That’s true in theory. But Patrick identifies several ways a link can be lost:
- Your web developer didn’t implement redirects. “Redirects” are code that tells a browser where to go when an old, defunct page has been removed. They literally redirect traffic from an old page to a new one. Redirects can be overlooked on any scale. If you have an amateur web developer, they might not think of putting in redirects at all. But even professionals can leave out crucial redirects on specific pages if they don’t compare the old and new site structure.
- The problem is old What if your site already had redirects on it? These could be from an even earlier version of the site, or they could be internal from some restructuring you did. Your web developer may not have known about these existing redirects, and didn’t carry them over to the new site. Thus, when you went live, all the old redirects broke, and their search juice went with them.
- An old domain expires. Even years after a successful re-launch, old links are still in peril. What if you switched domains—say, from domain.net to domain.com—and then allowed the old domain to expire? Well, once it expires any redirects you had on it disappear. Once again, traffic drops.
You’re starting to get the idea: even a few forgotten redirects can have a huge negative impact. Unfortunately, getting those links back isn’t so easy, but it is possible. Patrick walks you through the entire painstaking process, from how to figure out which links are missing, to how to clean up your link data, to how to implement the redirects where needed. I recommend reading his entire article for the nitty gritty step by step. Or, if you prefer to leave your website and SEO to the professionals, let us know what problems you’re facing. We have a team of some of the best SEO minds on the planet, and we offer a free consultation with actionable solutions. Give us a call today.