Cutting Through Technical SEO Jargon: Links & Redirects in New Site Builds

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This post is adapted from our free eBook: Technical SEO Best Practices - a Marketers' Guide. For more expert on-site SEO advice, download your copy today.

We’ve previously looked at quick ways marketing managers can diagnose and identify technical SEO errors themselves. Now, we’re going to dive a bit deeper, by looking at essential SEO considerations when you’re planning a new website.

Specifically, we’re going to cover internal links and site migrations – subjects that are often seen as inscrutable and overcomplicated.

Sure, things can get thorny. But the difficulty comes in diagnosing and fixing these problems. The theory behind it all is really quite simple.

Overcomplicated mathematical formulae. Simpler than this, we promise...

This post should help you understand of the importance of these technical SEO issues, and give you the knowledge you to need raise the subject with your web development agency.

Good web developers will already have considered potential problems, and will have budgeted for them.

Others won’t have. But it’s best to bring attention to potential issues as soon as possible, so you can ensure your web development agency tackles them, or bring in external SEO experts to help guide the web build.

Why do you need to be aware of them? As you’ll see from our real-life examples, small technical SEO slip-ups can play havoc with your search rankings…

Broken Links

Broken links lead to URLs that have been removed, or that never existed in the first place. Websites tend to develop broken links over time, but it’s not uncommon to find them on brand- new builds too.

A snapped chain.

These bad links are annoying for users, and go against technical SEO best practice. Good web developers should test their sites fully prior to launch to ensure that there are no broken links.

Questions to ask your web development agency:

  • Are you sure my site has no broken links?
  • Do you have a method to check for broken links?
  • Do you carry out these checks as standard?

Redirects and Site Migration

So we know you should always avoid broken links within your site’s internal inking structure. But if you decide to remove a page or change its URL, you have to consider external links too.

This is a common problem with site rebuilds – if lots of people link to an outdated URL, you’ll miss out on valuable link strength, and direct a whole bunch of otherwise-interested users to a 404 page.

ClickThrough Marketing's 404 page. And it won't be as darned cute as this one, that's for sure.

These outdated URLs should be rerouted to the new, correct version using a 301 redirect. 302 redirects exist too, but these are used for temporary changes and don’t pass link strength.

It’s bad practice to link to redirected pages within the internal linking structure of your site. Redirects should be only used to point old URLs to the correct location. Some content management systems (CMS) use redirects as standard in the way they handle internal links. You should talk to your web development agency to find a way round this issue.

As a rule, the biggest problems with redirects arise when an agency has carried out a whole-site rebuild. When we build websites, we ensure that old URLs which are no longer used in the new site structure are redirected to an appropriate current version.

Migrating the old URLs to good alternative URLs in the new structure is an important part of a new web build, but unless it’s specifically requested, many developers will not carry the work out at all.

Questions to ask your web developer:

  • Have you budgeted to map all my old URLs to my new URLs?
  • Do you have a way to check for unwanted redirects within my site’s structure?
  • Does our CMS use redirects as standard, and if so, can you correct this?

Real-Life Example

We have seen lots of examples of poor site migration. For instance, we dealt with the case of an SME that suffered a severe traffic drop after a site rebuild. Its new site had a very different structure to the old, and no redirects were in place. Among the links that were lost were a feature article from the Independent newspaper and a link from the BBC, all going to pages that no longer existed.

Even the biggest companies can forget about site migration. We found that a web developer building a new site for a very well-known business had not included site migration in the site build, and had no plans to redirect the old URLs

Internal Linking and Anchor Text

Broken links and redirects are important considerations when migrating a site. But when you’re planning how your new site fits together, it’s just as important to consider how your internal links are structured.

This is because your web of internal links helps search engines create a hierarchy of pages within your site. In other words, it helps search engines see which pages are more important, and which are less important.

Hierarchy of chess pieces.

For a start, every page on your site should have a link pointing to it. If a page is particularly important, it should have many other pages linking to it internally. If the page isn’t particularly important, it should have fewer links.

Your web developer should also consider the ‘anchor text’ of these links. Anchor text is the (usually) blue text shown to users to indicate a link: This is an example link.

Search engines use anchor text in assessing the subject matter of a page. For example, if a page has lots of links pointing to it with anchor text related to ‘used cars’ , it follows that the content of that page is probably related to used cars too.

We strictly use clear and descriptive anchor text to help search engines and users make sense of the websites we build.

Questions to ask your web developer:

  • Do you understand the importance of anchor text in SEO?
  • Have you considered how correct use of anchor text will support the structure and hierarchy of my site?

Want more  technical SEO advice? Download your free marketer's checklist guide today!

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