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How to Avoid SEO Self-Destruction When Launching a New Website

By Chad PollittMay 2, 2011

Save the BacklinksEver hear of the “Save the ‘Animal X’” campaigns?  You know, Save the Manatee, Save the Polar Bears, Save the Whales, Save the Honey Bees, Save the Eagles, Save the Sea Turtle, etc.  This post is an introduction to the “Save the Backlinks” campaign.  Many companies that launch a newly revised website unknowingly slaughter a large portion of the poor defenseless backlinks their website has garnered over the years.  This is unfortunate because those poor defenseless backlinks are a big part of what made the company's old website rank well.  It is imperative that prior to going live with a new website an SEO migration plan is developed with the purpose of preserving any and all backlinks that have developed over the years.  

To properly execute a “Save the Backlinks” campaign you’ll need to deploy 301 redirects in order to redirect your old pages to the new version of those pages.  The reason you have to do this is because in most cases new websites have new URL’s.  Here’s an example:

  • Old URL – http://www.yourwebsite.com/index.php?article&id=62&Itemid=73
  • New URL – http://www.yourwebsite.com/about-us

If another website like CNN.com ran a story a year ago and the content contained a link to the old “About Us” URL that link would no longer work with the launch of the new website.  In Google’s eyes that link represents a vote of confidence that the website is worthy of being ranked.  If the link no longer works then that vote of confidence will disappear.  By redirecting the old URL to the new URL the link is preserved.  There are two ways to do this – the blind way or the easy way.

Saving the Backlinks – Blindly

This can be a long time consuming process if you didn’t have Google Webmaster Tools on your old website.  Google Webmaster Tools will report which pages on your old website have backlinks pointing to them.  Without that report you’ll have to blindly do 301 redirects for every page on your old website.  To get a list of your old website’s pages that are indexed simply go to Google and type in:

yourwebsite.com site:www.yourwebsite.com

After that you’ll want to create 301 redirects for every page that Google shows.  Ideally, you’ll want to redirect those pages to the appropriate matching or similar page on the new website.

Saving the Backlinks – The Easy Way

Go to your Google Webmaster Tools’ Dashboard.  Were it says “Links to your site” click on “More ».” After that, go to “Your most linked content” and click on “More ».” Now, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Download this table.” The file you just downloaded is a .CSV file that will open in Excel.  The links you see in the spread sheet are the ones you’ll need to do 301 redirects on.



Should you decide to join the “Save the Backlinks” movement the good news is you’ll be doing your part in protecting these poor defenseless inbound vertebrates.  However, according to my good friend Jeremy Dearringer, Chief Research Officer at Slingshot SEO, redirected backlinks lose up to 25% of their link juice.  This means that the links you had on your old website won’t pack as much punch when they’re redirected to your new website.  Don’t let this worry you too much though.  With a good inbound marketing strategy in place you’ll not only build lots of new backlinks, but your SEO will improve in the long run too.  For additional help with search engine optimization download our SEO Cheat Sheet.



Inbound Marketing with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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