Your new website looks great, but is it haunted? Is your old website that you thought was dead tormenting your new site from beyond the grave? In this Halloween post, we talk about ways in which your old website can actually harm your SEO efforts on your new website, and what you can do about it.
Approximate Read Time: 3 Minutes
Your new website looks amazing, and your webmaster has really worked hard to optimize your site for search engines, but your site is haunted. The ghosts of your old website could be hampering the performance of your new website from beyond the grave. As we approach Halloween, let’s lay those restless spirits of websites gone by to rest once and for all.
Your Old URLs are Leading Your Visitors Astray
When you launched your new version of your website, did you change your URLs? One of the most common mistakes that a webmaster makes when launching a redesign of a site is not paying attention to the SEO efforts that their site already had. The URLs of your old site may still be indexed or linked on other sites, and when people click on a result or link on another website, you want to make sure that they get to the equivalent content on your new site, rather than to a 404 error.
Be sure that you check through all the pages of your old site and redirect them by using 301 redirects to the corresponding page on your new site. It can be a lot of work to find every page, especially if your old site had a lot of pages or used a dynamic URL structure, but the consequences of not doing this are severe and could turn your new site into a graveyard, haunted by spirits of pages past.
For any pages from your old site that don’t have an equivalent on your new site, consider using a 410 instead of a 404 to inform search engines that the missing content is intentional. In this way, Google, Bing, and others will know to remove these intentionally deleted pages from their indexes in order not to direct users to a 404 error page.
Your Old Webmaster’s Black Hat SEO Techniques Attack from Beyond the Grave
If your old webmaster used less savory techniques in their search engine optimization, such as purchasing links or participating in link farms, these old links can hurt you long after you fired that webmaster and set up your brand new site. Check for unnatural backlinks on your site by using tools such as the Backlink checker in Google Search Console or a third-party tool such as Ahrefs, and if you find any unnatural backlinks that your old webmaster previously set up, these may be affecting the reputation of your site.
It can take time and effort to fully counteract prior bad SEO, but it is important work that you should not skip when optimizing your new site.
Your “Dead” Site has Joined the Ranks of the Undead
If you aren’t changing your hosting provider at the same time as you change out your website, the chances are that you’ve just uploaded your new website over the top of your old site. While this is understandable, there are a couple of reasons why this can come back to haunt you. The first is that while you may think of your old site as dead, if there are pieces of the old site sticking around, this old content, with its previous optimization that may not match the optimization of your new site, can end up coming up. If some of the old content pages remain indexed, you can be introducing unexpected duplicate content on your site, especially if you haven’t done redirects from the old content to new.
The Rotting Corpse of Your Old Website is Infecting Your New Site
In addition to having remnants of your old site potentially still showing up, leaving your old site around can damage the security of your new site. If you left your old site sitting around, and it is running on a CMS system, such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla (or something older), you probably haven’t bothered to keep updating the software with security patches.
New security vulnerabilities are found in popular CMS systems every day, and shortly after a new vulnerability is disclosed, the hackers start attacking any site that hasn’t updated to a clean version. Keeping on top of software updates on your active site takes a lot of time, but if you left your old site around, you are highly unlikely to have kept on top of your software updates on a site that you thought was dead.
If your old site and new site are hosted in the same environment, a hacker getting through an unpatched vulnerability on your old site can actually let the hacker gain access to your new site as well.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
It is very important when you create a new site that your webmaster or you take all these things into consideration and more, or ghosts of your old site can haunt and harm your new site. Be sure when you are choosing a new web developer that you pick a webmaster who doesn’t cut corners and can help you bust those ghosts of websites past.
If the time has come for a new website or blog for your law firm, don’t worry, “We ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts!” Justia’s team of experts doesn’t cut corners when it comes to making you a complete, optimized site. We diligently look into what your old website left behind to make sure that your new site is as pure and optimized as possible.
In the meantime, we wish you and your families a safe and fun Halloween.