By Brian Reilly
If your bank is going through a name change or rebranding effort, you may think that migrating your website to its new domain will be the most straightforward of all the tasks. Don’t be fooled.
Despite what your website design agency has told you, there are a lot of things that can go terribly wrong when migrating your existing bank website to a new domain. It may not seem like such a big change to move yourbankname.com to yourbankname.bank or newbankname.com, but there are a whole lot of moving pieces that can affect your bank’s visibility in search engines. You’ll want to keep search engines like Google and Bing happy since the majority of your prospects and customers likely come into your website from these sources.
The devil is in the details.
To ensure a successful website migration, use this checklist to help your team cover all the bases.
Before the launch:
- Benchmarks – Make sure to capture benchmarks of your website’s domain authority (or search engine power), organic search traffic, keyword rankings, and total number of pages indexed in Google. If you haven’t done so already, make sure Google Search Console is set up for your website and properly linked to your Google Analytics property. These metrics are extremely useful for troubleshooting any issues that arise after the migration happens.
- Page-Level Redirects – Arguably the most important element of a successful website migration, it’s imperative to map every existing page of your website to a relevant corresponding page on the new site. For SEO it’s a best practice to use a permanent (301) redirect when you’re ready to redirect the old pages to new ones. Don’t forget to redirect subdomains too.
- URLs – When creating new URLs for your future website, make sure that you’re succinct and descriptive, and that you separate each word with a hyphen. Don’t include stop words, date stamps, or redundant folder names like “/home” in URLs.
- Duplicate Content – If your agency is providing new content for your website, make sure to scan the Internet first to ensure their content doesn’t already appear on other websites. (This definitely does happen). In order for your website to show up in search engines you’ll want to use 100% unique content.
- SEO Best Practices – Make sure your design team is using the latest best practices for search engine optimization with the new site build. This should include heading tags, image alt tags, optimized page meta titles and descriptions, internal links, optimized page copy, a 404 error page, HTML and XML sitemaps, location pages, domain unification, etc.
- Site Architecture – Think carefully about the organization of your website pages and how you’ll accommodate various divisions of your bank using a single domain. There are a lot of SEO implications related to architecture, but getting the site organization right for your users should be the top priority.
After the launch:
- Analytics – Do not abandon your historical analytics data. Instead, update your Google Analytics property to begin tracking the new domain right where your old analytics left off. To avoid any gaps in your data, make sure the new site has the correct analytics tracking code on every page of the site at launch.
- Robots.txt – To avoid having your new website indexed by Google ahead of launch, your development team may have added “no-index” into the website’s robots.txt file. Make sure to remove this instruction to search engines or your new website won’t appear in search results.
- Address Change Request – Within your Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools accounts, make sure to submit a change of address request from the old domain to the new one. This will expedite the removal of old URLs from these search engines and the indexing of your new page URLs. Both of these tools can also accept your XML sitemaps as well, to help search engines find and prioritize pages across the new site.
- Monitor 404 Errors – Use a website crawling software and also keep an eye on Google Search Console to identify broken pages. Make sure to redirect any old pages you’ve missed, so that users and search engine arrive at the right page on your site. This will also ensure any previous equity those old pages carry is transferred to the new page.
- Social Media – Do not abandon your old social media profiles for new ones! You’ve worked hard to grow a following on these channels so retain the equity by working through the appropriate support channels on each network to update the names/urls. It’s also best to avoid having those old profiles remain to avoid confusion with users.
- Citations – Similar to social media, you’ll want to make sure to update your bank’s profiles on other websites like Google Maps, Bing Maps, Apple Maps, Yelp, Credio, etc. It’s important both for users and search engines to see your bank consistently represented across the Internet.
- Search Engine Ads – To help alleviate confusion with customers after the migration, use pay-per-click ads in Google and Bing that target users searching for your old bank name. Your ads should still direct these users to the new site, but you can include ad copy that helps educate users about the change.
While this list may be a bit intimidating, it’s worth the effort. Don’t assume that your design team has all of the above covered. Design and SEO are two very different disciplines. We often see beautiful new bank websites launched without incorporating search engine best practices. Without an effective SEO strategy, your newly designed website will receive significantly less visibility from your target audiences. By following this checklist your bank can avoid confusing prospects, customers, and search engines when you change domain names.
Brian Reilly is an account strategist at BankBound Digital Marketing, an internet marketing agency based in Newtown, Pennsylvania that provides SEO, PPC advertising, and content marketing services exclusively for the banking industry.
Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.