Are you redoing your website? Regardless of your goals, do not make this critical mistake!
Jed Schaible, VMD, MBA, CVPM
Let’s pretend you are using a website service and you decide you want to change to another provider or have a custom website created. You interview several companies, hear their sales pitch, call their references and now feel confident that the company you are going with is the perfect fit. Unbenounced to you, there may be a critical error you are making that is essentially a ticking time bomb that will greatly handicap your marketing effectiveness in the near future.
I am going to make some generalizations about web development firms because I have interfaced with dozens and dozens and have rarely been impressed with their knowledge of marketing. Although marketing to veterinarians can be relatively affordable, it can be difficult to navigate the offerings. Most web development companies are concerned with the aesthetics and user interface of a website (i.e. what the clients typically think is most important), but in reality, even the ugliest site with great search engine rankings can outperform a beauty that can not be found.
Despite the fact that you don’t like your current website, it has built value for you over the years by earning rankings in search engines for many keyword phrases. I call this value “SEO equity” and you need to do everything in your means to protect that equity.
Let’s say your current website ranks for the search term “Bethlehem, PA dog stem cell therapy.” When you click on your results in Google, it brings you to a page with the URL “http://yourpractice.com/dog-stem-cell-therapy”. What happens more often than not is that when you get your website redone, the web development company pulls the text content from that page and publishes the new page about dog stem cell therapy on a different URL (i.e. http://yourpractice.com/different-URL). When Google re-indexes your page at the old URL, the page is blank with a 404 error and then Google removes this page from the results. This means you have lost your SEO equity for those keywords.
How do you prevent this from happening? The answer is simple. In order to protect your SEO equity, you need to create an Excel document with all of your current URLs before you redo your website. Then you need to have your developers create what are called “301 redirects” from the new URLs to the corresponding old URLs. For a site with about 25 pages, this would only take few minutes – so don’t let them charge you for this. It should be included and if they didn’t mention this to begin with, you might want to reevaluate your choice to go with them.