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I am working with a client to redo their website. The website is simple and just displays information. My question is with regards to the SEO.

I have only just started learning about SEO and on my first attempt (a website for a client who is not so fussy about SEO) I found I was mostly unsuccessful. I have missioned for weeks and still struggle to get the website to appear on google (site:website does return results so I believe it is indexed).

Back to my latest client - his website was built and managed by another company. Google searches return his website at the top. I have been hesitant to take over his domain name for fear that suddenly his website would no longer appear at the top or on the first page...

Ultimately, my question is: If I take over his domain name, will I lose all the SEO he currently has? Or will it remain seeing as Google already has the domain name indexed?

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    SEO is mostly a question of content. There shouldn't be a massive issue with you just taking over the hosting. – TZHX Jan 21 '16 at 10:10
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Martijn has a very good answer but I want to emphasize the most important point:

Don't throw the existing website away

If the existing website it working you need to have a plan for each and every page of it. You can still make big changes but for each page of the current website you need to decide if you:

  • Leave it as is
  • Add to it
  • Modify it heavily (any removed or replaced content may cause any rankings for keywords in that content to change)
  • Replace it with something else (you must implement 301 permanent redirects for each and every page you replace or for which you change the URL to maintain SEO.)
  • Delete it (which will cause that page to stop ranking for any keywords)

The most important elements for SEO (in order from most important are):

  1. The page URL (which can be changed with permanent redirects)
  2. The title of the page
  3. Which other pages are linked to (they have to be crawlable links, beware of AJAX and JavaScript powered pages.)
  4. The usability of the page
  5. The text content on the page
  6. The meta description of the page

If you are careful with those items, you will get 90% of the SEO right. For the most part you are free to change other aspects of the website without effecting SEO:

  • The color scheme (or other look and feel)
  • The images (as long as you are not relying on lots of image search traffic)
  • The HTML markup
  • The technology that powers it
  • The hosting
  • Awesome answer, thank you. In general I want to leave the content exactly the same. The old one is just so hidious we decided to redo the appearance. The technology that powers it will also change slightly. I can keep the URLs and the titles and links... will need to learn about crawable links. I'm getting the impression it won't be so bad... – Dee Jan 21 '16 at 12:13
  • Most any <a href=".... links are crawlable. Some sites use fancy JavaScript or block crawling with robots.txt. Normal HTML links are almost always fine. Sounds like you are on the right track. – Stephen Ostermiller Jan 21 '16 at 12:28
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  • First check how they currently do. Titles, description, content etc. You want to keep that the same. Do not improve (unless obvious things)
  • Check which urls are used. Do not change url structure! Or use the proper 301 redirects to make sure current page value is transferred to the new page.
  • You're starting on a new website, think this through. This is the point where thinking ahead is going to help you a lot. Design a good basis. Use proper techniques, no shortcuts for as long as possible.

Try not to update it technically, keep that on the same level it is now (again, unless you know how to improve). I say this because you can check the changes in visitors based in the layout. If you change everything and every goes bad, which part did that? You don't know, you changed everything.

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