Perhaps one of the most critically important areas of digital marketing (SEO in particular) is the proper management of website migrations.
In our experience, a poorly managed website migration is the single greatest reason for a large drop in visibility, traffic and sales. The more established a website is, the more critical it is to have everything taken in to consideration prior to any web re-design or development taking place, let alone the site itself being switched over.
Web developers often overlook the SEO aspects of a website migration as they don’t see it as a priority, often preferring to focus on design elements and UX. With this in mind, it’s imperative to have digital marketing specialists with specific experience in site migrations to oversee the process, spotting problems before they arise and managing different aspects of the migration strategy in order to mitigate your risk as much as possible. At Red Cow, we’re well versed in even the most complex website migrations, including internationalisation projects spanning up to 15 countries and large e-commerce sites with tens of thousands of product pages. Below we’ve listed some of the most common issues we come across.
Removing pages, re-ordering of menus and new elements to pages that were previously ranking well can cause havoc with rankings for an established site and cause traffic to plummet.
When restructuring a website it is essential to have the correct redirects put in place to not only ensure that visitors are going to the correct page, but that link authority is passed on, ensuring rankings do not drop for key pages.
Tracking information can often be forgotten in the midst of all of the tasks that need completing in a website migration, and this happens surprisingly frequently. Not only is it essential to move across all of the Analytics, Facebook, AdWords and Retargeting pixels but it is also important not to duplicate them or you’ll be seeing completely inaccurate data.
This is the most complex aspect of a migration as it involves using the correct attributes for each country’s version of the site to display the right languages and currencies to each visitor. In addition to this, there can be canonicalisation problems for sites with multiple versions (i.e. UK, USA, Australia) that may have the same (duplicate) content on them. There are also various server locations to take in to account, ensuring each version of the site has a server in the country it is targeting and correctly geo-locates.
This is becoming more and more common as website owners perceive that a great looking, contemporary site will set them apart from the competition. In actual fact it is just giving users less information and in turn giving Google more reason to push you down the rankings because of a lack of context. A great website needs to strike a balance between design and functionality, and making your site look fantastic at the expense of traffic and enquiries/revenue.
This can often be as a result of bad redirects or a new URL structure leading to pages that can no longer be navigated to.
It is not only a matter of ensuring this is done but also knowing when to do it, if you jump the gun and re-index with a fatal flaw in your migration then you’ll be risking dropping down the rankings in a matter of minutes, making it very difficult to fix the issue quickly.
Website Migration projects are priced on a case by case basis, purely on the number of days’ work necessary to complete the project. There are many factors that go in to a website migration, from how many pages the site has to the extent of the overhaul and whether any SEO work needs to be done on any new pages being added.
When we take on a migration project, we will get involved in every aspect of it, communicating with stakeholders at all levels including project managers, web developers, marketing managers and graphic designers.