How Strategic SEO Saves Time & Money During a Website Migration
The importance of designing a responsive website that provides an optimal user experience across platforms is greater now than ever before. User expectations for digital experiences are growing exponentially, requiring companies to adapt their sites accordingly or risk losing valuable traffic, conversions, revenue and market share.
From responsive design and API integrations to payment portals and conversational marketing platforms, website technology is advancing rapidly. These enhancements are prompting many C-suite leaders to overhaul the design and functional capabilities of their existing sites by migrating to a new platform. But this is a tall order, and for the unprepared, it can have devastating, costly consequences.
Upfront Migration Cost + Backend Traffic Loss = Double Trouble
It’s no secret that redesigning or rebuilding a website in 2019 is costly. It’s also costly to delay an upgrade, or to upgrade without a proper plan in place, risking the loss of valuable traffic on the back end of a migration.
Migrating to a new domain can be a great business move, but you don’t have to be an SEO expert to know that a beautiful new website is useless if no one knows you exist. A costly upfront investment can end up costing you even more in the lost traffic that often stems from a lack of SEO planning.
Decreases in rankings (and traffic), poor user experience and even Google penalties can result from improper SEO migration planning, all resulting in lower revenue at a time when the website is expected to increase revenue.
Additionally, without proper SEO migration planning, a company will miss out on the opportunity to identify areas in which they can enhance their websites’ organic performance and improve upon its engagement with users to optimize conversion rates.
SEO Website Migration Checklist
Now that we’ve covered how essential it is to develop a strategic SEO strategy during a website migration, it’s time to discuss the steps for implementing SEO solutions into your migration strategy.
First, in order to ensure an optimal migration, you must have a clear plan in mind. This plan should involve three phases:
- Set Objectives & Goals. Share clear and realistic objectives and goals with important stakeholders to set and manage expectations for the migration. Discussing and agreeing on key points in the set-up phase will assist in keeping the project within scope and budget.
- Review Keyword Focus. Align your development and content creation teams so that they both have an understanding of the importance of your focused keyword strategy, ensuring the site is designed with SEO in mind. This may require some education of C-level or non-technical employees involved with the migration. Understanding the importance of SEO is critical to the success of your migration.
- Identify Priority Pages. It is important to identify priority pages to prevent them from losing visibility during the migration process. When you are identifying priority, pages think about which pages drive the most traffic, pages that convert well and backlink magnets. These pages are your website’s most valuable assets.
- Benchmark Current Site. Note your legacy site’s key SEO metrics, such as load times (mobile and desktop), number of backlinks, keyword rankings, etc. This will allow you to tangibly compare performance before and after migration, and for areas that are causing issues, it provides reference points to determine where and why they are happening.
- Review Staging Environment. Ensure that the site isn’t accessible to search engines but can be crawled on demand for testing prior to launch.
- Check Search Engine Crawling. Spot-check the robots.txt file for any crawling issues, review server responses (desktop and mobile), review canonical tags for errors, check for unintentional no-index or no-follow directives and identify and fix cloaking issues if necessary.
- Redirect Work & Confirmation. Arguably the most important task involved in a migration, it is critical to ensure old URL’s redirect properly to the new site. Avoid temporary and/or legacy redirect issues, review redirect chains and make sure redirect rules are working as expected across the board.
- Search Console Setup. Review how Google is indexing the new site. Check for critical issues and use “Fetch as Google” on every page type. Test each sitemap and provide best practices to help search engines discover redirects. Upload a new disavow file and address all duplicate content issues.
- On-Site Google Compliance Review. Review all metadata, images, internal links, etc. to ensure Google compliance.
- Check the Index Status report. This allows you to closely monitor indexation.
- Monitor the sitemap’s indexation levels. This helps you ensure your pages are properly indexed by finding gaps.
- Keep an eye on the Crawl Stats report. Look for drops in the number of pages Google crawls each day.
- Download and review the Crawl Error report daily. Consider redirecting the more valuable pages.
- Review the HTML Improvements report. Find and correct missing or duplicate title tags.
- Check your site’s server log files. Look for crawling patterns and information.
Investing in a new and improved website that is responsive and better serves the needs of your users can be a highly profitable business decision. To avoid the costly risks associated with a website migration and ensure you receive the full benefit of your investment, SEO must be considered a priority and integrated into your migration plan from day one.
Devoting the time and effort to implement this SEO strategy will help ensure a successful migration from plan to launch. Contact SEO Experts for more information on how our SEO services can help protect your investment, prevent traffic loss and grow your business.