Building a new website is such an exciting time. It’s like giving your brand a virtual face-lift. But most businesses don’t understand that if you do not migrate your data effectively then you can risk losing your Organic (SEO) rankings. Imagine you’re making thousands of dollars a day from customers who find you on Google and the next day you can’t be found anywhere because Google has removed you from search results because you did not move everything over and let Google know that you have a new website. I’ve seen first hand the damage that this can do to a business and I want to caution you against this in the future and give my two cents on how to prevent this from happening.
1. Map your 301 Redirects Individually
We cannot speak enough about how important 301 redirects are when migrating a website, the worst thing you can do is spend years building up a website’s SEO only to lose it all when you migrate to a new website. Do not listen to anybody who tells you that it’s normal to experience a huge drop in rankings, sessions, or click-through rates when you migrate your website! Aside from propagation time, you should have no SEO downtime and no loss of tracking.
To make sure that your SEO is transferred from one site to another you’ll need to develop a 301 redirect map. This essentially maps each old URL to a relevant new URL. It’s important to use 301 redirects instead of 302 redirects as well. 301 redirects will pass SEO on, whereas 302 redirects will not. We recommend not to bother with 302 redirects unless you have a legitimate reason to.
a. How to create a 301 redirect map
Crawl both sites with a program like Screaming Frog then add both crawls to an Excel document and start matching up your old and new URLs. This can be a tedious task so using a tool like Fuzzy Lookup can help you to find fuzzy matches. For example, if you’re changing /services/seo-migrations to /our-services/seo-migration then even though these two slugs are slightly different, they are similar enough that they will be joined with a fuzzy match tool, evaluating old vs new structure and linking up appropriate pages.
Once you’ve organised your map then place redirect 301 in front followed by your old URL then new URL. This would look like:
Redirect 301 /oldpage http://www.yoursite.com/newpage
You may have as little as 5 lines or a few thousand lines depending on how big your website is.
b. What to do with your redirect map?
This map should be saved as a .txt file which is already in the correct format for your developers. Once this is done send this through to your developers and they will be able to upload it to the .htaccess file.
2. Check your Tracking Ahead of Time
All Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Google Tag Manager scripts should be moved over to the new website ahead of time. These scripts can be installed before your site goes live well ahead of time. It does not matter if these scripts are installed on two different websites. If you exclude your IP address and your developers IP address then you won’t have any traffic being tracked on the new site while your developers are still building and testing.
If you’ve set up any special goals that may get broken when the new site goes live, take note of these and be ready to change them while the new website is launching. For example, if you’re tracking your cart funnel and your new cart process is completely different, then your checkout funnel will break. This is especially true if you’re changing CMS. If (for example) you’re moving from Shopify to Shopify then this won’t be as big of an issue due to the pinged URLs that are standard across all Shopify websites. However, if you choose to move from Wordpress to Shopify, then you will need to change your funnels.
The same goes for contact forms, button clicks, phone numbers, emails, and any other event or goal you have set up within Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.
All of your Ad URLs also need to be adjusted, otherwise tracking for ads will break if the link is now being redirected elsewhere. You will need to let your Adwords specialist know well ahead of time what the new URLs are going to be so they can change them over when the new site goes live and make sure that all of their tracking remain consistent.
3. Work out what Metrics matter to you
By this point, you will have worked out which goals are being edited and how to keep your tracking for conversion funnels after your migration. Now you’ll be able to keep a close eye on your conversion rate across all of these goals and events. A few different metrics you can look at to pinpoint problem areas are:
Time on site
Conversion rate on specific devices
Conversion rate on specific browsers
It’s not uncommon to launch a new website that isn’t received well from your loyal customers or clients. Figuring out the areas letting you down will mean the difference between your new website succeeding or failing.
4. Migrate all of your Content
We recommend that you download all of your old website content and upload this well ahead of time to the new website. This includes all meta titles and descriptions as well as blog content. A substantial drop off in the amount of content on your site won’t look good to Google and can affect your SEO in a negative way after the migration. To avoid this, all blog content should be transferred and back-dated on the new site.
5. Follow User Behaviour on your new website closely
Installing a screen recording tool such as Hotjar or Full Story will give an immediate insight into how users interact with the page and if anything is broken. The basic plans for these programs are free and very easy to use. These tools will record any errors in a video format which you can download and send straight to your developers to fix. It’s much easier to fix an error when you can see exactly what has happened. These tools track the devices and browsers used so that your developers can replicate the problem and find a fix sooner rather than later.
We hope these tips and tricks helped, good luck and happy migrating!
If you need professional help with your migration and new website build, let our specialists help you would with your virtual face lift. Contact our team today to find out how we can help to build your new site.