Website migration is one of the most challenging tasks especially if you need minimum to no impact on ranking and overall business performance.
This can be only achieved with a holistic website migration plan with the best SEO consideration. Even with the best planning, you may experience a slight temporary drop but with no planning, you will struggle big time.
eCommerce website migration is even more complex, when you plan to do a new eCommerce website design, ideally, you should plan the migration before to ensure you may have a smooth transition.
This guide will cover both normal as well as eCommerce website migration.
Note: It is not worth migrating to a new website if you can’t ensure the new website will offer a better user experience and mobile usability.
You must map your current ranking and identify key traffic and conversion pages of your website and pay attention to high traffic and conversion areas in particular so that you can expect minimum to no disruption on your conversion.
Benefits of SEO traffic & conversion mapping
While mapping you can also map your conversion data as you will have the base ready to compare the impact post-migration.
During the development or while going live you can focus more on your core traffic and conversion area of your website to ensure you do not have any negative impact due to the migration.
If you may encounter a major drop then you can discuss it with your SEO provider by showing the before and after return from the website.
Root (Homepage) URL Changes
This is the foundation of your URL structure and you must get this right.
Check if the homepage URL has changed, for example:
If this happens then you must apply 301 permanent redirections from the old URL to the new URL.
Other versions of homepage URL
There are many eCommerce platforms which load homepage with a may different version of URLs like:
You must check and ensure you have only one version of the homepage URL post-migration.
Current URL redirects
Things change over time and many websites have a set of redirection placed in the code or at the server level (example: .htaccess).
You must document all those redirections in one place like:
It is important to note that old URLs may have some external links and to take advantage or those link building work, you must consider these in the new website.
Important: One of the major reason for the eCommerce ranking drop is because poor or no redirections planning.
Plan 301 redirects
When you migrate to a new eCommerce website platform, it is almost certain that you may not be able to achieve the same URL structure from the old website to the new website and hence you must carefully plan any changes in the URL. You will lose ranking if this is not done well.
Avoid Redirect Chain
As your website gets older, you may have several redirections placed.
In no situation, you should have a chain redirection. It is not the best idea to have multiple redirects.
Absolute vs Relative URLs
For internal links, it’s good to have a relative URL.
Let’s say you have the following internal links:
When you decide to change your root URL structure to the non-www version of the URL like https://example.com then it will be a lot easier to handle with relative URL then the absolute ones.
The canonical tag is placed to let Google know the preferred version of the URL.
The 2nd URL will load the same content but it will sort by price and you may not want Google to crawl the 2nd URL. In that case, placing canonical on the 2nd URL saying the intended page is 1 will fix the problem of duplicate content.
Thin Content Merge
When you migrate to a new eCommerce platform or website then ideally you should address obvious SEO issues which may be pending in the old site.
Find all pages with thin content, plan to merge any similar ones to one piece of mother content. This will help SEO greatly.
Address Duplicate Content Issues
eCommerce website migration is the perfect time for addressing any duplicate content you may have on your website.
Duplicate content is caused by poor URL management where the same content may be visible using multiple URL with no canonical tag present.
It can also happen due to keywords cannibalisation where you may have very similar content written on your website.
Another reason for having duplicate content is because of copied content from other websites.
Whatever the situation may be, it is essential to address duplicate content present on your website to ensure you get the best-ranking post-migration.
Internal linking improvement
Internal links play an important role to optimise the overall ranking of the website. It is very common for the business owner to get started with a new eCommerce website design and just go by the look without understanding the technical SEO.
They only realise when they start to notice the impact on call, lead, sale etc.
When you migrate to a new eCommerce platform, you must also carry forward the work which you may have done for a long time. This is critical to retain the ranking.
You need to identify the public and private URLs and you can notify bots what to crawl and what not to.
Based on the need there may be some pages with noindex tag, you must document those and apply if needed in the new website based on its structure.
If you may have been using Google Tag Manager then the transition may be a lot easier by placing tag manager code in the new website.
You may still need to apply some changes based on the new URL. For example, conversion tracking thank you page.
Avoid Repeat Tags
Repeat tags may give you in-correct data and you do not want your new website reporting incorrect data.
Repeat tag happens due to poor tag planning and often due to mix of tag manager and direct tag placement.
Migrating to Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager can make your life so much easier.
If you are new to this then you may find it complicated as placing the code in head and body is so much easier than following multiple steps in Google Tag Manager. But you will know the benefits when you have more and more tags coming your way like Google Ads conversion tracking, Google Ads re-marketing and more.
You do not want to mess with your conversion tracking, this is the crucial factor to determine your ROI.
You must have a well tested and working solution to the new migration site and this should be in your top testing priorities to ensure you count the right conversions.
The push for mobile usability is like never before. In order to record one conversion in an eCommerce website, the user goes through several pages and if your website will not be optimised well from homepage to checkout then the impact will be significant.
Google has been reporting about 3 common issues regularly to website owners: