Keeping up with the Joneses, design upgrades and technical improvements are all good reasons to consider a site migration. But before you decide to make your site ‘look prettier,’ it’s important to understand the process of properly transferring the value and authority of your current site to your new, upgraded one.
After you develop a clear strategy for a site migration (UX design? CMS back-end functionality? Better search friendliness?), the next steps that follow will be important to maintain the equity of the site. Enjoy!
Step 1: Inventory of Current Top Landing Pages & Content
Once the new site is launched, the old pages from previous CMS will essentially be ‘dead,’ and very difficult to locate post site launch. So, it’s very important to document all current top landing pages down to product pages of your website so that you can refer back to them post-launch if needed. It will also be important to check these old URLs so that they are properly redirecting to the new pages.
You can usually determine your top landing pages (driving traffic / conversions) from your analytics software, and export an xls document from there.
Step 2: Targeting Current Content to New
301 Redirect Mapping:
Once inventory is taken of current content on site, you will want to determine the new, most relevant landing page it will (301) redirect to once the site is live. The purpose of this is to maintain the authority of the current URL and pass that authority over to the new.
This is vital for site launches, and typically the biggest issue – because if you don’t properly transfer the equity of the ‘old’ page to the new, you will most likely lose all organic ranking visibility on search engines for that specific page.
As you are associating each page to its future destination page, also think about the terms you will want that page to rank for, and associate search terms to that page. For example:
http://www.example.com/dogs/sectionbodycopy.do?categoryId=9038330&contentId=7072779 = current URL on site
Say this page will redirect to NEW page: http://www.example.com/dogs/boxer
Key terms associated to this page: boxers, boxer dogs, boxer pups
Taking care of the current content is the most important, followed by the opportunity for new content. Ensure your new platform makes it easy to create new pages with a keyword friendly URL structure.
Step 3: Establishing Strong Navigation
This is one of the biggest opportunities when switching to a new CMS / e-Commerce platform. Strong navigation is good for not only the user, but search engines as well.
If search engine bots can easily visit, crawl, and index your web pages from the highest authority pages down to the deeper product pages, it will have the best opportunity to gain page authority, trust and ranking visibility. A fast, efficient crawl from search engines = easier to index & rank your site.
URL Structure & Naming Conventions
URL structure should follow a proper click-path from homepage to deeper pages on the site. For example, here’s a current, deeper URL on an example site:
Ideal URL structure has friendly naming conventions, between sub-folders (categories):
Link Equity Flow
Another reason why site architecture is so important is because, for SEO, page authority gets diluted the farther it gets away from the homepage. An evenly dispersed, categorized site helps the user’s click-path, as well as the search engine’s path.
Example of ideal site architecture:
The above ‘sitemap’ of an ideal, flat site architecture will pass the link ‘juice’ from the homepage to the deeper pages on the site in the most effective way.
Step 4: Avoid Duplicate Content
With new platforms (especially e-Commerce), comes opportunity as well as obstacles. Duplicate content is a very common issue amongst content management system platforms, so it’s good to look at this ahead of the game.
The most common duplicate content issues tend to be:
- Dynamic Query Strings
- An example, however, would be like store locator (http://www.example.com/clublocator/club_listing.aspx?mySearch=zip&myZip=11211)
- Product Variations
- Multi-Facet Navigation
Step 5: On-Page Elements for All Pages
This step is usually involved closer to site launch, once content is migrated properly, design has been decided and implemented, testing is complete, and SEO comes in to make sure the pages are ‘optimized’ prior to launch. Here are the main elements that should be optimized prior to launch date:
- Page Titles & Meta Descriptions
- Image Alt Tags & Header Tags
- Supportive copy to include keyphrase targets
- Internal anchor text
- Social Icons (Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pinterest, LinkedIn)
Step 6: Creating the Best Consumer Journey
If you have followed the above best practices, then the best consumer journey should be reached from an SEO standpoint. Creating the best consumer journey entails:
- Acquire: When a consumer types in a query to search engines (Google / Bing), they should find the most relevant results on page 1. If you have strong link equity and content is relevant, optimized, and engaging, your site’s ranking page should appear here.
- Behavior: Consumer should land on the page that answers their query, and is the closet click-path to conversion (which, if site architecture is in place and landing pages are optimized, should occur)
- Conversion: Consumer should be engaged with content and have their query answered, and then focused into the conversion funnel (call to action) – this is where design is very important for optimal conversion
- Consumer makes conversion based on having query answered, easiest navigation to product, and trustworthiness (design-wise)
And that, my fellow webmasters, would be my main recommendations for a successful site migration. What are your thoughts? What other elements would you add to this list?