A website migration is inevitable for most growing businesses that are scaling up. The website migration process involves moving your website from one domain, CMS, or host to another, generally including most of your existing content. From a better user experience to improved infrastructure that can handle increased traffic, a successful migration sets e-commerce businesses up for more significant growth in the future – but there are also pitfalls.
Redirecting one URL to another URL, re-optimizing old content, and managing backlinks are just a few of the many factors to consider in the move, and a lack of support for just one of these can slow down the entire process or lead to a drop in organic rankings and traffic. In this SEO site migration case study, we’ll use an anonymized client to show you the dos and don’ts of site migration with actual, concrete data.
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Case Study: A Challenging Migration
Our website migration story follows a client – we’ll call them ABC – who came to Coalition Technologies seeking help migrating from a platform owned and operated by their former agency to BigCommerce. ABC’s old site struggled to keep up with its competitors, suffering from incredibly slow site speeds and recurring downtime. To fix these issues and future-proof their website, ABC chose to handle the migration themselves, and their goals for their site migration were:
- To build a better overall user experience with a website that could be faster, more customizable, and more secure.
- To create a more robust website that could scale with increased product launches and a heavier user load.
- To increase user traffic and conversions with a better SEO strategy.
While their website has been steadily increasing in traffic and revenue since the new launch, a detailed study of the website migration process offers an opportunity to review what could’ve gone better.
At our kickoff with the client, ABC’s website ranked for over 28,000 keywords, falling to around 13,400 when the new website launched about ten months later. Let’s break down the core issues that factored into this fall.
Ranking keywords at kickoff
Ranking keywords at launch
No Technical Work and No New Copy
Businesses often forgo continuing to post optimized content to their old site during the migration, instead waiting until the new one launches to post new content. It’s important to know that even pre-launch, publishing and optimizing content on your old website today will help your overall SEO performance on your new site tomorrow.
A significant contributor to the drop was that we weren’t approved to post any optimized content while the migration was ongoing. Ultimately, none of the new content we wrote went live before the launch of the new website. This mistake cost the client months of precious time, leading to a fall in SERP rankings during the build up to the new site launch.
- Lack of Optimized Copy: The decision not to upload any new copy during the website migration process limited our options significantly. We could not target new keywords that were trending at the time while the website’s existing content slowly lost its relevance.
- Technical Fixes: Our lack of technical access meant we couldn’t migrate the URLs at launch, including some very high-traffic URLs. The client handled the migration and chose not to migrate all URLs, leaving many to become 404 error pages. We also could not implement important technical fixes and improvements on the existing site before the migration. Since we could not work on these technical items, we were, in effect, locked into working on preparatory items that wouldn’t have an impact until launch day as various technical issues affecting crawling, indexing, and ranking continued to negatively impact the performance of the existing site.
In addition to these issues festering and impacting the site prior to launch, the client chose not to migrate several high-traffic blog posts or allow us to migrate them after launch against our advice. This led to another significant dropoff in ranking keywords and traffic shortly after the launch.
- Content Pruning: Our client chose not to migrate many high-traffic blogs, which led to a significant dropoff shortly after launch. This decision is a common mistake many businesses make, believing that it’s easier to retire dated content and replace it with brand-new writeups after the shift. Older high-traffic blogs generally attract and have valuable backlinks directed to them and perform well on valuable keywords – and in this case, drove a significant amount of traffic. Taking stock of dated content is a tremendous SEO site migration practice, but it’s almost always better to update valuable older content instead of abandoning or deleting it.
We could not post new copy, migrate many of the older optimized blogs, or implement technical fixes, which restricted our ability to slow the downturn in ranking keywords and traffic.
Mitigating a Bad Migration
Email marketing and link building allowed us to compensate slightly for the lack of new copy and technical work on the existing site pre-migration.
- Link Building: As a trusted agency with experience in successful SEO site migration, we also leveraged our established industry contacts to speed up our link-building efforts. Being able to continue building backlinks to the existing site helped us to mitigate the downward trend prior to launch as much as possible despite the other limitations we faced.
- Email Marketing: The client’s old agency also controlled their email access. This lack of access meant email subscriber lists had to be migrated manually. Despite this setback, our new email strategy immediately showed results even with a smaller audience pool.
Client feedback on email templates was fast and thorough, allowing us to proceed with our plan. We also conducted detailed A/B testing to determine which types of content and templates worked best to increase click rates.
While these actions didn’t stem the bleeding of organic traffic, they did help keep things afloat when our hands were completely tied.
We can contrast this SEO site migration with one we performed for a client (let’s call them XYZ) in a similar timeframe. With XYZ, our experts had full access and approval to make technical improvements from the get-go despite being unable to post new copy during the website migration process. It’s important to mention that for ABC, we could not post new copy for nearly a year, whereas our lack of access to XYZ lasted for only a couple of months. Because of our technical fixes, XYZ’s traffic has steadily been trending upward since we kicked off the project.
Increased client support, which directly translates to better SEO outcomes
Why Migrate At All?
Between redirecting one website to another, benchmarking analytics, and the issues outlined above, it’s understandable to be intimidated by the idea of an SEO site migration. Here’s why it’s worth it:
- The long-term savings from a successful migration far outweigh the upfront cost as your audience base grows organically.
- Performance and user experience improvements naturally result in increased conversion rates.
- The website migration process can help you build a website that is authentic to your brand’s vision, from new types of content to an optimized sales pipeline.
- SEO site migration is a chance to move to a robust platform like BigCommerce that can handle the scale your business seeks.
A successful SEO site migration can unlock your business’s potential and set you up for success on a better platform equipped to deliver the experience your customers deserve. While your agency will handle the website migration process for you, providing support goes a long way in getting faster results.
If you’d like assistance with your website migration, contact Coalition Technologies! Our SEO experts have helped thousands of businesses exponentially increase their traffic and revenue with successful website migrations. Contact us for a free strategy review today.