Moving a website to a new platform can be hugely beneficial, offering a smarter design, smoother user journeys and faster load speeds.
However, a website migration can lead to significant losses in both rankings and traffic if important SEO aspects aren’t considered. These losses can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
It’s crucial, therefore, that you work closely with your SEO agency to carry out the necessary checks and identify issues early on. The following SEO considerations will help to minimise any risk of lost traffic, and should be part of every website migration checklist for a smooth transition.
Benchmark your current performance
Benchmarking involves taking a ‘snapshot’ of how your site is performing currently, making dips in traffic, rankings and conversions easier to spot after replatforming.
When benchmarking your site’s current metrics, be sure to include:
- Average monthly traffic
- Current ranking positions for target keywords
- Page views per session
- Conversion rate
- Bounce rate
- Page load speed.
Reviewing the new site’s wireframes before development begins allows you to identify any issues with the new site’s page structure or URL architecture.
For example, the removal of a large amount of content from a page or high-traffic pages from the navigation can lead to lost rankings for certain keywords. By having your SEO company check the wireframes, the impact of these changes can be flagged and considered.
Look at the new URL structure
A website replatform will often involve a new URL and category structure. This can be a good chance to get your ‘house in order’ and make it easier for search engines to find and index content.
Along with the new wireframes, take a look at the new URL structure. What will the new URLs look like? Will you be rearranging or introducing new categories?
Whatever you decide, it is essential that the proper redirects are in place before the new version of the site goes live. Failing to do so can lead to drastic losses in traffic.
Every old page or section must be mapped to a relevant replacement page. If there is no equivalent page on the new site, then a parent page is the next best thing. When designing your site’s new architecture, it’s important to be thoughtful. Keeping things simple will make it easier for users to reach important pages and reduce the risk of leaving pages behind.
Crawling the website before and after the migration process, along with manual checks, can help to flag any errors.
Check meta data functionality
While different CMSs have different functionality, some are more flexible than others when it comes to meta data. It’s essential that you’re able to access and amend your site’s meta data as this holds important information for search engines.
Check that your new platform allows for the easy tweaking or rewriting of page titles and meta descriptions. If not, ask your systems integrator for this to be an option.
It’s also recommended to review all of your site’s meta data before go-live and ensure it is optimised for each page.
Consider page templates or designs
Different platforms will provide varying control over the page templates, but it’s important that you are able to edit them.
Can you add H1s and H2s to pages? Are you able to add sections of text?
A well-optimised website should not be too reliant on design and imagery, but should also have the space and functionality for content input.
Check there is a blog or content hub
Producing rich content is essential for targeting those longer-tailed keywords you want to rank for, and building authority within your niche.
Therefore, you need to check that your new platform can handle a blog or content hub. This can be through a plugin, native content system or another solution.
If your current site already has content, think about how this can be migrated. High performing content with lots of traffic or backlinks will definitely need to be redirected, but if there are some non-performing pages, this could be an opportunity to clean up your archive and get rid of old content.
Make sure your staging site cannot be indexed
Whilst you’re in the process of preparing the new site, you’ll want to ensure search engines cannot access it whilst it’s in staging.
This can be done easily by setting up server-side authentication, which is the preferred method of keeping staging sites out of the search results, or by adding a noindex tag to the site’s robots.txt file.
Run technical SEO checks
Carrying out these important technical checks throughout the replatforming process can help to avoid major glitches after the new website goes live.
- reviewing robots.txt file. This can be tested for errors on the staging environment
- canonical tags
- XML sitemaps (having one for each version of the site makes Google aware of the new site’s indexable URLs, as well as any redirects that are in place)
- HTML sitemap
- structured data.
Overall, a site replatform brings the same challenges and risks as any site migration, It is crucial that an SEO consultant is involved as early on as possible, so they can advise throughout the transition.
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