Why your new site needs an SEO migration strategy

By Matt,

September 2023

Development Insights

Content warning: This post isn’t supposed to be scary. We don’t want you to be afraid to make necessary changes to your website. But…

When a business needs a new website, one often overlooked consideration is their existing traffic. Often there is an assumption that whatever SEO juice a website has will continue or improve when a new better website goes live. However it is actually the other way around.

Migration?

Firstly, what is a migration? Broadly, a website migration can be:

  • Changing the site structure or sitemap 
  • Changing the technology (e.g. the CMS) 
  • Changing the domain name
  • A combination of all or any of the above.

Any kind of migration will have a negative impact on SEO performance. The trick is to ensure that any impact is as small as possible, and will recover naturally. Terrible things can happen if your website migration is not considered from the start.  

Terrible things

We’ve seen the good and bad sides of migrations. Clients who have had little to no disruption to their traffic and SEO performance (good), as well as clients who have seen dramatic drops in traffic and impressions on Google (bad). The latter have always been clients who have opted not to take specialist advice before proceeding. Sometimes this can mean a drop in performance for many months. We’ve heard from specialists that sometimes these dips can’t ever be recovered from.

Common SEO migration issues

Redirects

URL structures often evolve. This is especially true for e-commerce sites with product or category subfolders. Properly setting up 301 redirects from old pages to their new counterparts is vital. These older pages hold recognized SEO value; failing to properly redirect could lead to a significant loss in this value.

Technology changes

Transitioning to a new technology, like a different CMS, can have unintended consequences. New platforms might introduce features that are not necessary, affecting site performance and complicating search engine processing.

Staging site slip-ups

We use staging sites for testing purposes during development. We have automated steps in place to ensure these are blocked from search engine indexing. It is important to make sure that these non-indexing directives aren’t accidentally shipped to the live site at launch.

Avoiding these issues 

  • Before even finalising the migration, engage with an SEO expert. This proactive approach will help in navigating potential pitfalls and maximising opportunities.
  • Understand the reasons behind the migration. Every change, even those seen as purely aesthetic, can have SEO implications.
  • Conduct in-depth checks both pre and post-migration. These audits will help ensure a smoother transition and can identify overlooked aspects.

A Comprehensive Approach to Migration

In our opinion, when replacing an existing site, all clients should undergo an exhaustive technical SEO review. This ensures that structural changes won't inadvertently harm a site's performance and that content aligns with relevant keyword targets.

As SEO performance is a specialist discipline, we partner with experts to deliver SEO migration and growth strategies for our clients. Migration requires a robust SEO framework to safeguard and augment a site's online presence. Our SEO partners provide our clients with access to cutting-edge insights and expertise, protecting search performance. It allows us to concentrate on what we do best, which is designing and building amazing, effective, websites.

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