A lot’s happening in the SEO world, what with AI and the rise of Bing. But in terms of search traffic, says James, Google is still a game worth playing.
Gert and James will lay out how site migration and SEO are connected.
They’ll discuss how good site migration strategy will keep you in Google’s good graces.
And they’ll clarify the need for good SEO help when planning and executing a website migration.
Table of contents
1. Why this episode’s topic is important
2. The things that can go wrong
3. What people think they know
4. How an SEO would handle things
5. Some of the elements that change
6. Should you actually migrate?
7. A bit of qualified SEO advice
Why this episode’s topic is important
The topic of website migration and its implications for SEO affects most people who maintain an online presence.
At some point, says James, if you’ve been online a while, you may think to make a brand change, a hosting change, or some similar website update that could necessitate a migration. And in the process, without the right measures, things can go awry.
James talks, for instance of a minor yet obvious oversight, where a site is set to no-index for development and left that way when it goes live.
It’s an important topic, says Gert. He’s seen tens of thousands of dollars lost during migrations, in one case even seven figures just because the wrong plug-in was used.
This underscores the need, Gert says, to engage knowledgeable professionals for these processes, who will involve you in the decision-making to prevent such losses.
The typical website owner cannot entirely understand the technical aspects of a migration, and should have a guide who will mitigate the risks involved.
The things that can go wrong
Over a period of time, migrations can lead to a consistent drop in website traffic if not handled properly. Problems, says Gert, often extend beyond mere indexing issues and can result in progressive trust losses from search engines like Google.
One e-commerce site referred to him saw a continuous drop in revenue post-migration. It took him and his team months to fix things and regain Google’s trust.
Multiple elements can break during a website migration, says Gert. Common issues include overemphasis on design or conversion that ends up pushing essential content down.
Misguided ideas about SEO, like the notion that a simple 301 redirection fixes everything, are also prevalent. Gert recommends involving SEO experts early in the design process to establish frameworks and minimize negative SEO impact.
James concludes there’s a need for balance in website design and migration. A successful migration involves managing the different interests of stakeholders that include the business owners, designers, technicians, and copywriters. Each group has its focus – aesthetics, code manageability, content conversion – and these needs must be harmoniously integrated for an effective, SEO-friendly website.
What people think they know
A common misconception is that SEO is a skill which can be learned on the side by any marketer or programmer. And SEO, James points out, is often overlooked in the process of website migration.
Developers or other team members might assume they know what they need to know about SEO, but lack the depth of understanding to see the broader picture, leading to potential SEO mishaps during migrations.
Specialists, says Gert, have insights gained from working on numerous projects and observing Google’s evolving behavior. He suggests this profound understanding of SEO is needed to predict how Google will interpret a website, even during the testing phase.
And a site migration, he says, requires a comprehensive framework and knowledge beyond the basics other professionals might have.
How an SEO would handle things
James believes involving an SEO expert before migrating a website is best practice. This allows the SEO specialist to provide guidance and suggestions before changes are even implemented.
When a client decides to change their site or platform, the process ideally begins with early involvement from a qualified SEO.
This early involvement, says Gert, can occur as soon as the first drafts or wireframes are available. The goal is to assess the drafts from Google’s perspective, determining how the search engine will scan, crawl, index, and understand the content.
The SEO expert also examines potential conversion issues, working collaboratively with the design and development teams to provide feedback.
The next step involves detailed considerations about the choice of page builder and platform, and any changes to URLs. The SEO specialist asks a series of questions to ensure all necessary preparations are made before the launch, with the aim to consider all aspects and set up everything correctly before the site goes live.
Determining if something is not right post-launch can take some time, Gert explains. Before launch, the new site is scanned and analyzed multiple times, with any issues being addressed. After launch, Google will gradually crawl the changed pages, leading to a potential dip in traffic as it determines whether the changes are a mistake or a redesign.
Google will then observe user reactions to the new design, which may lead to fluctuations in the site’s ranking. Thorough preparation pre-launch can help ensure better results during this transition period.
Some of the elements that change
Several aspects typically undergo changes on a website. These elements include site layout or design, hosting, and the platform used.
Such changes can impact the site’s performance and the speed or location at which the content is served. For instance, during a redesign, servers might be relocated to better serve a specific geographical audience, hence affecting the overall site’s performance.
Gert stresses the importance of platform choice in website migration, saying it significantly influences the process.
When a site transitions from one platform to another, say from WordPress and WooCommerce to Shopify, the URL often changes. This requires redirects to be put in place for Google to process, ultimately impacting how the site is indexed.
Another crucial element that often changes during site migration is the layout. The placement of elements and the presentation of menus can greatly affect every page on the site. For instance, a significant change in menu structure, from a large mega menu to a more condensed APA style, can alter how authority is transferred within the website.
Should you actually migrate?
Given what could go wrong, are migrations good or bad, James wonders?
Full-scale migrations or site relaunches, Gert says, are often unnecessary. Although refreshing an outdated website can be crucial, as seen with some of their clients, the complete redesign or relaunch of a site isn’t always required.
Sometimes, making smaller changes, such as modifying the header, layout, or font, can achieve a desired result and is less risky.
However, when a complete redesign is deemed necessary for various reasons, it’s crucial to evaluate the potential impact thoroughly. Understanding the possible outcomes and preparing for them can help mitigate adverse effects of a full website migration or redesign.
A bit of qualified SEO advice
For anyone considering a website redesign, migration, or other significant change, Gert advises finding a trusted SEO professional.
It’s critical to not assume those involved in the process have the needed SEO knowledge. Often, a lack of SEO oversight can lead to traffic loss, for which web developers may not take responsibility, and which can cause considerable financial losses.
Nobody can guarantee how Google will react to a new website, says Gert, but it’s essential to have experts in the fields where you expect results. Accountability is key, and an SEO expert can provide that.
Proper SEO, says James, can ensure a smooth transition and maintain, or even boost, traffic.
If you’d like help in that area, Gert and his team at SEOLeverage.com offer support services that include quick wins reports which assess the current state of your website.
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