Digital Profits Podcast – Episode 13: Website Migrations for Optimal SEO

Having a website migration isn’t as simple as clicking from one page to the next. Without consistency and an SEO-sensitive approach, your website transitions will be anything but smooth sailing. The good news is that you don’t have to tackle this task alone! 

As a digital marketer, you can use best practices for website migrations with confidence – all while optimizing the performance of your SEO rankings. Let’s dive into the fundamentals of how to make the most out of your website migrations for optimal SEO results.

Why You Should Care About Seamless Website Transitions 

Did you know that seamless website transitions can significantly impact the success of your website? Not only do they provide a better user experience by avoiding any jarring interruptions, but they also increase the likelihood of users staying on your site for longer periods of time. 

Additionally, seamless transitions can improve your search engine rankings, making it easier for potential customers to find you online. We highly recommend investing in seamless website transitions to take your website to the next level and improve your overall online presence.

What is SEO and How Does it Impact Your Website Migration 

SEO, or search engine optimization, is a complex science that can make or break your website’s success. When transferring your website to a new platform or redesigning it, SEO should be one of your top priorities. It impacts the visibility of your site on search engine result pages. If your website is not optimized for search engines, it may get lost in the vastness of the internet, making it difficult for potential customers to find you. That’s where a good SEO strategy comes into play. 

By including targeted keywords, optimizing page titles, and ensuring your website architecture is user-friendly, you can improve your website’s ranking on search engine result pages. This can increase your website traffic and ultimately lead to more conversions. So, when migrating or redesigning your website, take SEO into account, and you will reap the rewards.

What to Do Before You Begin Your Website Migration 

Before you make any moves when it comes to website migration, it’s important to do your research and preparations. You don’t want to end up with a mess of broken links and lost data. First, make sure you have a backup of your current website – this is a crucial precaution in case anything goes wrong during the migration process. 

Next, review your website’s current structure, including any internal links or URLs that may need to be updated or redirected. Take the opportunity to weed out any outdated or unwanted content. Finally, consider choosing a reliable hosting provider and ensure all necessary website tools and software are up to date. By taking these steps, you can ensure a smoother transition and a successful website migration.

Migrating Your Domain Name The Right Way 

So, you’re thinking about migrating your domain name? That’s great! Making sure you do it properly will save you a lot of headaches down the road. The key is to plan ahead, execute with intention, and test everything thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it – there are plenty of experts out there who are happy to guide you through the process. 

Remember, your domain name is like your online home, so it’s important to treat it with care. By following the right steps and asking for assistance when needed, you’ll be able to migrate smoothly and keep your digital presence up and running without any hiccups.

Understanding the Importance of Proper Redirects 

As a website owner, you already understand the importance of having great content and user-friendly features on your site. But did you know that proper redirects can make or break your user experience? When a visitor clicks on a link or types in a URL, they expect to be taken to the correct page quickly and seamlessly. When redirects are implemented incorrectly, it can result in frustrating errors or dead ends for your users. 

Additionally, search engines like Google take redirects into account when determining the quality of your site, so it’s essential to make sure that they are done correctly. By taking the time to understand and implement proper redirects, you can improve your website’s usability and reputation, leading to better traffic and engagement overall.

Optimizing URLs for Maximum SEO Effectiveness

You want your website to be easily discoverable by search engines. One way to achieve this is by optimizing your URLs. By using clear and concise URLs that reflect the content of your pages, you increase your chances of ranking higher in search engine results pages. 

To make sure your URLs are as effective as possible, keep them short, include relevant keywords, and avoid using any special characters or symbols. By following these guidelines, you can improve the overall SEO effectiveness of your website and help your audience find the content they’re looking for more easily. Trust us, your website – and your visitors – will thank you for it.

To summarize this post, website transitions can be a daunting task if you don’t understand the intricacies of SEO optimization. When preparing for your website changes, remember that it is important to plan ahead and lay out what steps you need to do. Doing research around the best practices of domain name migrating and proper redirects will bring you far. Furthermore, optimizing your URLs with best practices in mind will ensure that your hard-earned SEO rankings are preserved. Are you ready to master the art of website migrations for SEO success? Tune in to the latest episode of the Digital Profits Podcast and learn from the Profit Squad. Discover  more strategies to navigate migrations seamlessly, preserve your SEO efforts, and keep your online presence thriving. 

Welcome to the Digital Profits podcast, where you’ll learn how to grow your business faster using paid traffic and SEO. Each episode will feature a breakdown of digital marketing trends and answers to your burning questions that will provide actionable takeaways to make your marketing better. So join us Ben Page, Race Abel and Blake John, as we guide you on your journey to higher profits. Remember to join the Profit and get ready to profit in three, two, one.

Ben Page: Hey, squad. Ben Page here, joined by Blake John today.

Blake John: Hey, team.

Ben Page: Just part of the 2100 digital team in a special SEO focused episode for you. And today we’re going to cover SEO website migration tips. We’re going to share some of the good, the bad, and the ugly that we’ve seen. Considerations and advice on how to make yours go more smoothly, whether you’re in the midst of one now or considering one in the future. So Blake, let’s start out by setting the table and discussing what is a website migration, because I feel like it’s a term that gets applied to a lot of different situations with many potential outcomes.

Blake John: Yeah, absolutely. And it kind of is a broad term and people use it just generally speaking, as big changes, overhauls to a website. But I think specifically in the way that we’re going to talk about it, there’s kind of like four main website migrations, and specifically that’s a hosting change, which is sort of a smaller one, but still I think one that people gloss over. And it is kind of a site migration, a domain name change, which is a really, really big site migration. There’s a CMS change, which can kind of be complicated. Harry and then lastly, I think this is the most common type of site migration. It’s like a redesign when you want to kind of change the front end, maybe you’re sort of updating your brand, your look and feel. That’s kind of the most common site migration that we come across. In all cases, all of these lots of things can go wrong and you’ve got to make sure you’ve got someone on your end to help you out and make sure you get things right.

Ben Page: Yeah, I feel that redesign is probably the most commonly used term by people, but it can also contain all of the aforementioned elements as well. It can contain a CMS, also known as a content management system change or a re-platforming. It can also contain hosting and DNS changes. I believe for this episode, we’ll focus most of our energy on this website redesign and SEO implications. But do we want to quickly touch on some of the potential impacts of things like a hosting or DNS change as well, or even CMS change?

Blake John: Yeah, absolutely. So when you undergo a redesign or any one of these site migration types, I suppose a lot of things can change. And generally speaking, again, we’ll kind of focus mostly on the redesign. When you bring in a designer developer to kind of give your site a facelift, again, that’s the most common type of site redesign. A lot of things kind of get changed without a lot of thought or consideration or planning, which can kind of derail organic performance down the road after you launch the new site. And specifically, these are things like the structure, most specifically the URLs of your website. Obviously the design will be changing a lot that can have an impact just on user experience and things of that nature, but then also the content too. And especially if you’re ranking well and you’re driving a lot of traffic, you don’t want to lose content that’s been performing well. And sometimes things that shouldn’t get tossed aside just get completely neglected as a result of these redesigns. And of course a part of that too is metadata and things of that nature, and losing title tags that have been working as an example, or H One tags that were really well detailed and optimized and some other things. Look, one last thing we have in our notes here that I think is easy to forget. Structured data, losing structured data, which is a key component of your organic presence, and presenting yourself online, that oftentimes gets overlooked.

Ben Page: Yeah, many things to consider. And if you’re working through a redesign, and that includes things like changing CMS, let’s say you have right now a static HTML website and you’re moving it to WordPress or any combination of those, or a hosting change, maybe you’re hosted on GoDaddy Today or Wix, right, and you’re going to move to Pantheon or Kinsta. The change in that hosting environment and the server properties might affect things like site speed and availability. That’s one interesting thing. The CMS might affect things like default title tags and descriptions and schema and just how different HTML elements are coded by default on the website. All of which can impact your SEO results, your visibility in the SERPs, the crawlability of your website, and the ability for search engines to index it.

Blake John: Yeah, absolutely. We’ll talk more about each one of these things a little bit as we kind of continue. But one thing that’s just so important through all this and I think it’s probably one of the main takeaways is when you’re going through a redesign and when you kind of set foot and this is what you’re going forward, the sooner you can get somebody in who can kind of be responsible for these things and take accountability. And specifically, in my mind, I’m thinking like an SEO, someone who has experience helping sites through the migration process the better, because they’re going to take all these things into consideration. You’re going to have somebody who is sort of either working from a checklist or creating that checklist based on your specific use case and they’re going to hold everyone accountable to make sure that these things don’t get lost. In translation. We’ve talked about this too. I kind of liken it to a deck of cards. Once you reshuffle that deck of cards, you’re never going to get the same order again. Everything’s going to change. And so you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got all your ducks in a row, your I’s dotted your T’s crossed before that launch day because things can go awry if they’re not. Yeah.

Ben Page: And for a site of any significant size, even six URLs, all the way up to thousands of URLs, multi category structure, let’s clearly state that it’s not enough from an SEO perspective to simply check some of the default settings within your content management system or plugins and then go live and expect things to go well. Because like you said, there are a lot of considerations in the planning phase and setup phase that are sort of breakpoints or branching points leading up to is this going to go well or not? I mean, what are other things that commonly happen that cause SEO problems when there isn’t someone advocating from that perspective during that process? Any other major pitfalls you’ve seen?

Blake John: Blake yeah, I mean, there’s a lot truthfully and what’s funny is in a site migration, so many things change. But as the SEO and as the guy who wants to make sure organic search can still succeed and perform well beyond the launch day, really what I’m trying to do is keep as many things the same from the legacy site to the new site. And the biggest one, and this is like the biggest thing that can kind of go wrong are URLs and specifically your URL structure. We had an example recently where a site launched without the dub dub dub. The legacy site was WW dot, and then it launched with just example. They dropped the dub dub dub. And from a developer’s perspective, they’re like, oh, maybe it’s easier to manage the forwarding Https is easier, or whatever it might be. It’s easier to just type in your URL. You don’t have to worry about that redirect because no one’s actually typing dub dub dub anymore these days. But from an organic perspective and from like a site structure perspective, now we’re literally talking about a brand new website, a completely brand new website, and all of that link equity, all of that authority that was previously associated with the site, now it’s literally moved to a new place. Google has to figure that out. And of course, the other thing too, we’ll talk about a part of this is redirects. Google has to figure that out. And usually the best way through that is really the only true way is through redirects. But if you can reduce those redirects and you can try to keep as many things as the same, you’re more likely to have success sooner post launch.

Ben Page: Right? Because there are fewer steps and crawls, if you want to think of it that way. That need to happen and kind of reshuffling of the deck in order to regain your visibility. I mean, do you have any, like, in that example, Blake, where they dropped Dub Dub dub? What happened? What was the actual impact in the coming days after?

Blake John: So for this specific example so I’ve actually seen this that specific example I’ve seen more than once. One time I came to the site and performance was down year over year. Performance was down like 40%, 50% or whatever, and this was a new client to me, so I wasn’t a part of the migration process. I’m like, what’s going on? This is out of control. And then you kind of take a look back and you go through the performance and the data and you figure out what’s going on and you go, oh, interestingly enough, 18 months ago this site was, and now it’s not like, oh, now I kind of have an idea of what’s going on. And along that process, there was probably a mishandling of the redirects and whatnot as well. But in the most recent example, the one that I was thinking about, we caught it three days after the launch went. So this is kind of a unique one. The launch was pushed back six weeks, which is very common in site redesigns.

Ben Page: That launch gets delayed usually content.

Blake John: Yeah, let’s be real truthfully, it’s usually a bandwidth problem with getting all the content either on the site or just even written. So launch was delayed and then it was kind of like I don’t know, I don’t want to say it was a surprise, but it was like put like launch was kind of pushed up because the client wanted to get it live. And so it was launched on a Friday, which I don’t recommend, and we didn’t catch this air until Monday. So it was basically a three day period in which the site was no longer on Dub Dub Dub, and the legacy site was on Dub Dub Dub. So we caught it on the Monday and we reverted it basically right away. But what happened in that weekend time? They stopped ranking for their brand.

Ben Page: Oh, no.

Blake John: Which is like the worst case scenario. They weren’t ranking for if you can’t even rank for your brand, right, that’s like a microcosm of all the kind of impact that these site migrations can have. Truthfully, we fixed that, and within the next 24 hours, though, they were back ranking for their brand. After we fixed it, we put on it. And I think that would have happened over time, but it would have been slow, right? Because again, I know people don’t think about this in this way because Dub Dub Dub is just sort of, I don’t know, taking for granted is not the right word.

Ben Page: It’s just not almost legacy at this point.

Blake John: Yeah, it’s almost like, rarely trivial, but it’s literally dub Dub Dub is technically, by definition, a subdomain. And then when you strip that out, now it’s technically now you’re on a different subdomain. You’re without a subdomain, essentially, right? And so, again, it’s literally a second site. It’s a completely different site now without.

Ben Page: The dub dub dub. So this URL change thing, it’s, again, sort of a broad label. Let’s talk about the different classes of URL changes because you’ve got things like we updated a few category names or something like that. So maybe there’s folder structure. So I guess there’s individual URLs changing, which okay, then you’ve got like folder structure changes. Then you’ve got what you just mentioned, like dub dub dub or subdomain changes. And then you’ve got this is like the voldemort of URL changes if you change your root domain name and how you manage that. But I suppose any other thoughts on this? I mean, they have different levels.

Blake John: Truthfully, I have so many thoughts about this. I will say I’ll start with this if you’re changing your domain name. So if you’re going from to, as an example, right, that’s really tricky. And truthfully, as an SEO, I would tell you you’re going to see a loss in organic traffic because it’s a completely different domain. And like we just kind of mentioned, Google has to relearn that, map all the link equity.

Ben Page: And if that new domain hasn’t been registered historically, or has no equity or domain authority of its own, that’s going to be a very tricky site migration scenario.

Blake John: Exactly. So that’s one and we’ll just cover that kind of broadly just by saying that’s a tough one because everything is changing. You can’t limit the changes because it’s.

Ben Page: Literally a new domain and this could happen. I’m just thinking about real life situations, like maybe there’s a merger acquisition, something like that, right? And then eventually, well, we’re going to fold acquired co domain into our domain, something like that. And we need to have redirect strategy. We need to fold content. But that’s R1 life case where it could happen.

Blake John: Yeah. And I guess as like a tip or a best practice. So, first and foremost, in all of these redesign, you need to have a really strong redirect strategy like you just mentioned, Ben, and it needs to be one to one, like as one to one as humanly possible. And if you are changing domain names, I recommend trying to keep the content on the legacy site as close to the same as possible on the new site, just because there’s less for Google to learn, like less to become familiar with, essentially, you know what I mean? And because all the URLs like the domain, it’s all changing, at least kind of keep as much of the content the same as possible. So there’s just less for Google to sort of figure out and make sense of.

Ben Page: Can we tell listeners or define terms on redirect? Like in very basic practical terms, or more technically, if you’d like, what is it? Redirect. Blake, why should an executive listening to this care about what that is?

Blake John: Yeah. So it’s literally a direction to a.

Ben Page: Browser or, like, search engine, like a crawler, I guess.

Blake John: Yeah. To pointing from one address to another address. The most commonly, and what you should be using in redesigns is a 301, which is a permanent redirect. There’s other versions, like a 302, which is a temporary redirect. In a redesign, you probably shouldn’t use a 302. There’s also, like, a 307, but 301 to 302s are the most common.

Ben Page: Right. So it’s almost like old school mailbox. Mail forwarding, like post office style.

Blake John: Right, exactly.

Ben Page: And then, to your point, there’s different number codes that are basically sets of instructions about how to treat that specific forwarding request, if you want to think of it.

Blake John: Exactly. Yeah. That’s a great analogy. It’s just like, forwarding your mail to a new location, and it’s like, how.

Ben Page: Do you want to forward it? Do you want to forward all the things to one place? Do you want to forward each one to a new individual mailbox at the new location? Or is this just for two weeks? You’re on vacation. Is it forever? You moved? That kind of thing.

Blake John: Yeah, exactly. And that’s why you would use like a temporary, say, your site was just kind of undergoing seasonal change. Yeah.

Ben Page: And you some updates.

Blake John: It’s under construction. I think a lot of people sometimes have seen that on actual websites, they’ll have a message saying under construction. And so temporarily, they’ll point you to this other place. But eventually, and I would say usually within four to six weeks, I would try to keep a temporary redirect. You come back to that page and your content is back, or whatever the designs may be updated, whatever it might be. But I want to talk about these other URL changes. So you’re talking about folder structure changes, right. You talked about just, like, URL, like.

Ben Page: Just individual page changes. Right.

Blake John: Again, if possible. Truly, if possible, you’re going through this redesign process. I would recommend trying to keep them not even as similar, but trying to keep them the same. If you can if you can if you can keep them the same, that would be truly preferred.

Ben Page: And avoid here’s like an action tip. Right? It’s like avoid global changes wherever possible. We talked about two examples. If you literally change your domain name or you change a subdomain, those are global changes. Avoid things that are going to affect every single URL on the site.

Blake John: Yes, absolutely. And a third one that is commonly overlooked, but like, the backslash. So generally speaking, the dagger. Most websites have a trailing slash at the end of all the URLs. Some websites don’t. And so when you migrate, if there’s no backslash and you kept the URL the same, now, technically, that is a redirect because Google has to it used.

Ben Page: To live at yeah.

Blake John: Now it lives at. So that that’s one. But the one thing that I’ll say too is I’m recommending trying to keep the URLs the same because it’ll reduce the change. It’ll increase the likelihood of just performing like status quo after the redesign. There are a lot of use cases in which URL changes are warranted and worthwhile. So, for example, some sites are on a flat URL structure, which means there are no folders.

Ben Page: Every page is URL perspective off the root domain.

Blake John: Right off the root domain. In that situation, it’s like, well, this is really for the better. It’s a better organization of content. It makes more sense to users, it makes more sense to crawlers. It’s easier to report on. Now, from a performance measurement perspective, if you have 200 blogs, 501,000 blogs, whatever it is, it’s a flat URL structure. Yes. I think that you should probably add blog title of XYZ.

Ben Page: Yeah, exactly.

Blake John: But in other cases, if it’s not absolutely mandatory or required, there’s not a significant boost from changing the URL. Just don’t there’s no reason for it in most cases. I look at some of these and I’m like, why did we do that?

Ben Page: No one wanted it to say plural in the URL instead of singular or something.

Blake John: Exactly. But for what did you gain from that? There’s nothing to really gain, and it kind of hurts me inside. I’m like needless. It’s just cosmetic, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. I always would recommend keeping it the same, if possible.

Ben Page: Well, in an inverse case might be I’ve seen this happen where a valid change of folder structure or URL change, if you want to think of it that way, is like consolidating a mega menu to a simpler navigation main navigation. That too, where you had gnarly subfolders that were again like needless very thin content in these arcane three folders, deep structures and stuff. And it’s like, well, let’s make this a little bit easier to digest for users. And that could be another.

Blake John: Absolutely. And again, there are situations where updating the folder structure, changing the URLs, it makes sense, but the key here is to really think about it, kind of vet your thinking either with a third party or like a professional SEO or whatever, and just make sure, okay, is it worth it? Is this going to drastically improve either user experience or just general content organization? And if you don’t feel like that’s the case, then I wouldn’t recommend changing the URLs.

Ben Page: Yeah, that makes sense. So we hammered on kind of URL structure. We talked a little bit about metadata. So like page title or Aka. A simple way to think of this is the browser tab name and keeping things fairly similar. Structured data. I mean, do we want to touch on structured data and like content specific changes?

Blake John: Yeah, I think we probably should. So content, this is a tough one because I think and this is oftentimes again, it gets overlooked. But on the legacy, you should really do a content audit on the legacy site. We’ve talked about this on other episodes too, like Keep Kill combined. You have to figure out what you’re going to keep, what you’re going to get rid of, and what you’re going to consolidate. Right. And obviously you want to take a look at this from a performance perspective too, and saying, okay, pieces of content like your money pages, they should probably stay pretty similar. That’s what I would recommend.

Ben Page: No wholesale changes for the sake of change.

Blake John: Exactly. And redesign is a good time to trim the fat too. There might be content on your website that just, it’s not really adding value anywhere. It’s not driving traffic, you’re not getting leads or business or whatever from this. It’s like, okay, maybe we can consolidate this or just cut it out entirely. Those things happen. But again, you kind of have to go through that process, be really cognizant of it, and make sure that you’re not cutting out things that you shouldn’t like, things that are driving, like driving business, be obviously really careful of that. And then in terms of structured data, it again kind of falls on the line of content audit. But if there are Schema markup, if there is Schema markup on specific pages carrying that forward, we had an example where for an addiction treatment client, where the schema was just generally local. On the Legacy side, it was medical organization practice, or I think it’s medical organization.

Ben Page: That sounds right.

Blake John: And when they launched, they did a redesign. They launched with just general local business.

Ben Page: Which seems like it would be a.

Blake John: Similar yeah, similar, but not quite the same. And obviously medical organization is much more specific and much more relevant to an addiction treatment center. And so we caught that pretty early, actually, and we’re able to revert that and get that back live on the site. But those things, especially Schema is easy to overlook because no one’s really looking at on a day to day basis. But if you have an SEO on your side, which, again, I recommend, they can kind of be accountable for that and make sure that the right things are being pulled forward right.

Ben Page: Which can influence both the kinds of search results you will appear in and it can impact the way that you’re visible in those search results with rich results and other SERP features and so on. So really important. Any other of these kind of common SEO problems to bring to the surface?

Blake John: I guess the last thing that I would say is and this kind of goes again, I’ll go going back to redirects, don’t really redirect anything to your home page, as crazy as that might sound. I don’t remember when I read this or even who stated it, but someone at Google said they treat redirects to the homepage almost as if they were 404. It’s like a dead end because it’s.

Ben Page: Like a lame choice of page basically as a redirect. Exactly.

Blake John: And if you think about it too, in most cases, on most websites, there’s no page. Like, your home pages is really, truly very unique. So no other page can really replicate that. You probably shouldn’t be redirecting it to very often. There might be some really off the cuff use cases where it is possible, but I would say very rarely you should be redirecting to a page that is basically serving the same intent, delivering similar content, and you want to do it one to one. So what that means is you don’t want to skip, like, redirect to another page that’s redirecting to that page. You want to redirect from one source.

Ben Page: Page to one final destination. Yeah, no skips, no multi redirects that.

Blake John: You want to float things down.

Ben Page: Too right on. Yeah. I’ll give one nod to design because it happens all the time. Let’s paint a hypothetical scenario where let’s say all of the SEO considerations have been addressed, and let’s say the site maintains the same performance from an SEO perspective after launch. Well, redesign from a visual and user experience standpoint, page templates, look and feel, color, all these things, they could positively or negatively impact organic conversion rate on the site. And so that’s almost a different stream to look at. You want to look at visibility, engagement, traffic, and also conversion and perhaps even post conversion. What happens to that lead? In this case, we’re using that example. But for ecommerce, like if you’re redesigning your card experience or a booking engine, any of those types of changes too you want to be really thoughtful, I think about are the steps to the final destination changing, but just want to give a nod there. It’s like, all things being equal, design will greatly impact conversion rates in many cases.

Blake John: Too yeah, in every redesign, you’re going to have someone who’s accountable for redesign or for design. You’re going to have like a designer. A designer or a front end dev. But not in every redesign. You’re going to have an SEO, which is I think you should I think there should always be. But what I’m trying to say is I think those two people should have a conversation and talk about some of those things. And maybe there’s like a UX person who is just responsible specifically for UX. Maybe there’s a few roles and they should probably communicate to make sure you’re talking about it doesn’t go unaddressed or just neglected. Then you launch and you realize a month later, like, oh, in the checkout process or in the form, there’s this huge roadblock that is preventing people from doing XYZ. You know what I mean?

Ben Page: Yeah. It’s those little things, especially if multiple of them stack up, that can really sink you. And let’s talk about how bad can this get? Man what have you seen? If you don’t address these things and you redesign and launch, what’s the potential impact?

Blake John: It bums me out a lot, but it can be pretty bad, man. I’ve seen situations where traffic in revenue is down 50%, and usually that doesn’t happen immediately. It’ll be like, oh, three months later.

Ben Page: It’s a slow yeah, it’s like, fine.

Blake John: Over the grand scheme of things, it’s not slow, but sometimes you don’t fully realize what had happening until it’s almost too late, which is seriously, it bums me out. But yeah, I’ve seen situations where traffic and revenue goes down 50% because previous design web dev agencies didn’t handle the redirect strategy correctly, or whatever it might be. And just organic traffic just drops. You just fall off for really high value search terms.

Ben Page: Yeah. In my experience, it’s not uncommon to see 25% to 50% organic traffic loss year over year. Sometimes it’s temporary, sometimes it’s short lived, your site’s getting crawled. If some of these things are in place, it can even be less than that. And it’ll be temporary, but sometimes it’s permanent. And I think almost the worst thing is, like you said, when it’s a slow and steady decay, that you’re losing 10% per month, month over month for a year. And finally someone’s like, ringing the alarm bells, like, hey, our revenue is down. Well, why? Well, I don’t know. We’re humming on Paid and affiliates and email and this and that, and social, oh, organic, organic. Why? What happened? And then you’re like when you zoom out and you look at the data and you’re like, oh, no, maybe the slope isn’t extreme, but it’s been down into the right since we launched the redesign. And there was like, one case of a current client where they redesigned and we were brought in something like nine months or so. Six to nine months after I think it was like nine months after the redesigned site launched. And they were down at that point, 30% to 50%, somewhere in that range, like 30, 40% organic traffic year over year was being lost. And subsequently it took twelve you could even argue like up to 18 months after that point to start getting back to Parity, which was in this case, it was a combination of building out net new content that started to rank and addressing some of the technical issues, some of the redirect challenges and reoptimizing pages that had been pared down in the last redesign. So it can be, like, really significant. It can tank your results, especially if organic is a huge percentage of your digital traffic and sales or leads.

Blake John: Yeah, and for that specific example too, because six to nine months after redesign is honestly a very long time. And we went back and through some digging through Google Analytics and Google search console specifically, we found a bunch of old URLs that had not been redirected, but six to nine. I don’t remember exactly how far out we were removed from the redesign.

Ben Page: At that point, I think it was probably getting closer to twelve.

Blake John: Yeah, at least. And so we put in the redirects that we literally, one to one, we mapped them all out, which is a very tedious process, like doing that, honestly. But it needs to be done. It’s so, so important. So we went through that process as if it was going to launch tomorrow, but at that point it’s so late down the road, honestly, I don’t even know the effects of that. If Google even has access to those old URLs, are they crawling them very often? Truthfully, it’s really hard to say if that’s going to have a big impact, but it’s sort of like the right thing to do and it should have been done in the first place. So you kind of have to cover your bases and do it anyways.

Ben Page: Right? It’s like it should have been done pre launch.

Blake John: Exactly.

Ben Page: But now we’re coming in and it’s part of the cleanup strategy.

Blake John: Exactly.

Ben Page: Think of it that way. So how do you start to hedge against disaster or protect against these worst case scenarios? We talked about the kinds of site migrations, what can go wrong, how bad it can get, what can people do to not have that happen?

Blake John: Yeah, and I’ve said this before, I’ll just say it again. I think you should have an SEO on your team who’s thinking about these things and is responsible for these things. That’s sort of numero uno in my mind. One other thing that’s just incredibly important, and I think this should be done in every redesign as well, is sort of benchmarking the legacy site Crawl it with. I recommend using screaming Frog. There are some other tools like Sitebulb Crawl It and save It, so that after the redesign, you have something to kind of go back to in a full sitemap that you can lean on to understand where things were previously. Because once again, once you reshuffle that deck of cards, you don’t know what order that stuff was in. It’s just in the past and no one has it memorized. Right. But if you have a saved file, maybe you have another specific sitemap file, just to understand the structure and how things were really laid out. You’re just going to want to do that. Because again, if there is an issue, you can kind of start to piece some of those things together because it’s really difficult. In this example that we were just talking about, where we came to the situation, like nine months later, we don’t have anything to lean on, we don’t know what it was like a year ago.

Ben Page: We’re poring through like cached versions of the site, trying to guys, there’s these core paragraphs of content that were stripped away and the URL changed and this and it’s like yeah, exactly.

Blake John: So basically, benchmark your old site back, like Archive. Honestly, I’ve used situations because you can request them to hit a specific page. That’s a great tool, too, because it’ll take literally a screenshot. I would say that too. Take screenshots of big money pages or something. You want to have an archive to go back to if you ever need it. It’s extremely valuable.

Ben Page: Not only structure, but I would say also performance, right? Like rankings for head terms, like Aka, your most important non brand and branded keywords performance on key pages. Organic conversion rates on key pages. So you have both. I guess what we’re really saying is a qualitative and quantitative snapshot of how you’re doing from an SEO perspective in the period leading up to the redesign, and also, like, archiving snapshot documenting what’s currently there. So that if post launch, you see a continued decline. You can do some of that comparative analysis to draw from the things that were working previously and bring some of that back to hopefully mitigate that or get back on track.

Blake John: Yeah. And one thing I’ll say, too, we kind of briefly touched on this, but it’s really common to see a decline after, like a performance decline after a site redesign. But realistically, it shouldn’t last longer than six to eight weeks.

Ben Page: I was going to say weeks. Time frame.

Blake John: Yeah. As long as you’ve done all the things that we’re talking about, you’ve done those things correctly. If it’s going beyond six to eight weeks, there’s probably an issue and we need to figure out what’s going on. But it is common to see a decline. And I will say, too, it’s possible to not see a decline at all. If you do all these things correctly, you’re really careful, really strategic. You could launch and nothing ever you could even see a boost, I think.

Ben Page: Right?

Blake John: You know what I mean? It’s definitely possible.

Ben Page: Yeah, totally. And sometimes the design updates, the improvement to conversion rate will eclipse any minimal SEO visibility chain. Like, oh, I lost 5% of organic traffic.

Blake John: Oh.

Ben Page: But conversion rates, like, double or something. Okay, I’ll take the conversion rate, please. Yeah, that’s super interesting, but hopefully it’s clear by this point, too. Bring in an SEO earlier in the process. Right. What we’re not saying is during your redesign or your migration process, run a checklist, you’re okay. We’re saying because all of these things like structure and content and even UX are all wrapped up in how well you perform organically, hopefully you have an SEO perspective seat at the table early in the process when you’re thinking about planning. Because imagine this, right? You benchmark your current site. You can see the strengths, the weaknesses, and for areas where you’re performing well, if there are proposed changes or wholesale changes to structure URLs content, it’s like, is this an essential change before you commit to it? Does this have to be done?

Blake John: Why?

Ben Page: Because it’s like a risk mitigation thing. What’s the upside of this change? What’s the potential cost if it goes off? The rails. So bring in SEO earlier.

Blake John: And one thing too, that I’ll talk about, I think is really important is kind of doing like audits throughout the process. I don’t know, they’re technical audits, I suppose. It’s kind of part of the benchmarking process. But audit the staging site, the staging environment, just to make sure there are no huge significant issues, that when we launch, we could have massive sites or massive 404 or something like that, or whatever it might be. Or maybe all the canonical tags are linking to the non secure version of these pages. Like, why is that happening? You know what I mean? We should probably fix that. And I would recommend to, if there’s any SEOs listening, do that throughout the process. Because what happens is you’ll want to do it right before it launches, but then sometimes just too late. Yeah, we’ve seen devs are like, we.

Ben Page: Don’T have timer budgets gone, we’re already 20% over. Sorry SEO, we’re not going to make the wall.

Blake John: And it’s like, well, we’re launching. And it’s like, oh no, that’s personally happened to me. So the sooner you can highlight an issue, which sometimes it’s tough because sometimes you don’t even have all that you need until a week before launch to really do a true audit. It can be really challenging, but the sooner the better, obviously, because then you can make a case and you can say, well, we have 30 days before launch. Like this needs to be prioritized and someone will fit it in. You can make it actioned.

Ben Page: Right. And on the staging site, running that tech audit, or that SEO audit, if you want to think of it that way. It’s like post most of the content being added and maybe pre, like the official pre launch QA process, somewhere in that zone is a great time to run a tech audit. And then like post launch, you want to run another sort of audit. And we already talked about the benchmarking, so this is part of what we do when we ride along for site migrations, pre and post checkup and then ongoing monitoring. I mean, sounds simple, like very basic, but like paying attention to site health via tools, via search console, even just basic analytics, especially in the days and weeks following. Because like, we sort of alluded to earlier, more than a handful of cases I can think of where it’s like the awareness of the problem wasn’t even there for weeks or months after it’s already happening, and sometimes not totally too late, but the damage gets worse over time. It’s like compounding pain that can be avoided by monitoring early and often.

Blake John: Exactly. And this is all just we talked about it, but having an SEO who has a seat at the table, who can be accountable for these things, it’s just absolutely vital to the process.

Ben Page: Yeah, and so let’s talk really briefly about how we plug into site migrations as that SEO voice? Both I don’t know. I think of it as three things that we do well. First, let’s talk about who do we work with? We’ll work with in house teams, sometimes even agencies. And we’ll work with people, marketing leaders, certainly, but then website developers. And the more technical folks we can work with, the more front end design folks. And we can also work with the content team marketing coordinators because of how we’re plugging into the different components of the SEO strategy. But as far as the actions that we take or the roles that we play is probably a better way to think of it. How does that work, Blake? How do we help throughout this process?

Blake John: Yeah, absolutely. In my personal experience, at least, in the way that we sort of operate, it’s like we’re kind of the guide. And a lot of times I feel like we’re the ones looking out for the business and trying to make sure that these critical things don’t fall through the gaps because it’s going to hurt the business down the road. And I think a lot of times people get wrapped up in what they’re doing so much they don’t think larger picture. So I like to think of myself in these situations and again, the way that we operate as kind of a voice of reason to just let’s think about this a little bit before we move forward. Because I know we want to have a nice, newly polished, redesigned website, but at the end of the day, we have to drive traffic to this thing or it’s not going to matter. You know what I mean? And we also will take the things that we do. We’ll handle the redirect strategy and we’ll make sure the technical audits are completed. We can hold other people accountable for making sure they’re doing these technical things the right way, right?

Ben Page: Code changes, content updates, structural changes, and.

Blake John: Truthfully, some of those things, it kind of depends on the business, their operating system, I suppose, what seats they have filled, but we can fill multiple seats. We could help manage the content in doing that audit if that’s what needs to be done. If you don’t have a content team, we can kind of fill that role as well. There’s like a hybrid approach. But I think at the end of the day, it’s like that voice of reason, that guide to kind of navigate this really murky, really challenging site redesign to make sure it goes smoothly.

Ben Page: Yeah. So research, analysis, planning, that ongoing consulting piece and the tech auditing and like you said, yeah, the guide. I love that analogy. That’s awesome. Well, if you’re listening and you’re considering a redesign, maybe you’re in the midst of one, maybe you recently had one and you’re experiencing pain. Contact us today. You can reach us at two one 2100 Digital. Get the support you need. We’re happy to always have a conversation, learn more about your situation. Every site migration is a little bit different based on all these different variables we’ve covered. And ultimately, hopefully, this has been helpful for you to think through some of the considerations and also to bring that guide along with you on this journey, which is an insurance policy, but it’ll set you up for long term success. And that’s what we’re really all about here. So thanks for listening. Squad.

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