How to Retain Your SEO Ranking During a Replatform
“I can’t wait to start moving my site to another platform”, said no one ever.
And for good reason.
There are key steps to ensure that you don’t lose your SEO standing and they’re not exactly tick-the-boxes-kind-of steps.
But as always, we’re here to help you through the jungle that is platform migration so you can safely make it to the other side. From there, you can enjoy your lovely new platform with all of your SEO content intact.
When is it time to consider replatforming?
It’s not a matter of when it feels right. We’re not into that sort of waffle here at Elkfox. Here are some signs that your store might be in need of a platform shift.
Traffic spikes are affecting your uptime/speed of service
Yes, you will often see a temporary drop in traffic during migration, but in the long run, it will save your store from losing customers because of loading speed.
Too many questions!
Are functionality questions and customer complaints dominating your social media accounts and emails?
Online businesses these days spend a lot of time building trust with their customers, and a security hack involving your customer’s personal data is a surefire way to break down that hard earned trust. SaaS companies, such as Shopify, are responsible for protecting your company’s data which makes migrating to a market leader in the provision of secure platforms a sensible decision.
Your updates require costly, time-consuming development work
Dated platforms may have a low-cost monthly fee, but their inflexibility and lack of services mean you have to pay for a lot of third party extension to try and bring it up to speed. And look, we get it; migrating to a new platform is a big deal, but it could save you a lot of capital.
Too much maintenance
AI is a big topic in eCommerce in 2018, but it’s also the year of it disseminating into real-life processes. If your current platform requires manual processing of orders and other back-end office tasks it’s likely to be costing more in both time and human error than it’s worth.
We recently published an article on the end of Magento 1.0. Sometimes you don’t get a choice on whether or not you get to keep using your current platform. If you want to avoid this, you should look for SaaS that doesn’t require you to update to the newest version. Instead, the providers do it for you automatically, as is the case with Shopify stores.
An online store needs SEO like we need air. It’s essential to maintain your ranking when switching providers and we’re going to show you how to transition seamlessly to your new SaaS.
What is SEO and why is it so important?
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is how you get found. Search engines are thought of as all-knowing beings now, but they are only algorithms. If you know what they’re looking for, anyone can score high on the rankings. On the other hand, you may have exactly what a consumer wants, but if you don’t have SEO content, then the chances of them finding your site are slim.
So it goes without saying that losing all of your SEO online street cred when replatforming would be a nightmare for a store that has spent so long building a reputation.
How can replatforming affect my SEO?
Badly. But only without a strategy. There need to be foundations laid down before knocking down the old site and building a new one.
Search engines use algorithms, such as Google’s DeepMind, to rank pages within your site. Within your online store, your content, UX and site architecture impact your site’s ranking. Crawlers regularly search through your site for changes, for example in traffic and bounce rates, which influences your SERP position.
Replatforming can cause a massive headache if you fail to “tell” these algorithms where to find your content after migrating. This is done by linking original URLs to an equivalent URL on the new platform.
So, without further ado, let’s get into what you can do to place down sturdy pre-platforming foundations.
What to do before replatforming
Collecting stats before migrating will help you to analyse how the process is affecting your site’s performance, this is called a baseline comparison. Once you’ve completed your replatforming you can refer to this baseline to compare the differences in your statistics pre and post migration.
These benchmarks also help you to shape your site architecture and taxonomy for the better. You’ll also have a keen understanding on which pages drive traffic and need to be preserved when crossing over to the new platform.
Your Google Analytics account needs to be set up and tracking your site well in advance of the migration. It needs real-time tracking time to create reports on landing pages, bounce rates, organic search traffic, keywords and other KPIs.
It’s also a good idea to use Google Analytics alongside Google Search Console, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
We recommend that you gather the following stats, all of which are essential for a good baseline comparison:
- Organic search traffic
- Metrics for key landing pages
- Highest ranking keywords, including keyword data
- Conversion rate
- Bounce rate
- Page load speed
- Mobile responsiveness
How to maintain your SEO ranking before and after a platform migration
The first step is to have those 301 redirect maps set up. Although it’s tedious, every old URL needs a new URL buddy to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the move. Shopify Plus gives you control over URL and metadata structure. You’ll need to create a 301 URL for every page that changes to retain ranking power.
Shopify now allows you to import URL redirects in bulk using a CSV file. You can find the instructions here.
Check internal links
Links located in content throughout the site will need to be changed to your new URL structure. Use a website (like this one) that finds broken links and repoints them to a new URL.
Most importantly, before the launch, ensure all URLs are working.
Pages without meta-data are pretty much useless for increasing traffic to your site so make sure that you import all those titles, h1 tags and meta-descriptions to the new platform. It's is also an excellent time to get your meta descriptions in tip-top shape! You can read more on the importance of meta descriptions here.
Lower DNS TTL
Account for hiccups by setting the DNS (Domain Name Server) to the lowest TTL (Time to Live). This tells computers to come back and check the domain name because it may have changed. It speeds up the switchover to the new system.
Minimise content changes
Keep page changes to a minimum. This is crucial: try and keep your site as identical as possible, avoid duplicate content and don’t remove too much content.
Add more rich content to your site
If you don’t have a blog yet, incorporate one into your new website to increase your long-tail keywords for SERP purposes. Remember to pinpoint all high-performing content and get it redirected! Here are some more reasons why your eCommerce store needs a blog.
Ensure your analytics are configured correctly
You can’t calculate the ROI on your new platform without analytics. So, ensure your analytics is set up correctly and optimised for Shopify before the big move. You’ll need to set KPIs using the metrics we suggested earlier.
Set up Search Console properly
Search Console is owned by Google and holds a mountain of data relating to your site, but it can be a struggle to convert it into an actionable map towards site improvement. It’s also a good idea to submit a new sitemap: this will tell Google which pages need crawling. You can find out how to do this right here.
Create a custom 404 page
Since you will be trawling through each page to create a new URL, you have an opportunity here to wipe out irrelevant pages. In the case where a page is not properly redirected or there is no equivalent page on your new site, customers will be sent to your 404 page. So, you can see why it's so important to have a fully optimised 404 page! Here are some tips for crafting a winning 404 page. Your main goal is to prevent a dead-end in the customer’s journey, which often results in a high bounce rate. Check out this article for some tips on lowering your bounce rate.
Want to learn more?
We’ve set you up with quite a few tasks. However, it’s better to know what you’re getting into and hold onto your SEO rankings rather than see them go down the drain. Check out other ways you can vamp up your site on our blog, or get in touch with us!