At some point in the lifecycle of your business you will most likely need to make a significant change to your website architecture. This change may be reorganizing the current content on your site, redesigning your site, consolidating subdomains, or it may be moving your entire site onto another domain. Whatever the scenario may be, the act of moving content from one location to another at a large scale comes with a very high risk of losing traffic and conversions.
At Parallel Path, we have been part of site migrations on a variety of scales and have learned some valuable lessons. Admittedly, some of these lessons have been learned the hard way, but none the less we would like to share a few of our learnings with you so that you are better equipped to take on a site migration.
1 | Get Everyone on the Same Page
The company website is often the hub of all digital marketing efforts. As such, there are typically multiple departments, channel managers, and agencies that are impacted by the migration of content. For example, the act of changing a URL for a product page can impact SEO by creating a 404 error for the old URL, which will hurt relevance and ultimately rankings, while any ads from paid search, display advertising, or affiliates will see their conversion rates plummet because their ads no longer connect to an active page.
All that to say, consider getting everyone with any affiliation to the website involved at the beginning of the process. You never know when a change might impact their respective area or if they might have some insight on how to best accomplish something during the migration process.
2 | Inventory and Map All URLs
The migration map is the most difficult and time consuming step in the migration process, but it is also the most important, as it impacts all digital marketing channels. In our experience, the biggest mistake that is made during a site migration is redirecting all old URLs to the homepage of the new site. In doing so, you may save a load of time, but you can expect the following (negative) results:
Increased bounce rate for all channels, as people will not find the content/products/offer that they were promised in their email.
Decreased conversion rate for all channels.
Decreased rankings, as you will lose your relevance for each topic and have to start from scratch with each new page. Ultimately leading to a decrease in organic traffic.
An angry boss because you effectively killed traffic and conversions.
In order to prevent this catastrophe and avoid scouring the web for a new job, consider first taking inventory of all site URLs. This can be accomplished by using a tool such as Screaming Frog, or by downloading your site map. Once you have a list of all current URLs, you can then map them to their new URLs. The two key elements to consider in this process are 1) ensure that all content has a new home, and 2) ensure that all content is redirected to relevant content.
3 | Baseline Data
A site migration is a huge undertaking and typically done for a specific purpose. As such, improvement is expected, so it is wise to take baseline your data BEFORE launch in an effort to accurately measure the impact of the site migration. The metrics used will vary depending on the channels used in your digital strategy.
These are but a few tips to help guide you towards achieving a successful migration. Do you have any other tips that have been helpful?