If you’ve ever had to do a platform migration, you know the challenges that come along with it. An SEO migration involves transferring search engine ranking, authority, and indexing signals to reflect a change in your website or website URL structure. It can be a tedious process and if not done correctly, can negatively impact your SEO. To preserve your search engine rankings, here are the top things you want to avoid.
- Changing URLs without a redirect strategy
A common mistake made is having no plan of action in redirecting URLs and sending them all to the homepage. This may save you time initially, but it directly affects your rankings and link authority. Each link on your current site already has a ranking in search engines, and redirecting a link to an irrelevant or unrelated page (such as the homepage) will impact the performance in search engine results. Where possible, you should try to retain existing URL structures to maintain search rankings. If you cannot keep current URLs, they should always be 301 redirected and linked to relevant content pages on your site. A 301 redirect tells users and search engines a new version of the content found elsewhere on your site.
- Deleting content
It is recommended to back up files before starting the migration since there is a risk, however minimal, of data loss during the transition. You also need to assess your content before migrating, as some of it may need to be redirected, consolidated, or rewritten but not erased completely. You can evaluate content using a crawler and other SEO tools to see how it currently ranks. Although removing and deleting content can sometimes negatively affect SEO rankings, so can outdated content. Outdated content is viewed as low quality, and the more low-quality content your site has, the less authoritative it will be to Google and other search engines and therefore harder to rank. Get started early, so you aren’t rushing to make critical decisions against tight timelines.
- Changing website architecture
Having an organized website structure is essential to SEO. A well-defined system allows users to easily find content, engage, and creates a positive experience. Website architecture includes site crawlability, or how well a search engine can easily access and crawl your site without encountering dead ends or broken links. Creating internal links to other pages within your site helps users easily navigate through it. URLs also play an important role in website architecture. They need to be simple, easy to read, and accessible for search engines to target. Consider submitting a new XLM sitemap, which is a blueprint of the most important pages within your website, to Google to increase page rankings.
Metadata is data that provides information about other data. It’s important to SEO because providing appropriate metadata such as keywords, descriptions, titles, etc., makes it easier for search engines to “read” your content and encourages users to click through search engine result pages. This data in SEO is referred to as meta tags, invisible tags that provide details about your site and can be optimized to highlight the most important aspects of your content. There are several types of meta tags, but the most frequently used are:
- Title tags provide the header of a web page and are found in the search engine results.
- Meta descriptions give a brief description and summarize the contents of your page.
- Meta robot tags tell search engines which pages of your site should be indexed.
- Alt text or image optimization gives a short description of an image for users who cannot see them.
- Canonical tags help prevent duplicate content and tell search engines which content to prioritize with similar or near-identical content on a site.
- Header tags organize pages by separating headings and subheadings and are ranked in order of importance from H1 to H6.
- Site Speed
Both site speed and page speed are how fast your content loads. Site speed is the average of several sample pages on a website. It is one of the measurements Google uses to rank sites and is becoming increasingly more important in search engine results pages. In 2021, Google introduced Page Experience to its algorithm, which measures a website’s browsing experience using loading speed, responsiveness, and visual stability on desktop and mobile devices. Slow site speed means search engines crawl through fewer pages causing rankings to drop and an increased bounce rate. Sites that deliver content fast are more efficient and provide an added user-friendly experience.
- *Bonus* Google Analytics Implementation
Implementing Google Analytics to improve your SEO is a no-brainer. It is a powerful tool with many features that provide insights and data on site performance. One area to evaluate is landing pages and how much time users are spending on these pages. High bounce rates indicate users cannot find what they are looking for and are exiting your site. You can create SEO-related goals and compare your rankings against other sites. Another helpful feature is finding keyword opportunities by tracking internal site searches. These provide insights on what users are searching for and if your site has relevant content that translates into conversions. Another tool is setting up 404 alerts. The “404 Page Not Found” error is common in platform migration and should be monitored regularly. The best part is that Google Analytics is free and should be used as a resource to improve SEO continuously.