The importance of ensuring that you have a detailed SEO strategy in place as part of any site migration cannot be underestimated. As an SEO, and from my own personal experience, the results can be catastrophic. Let me show you why with the following case study.
The beginning: SEO success
Consider this scenario: Company X had a well-structured SEO campaign running very successfully. Among the results, they had a first- or second-place ranking in Google U.S. on the following keyword phrases:
- video over mobile
- low latency video
- wearables and training
- guide to wearables
- wearable areas
- in-body wearables
- field service video
- streaming video field service
- streaming video manufacturing
- reduce AOG
Rankings were earned and key C-level stakeholders were very pleased with the results. These results were achieved by focusing pages on topics, writing blog posts on the topics, on-page optimization, internal linking, and some external linking with another domain run by the company, which had good domain authority. All rankings were tracked for Google U.S., but traffic came in from Google and Bing on those pages from all over the world, including India, Korea and the Middle East. Over a dozen industry-focused topical datasheets, which were provided in pdf, were indexed and ranked. A dozen videos were created, which were also indexed, and showed up in Universal Search results. Traffic was several hundred well-qualified B2B visitors per month, which must have generated a decent volume of leads. And keep in mind that buying the clicks with PPC would have cost $3 to $9 per click.
The loss: a site migration
In early October 2014, the company redesigned its website without the help of an SEO or an SEO platform. Of the keywords listed previously that the company was ranking for, none of the words rank today. In fact, none of them are even indexed because they took the topical blog pages down. The blog is gone and has been replaced by another press-focused blog, which does not have the same topical value or SEO value. The industry pdfs are gone, the videos are gone, and so is the traffic. In this case, Company X may have wanted to move away from the positioning strategy that led them to produce the original content about those topics. However, the content pages ranked and generated traffic and now the pages are traffic are gone.
Can You Have a Totally Successful Site Migration? The answer is yes. Keep in mind that in any site migration, even when done well, there’s a chance of a slight traffic dip for a period of time, or at best, everything stays the same initially, and then results grow from there. Mark Munroe of Trulia, director of SEO and a BrightEdge customer, shared an interesting site migration case at the Share14 conference earlier this year. In this instance, it was an integration of two sites, where one existing site became a subdomain of another. After carefully moving the site, the result was a 129 percent increase in traffic – a total success. You can watch a video of his session here, which illustrates the power of a strategic website migration.
Bottom line: you need the right people and tools in place for a site migration
Companies undergoing site migrations or redesigns must have an enterprise SEO platform and a success manager in place. Companies that are likley to lose traffic opportunities. Company X that we spoke about earlier could have refocused the website and still maintained the SEO value they developed through proper implementations, like 301 redirects. But today, any links they had now generate a 404 "not found" message. This haphazard approach to site migration destroyed any content equity, rank, link equity and free traffic that the company had. In sum, you would not consult an architect after you rebuild your house, so don’t forget to include an SEO manager and appropriate benchmarking and tracking resources when you plan your site updates, redesigns, and migrations.