A lot can go wrong during a migration.
Changing the theme of your site and redesigning your entire structure will cause many issues.
But how you plan for those issues and deal with them when they arise can mean the difference between:
Site migrations require a high level of skill and SEO knowledge to be executed perfectly. Most migrations cause an initial loss of traffic and rankings as Google revaluates your site.
That’s exactly what we did with our SaaS client.
In this SEO case study, you’ll see how we grew our client’s organic traffic by 223% after implementing a complete site migration.
If you are considering migrating your site to a new theme, pay attention to this case study. It details all the steps you need to consider before doing it!
What Will I Learn?
Our SaaS client offers a tool that helps businesses with their marketing.
This is a competitive industry and our client competes with some of the world’s biggest name SaaS companies.
This created another challenge with the site migration.
The client joined Search Logistics because they needed help migrating the website to a new custom theme whilst minimising traffic loss.
Because of the nature of their site and the industry, there was no room for error.
Pre-planning for all of the issues and understanding all the challenges we were up against was always the key in this campaign.
This project was broken down into 3 main parts:
Our team has done a ton of migrations over the years, so we have a good process for each of the three parts.
But as with every project, there will always be unexpected issues that arise.
That’s just the nature of SEO and websites.
The main challenge we faced was migrating the client’s website to a new custom theme in Angular SPA.
We had to do this while following SEO best practices to ensure that traffic loss post-migration was minimal – ideally experiencing no loss at all.
That’s not an easy thing to do.
It meant that major technical issues were dealt with quickly as the site migration took place. This included:
The client’s core service pages lacked engaging content that helped encourage their audience to use the platform and services offered.
This huge issue needed to be fixed once the migration took place.
SEO isn’t just about driving traffic.
The best SEO agencies know how to drive the right kind of traffic and get it to convert into real leads and sales.
Here is a quick overview of all the core challenges our team had to overcome in this campaign:
With the key challenges outlined, it was time to focus on delivering the project as planned.
Below are the exact steps we took to overcome the challenges our team identified pre-site migration.
If you are considering migrating your site to a new theme, get a pen and notepad.
These are essential steps that every site owner has to think through.
What is a site migration?
A site migration is the process of making significant changes to a website.
These changes will have an impact on your:
And any other significant aspect of your website.
In our client’s case, the site was being migrated from a client-side rendering setup to a server-side rendering setup.
Below are some other cases where a site migration may be required:
This often involves changing the website’s:
…and even the underlying technology.
That means it will require moving to a new content management system (CMS), altering the URL structure, or implementing new design elements.
A site migration may be necessary when moving a website from one CMS to another, such as migrating from WordPress to Drupal.
This involves transferring the website’s content, design and functionality to the new platform.
Changing the domain name of a website is often considered SEO suicide if not done correctly.
Domain changes involve redirecting the old domain to the new one, transferring the website’s content and updating any internal links or references – not an easy job!
If a website needs to move to a different hosting provider or server, a site migration is necessary.
This involves transferring all website files, databases and configurations to the new hosting environment.
As you can see…
Site migrations involve a lot of work and technical skill.
If best practices aren’t followed, a site migration can significantly impact your site’s search performance.
So what do you need to do?
Here is a list of the most common steps we take whenever we do a site migration:
There are a lot of steps and things to think about in a site migration. But putting in the required effort will minimise your chances of ranking and traffic drops.
That is ultimately the goal!
After starting the site migration, our team was laser-focused on identifying potential technical issues quickly.
Ideally, we wanted to address any technical issues before they became a serious problem.
We ran a thorough technical SEO audit and identified two key issues that were critically preventing the blog from meeting its ranking potential:
These are not minor issues.
They both can potentially stop large portions of the site from ranking.
But that’s why we ran the technical audit during the migration process.
Here’s how we fixed them.
Blocking off an entire section of your website from Google is considered one of the biggest SEO sins you can make.
But sometimes, this happens during a site migration or even during the development stage of a new website.
In most cases, the blocker is mistakenly left in.
Because the issue is so common (and deadly), our site migration team quickly picked it up in the audit.
In the client’s case, the entire blog was blocked from Google’s index because of a noindex directive in the X-Robots tag.
This essentially would have prevented Google from crawling every blog post on the site.
The result would have been a quick plummet to zero traffic on the blog.
The X-Robots-Tag is an HTTP header used to communicate specific instructions to search engine crawlers and other web crawlers visiting your site, like:
Think of X-Robots-tag as a way to control how search engines and other bots interact with your site.
The good news is that you have complete control over the X-Robots-Tag header.
It can be set on individual web pages or at the server level to apply to all pages on your website.
It allows you to define directives that inform search engines about how they should handle indexing, crawling and serving your site content.
Here are some common directives that can be set using the X-Robots-Tag header:
Note: The X-Robots-Tag header is an advanced technique and requires proper implementation on the server side. Use it with caution to avoid unintended consequences.
This issue would have ended up causing the client a big headache.
All of the client’s blog articles contained invalid canonical links that Google wouldn’t pick up correctly.
What does this mean?
Essentially Google wouldn’t be able to work out which URL they should index, which would have stopped many of the client’s pages from ranking high in the SERPs.
A canonical link refers to an HTML element known as the “rel=canonical” tag (or attribute).
It’s used to:
When a canonical link is implemented, it tells search engines which URL they should consider as the primary and authoritative source for the content.
This is particularly useful in cases where different URLs lead to the same or very similar content.
An example would be a web page that has multiple versions accessible through different URLs (e.g., through session IDs, parameters, or URL variations).
When Google encounters a canonical link, it consolidates the ranking signals (i.e. backlinks) and attributes them to the canonical URL.
This helps to avoid diluting the page’s ranking potential across multiple duplicate versions.
It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty straightforward.
Have multiple similar pages but want a specific page to be ranked by Google?
You can simply add the following line of code to each of the pages:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.example.com/original-page” />
When adding the link to the href attribute, make sure that the URL is correct and that it’s the full URL that appears when you open the link – e.g. it doesn’t redirect or have any typos.
Here are examples of invalid canonical links:
Note: The final one is only invalid if your URLs include www. The alternative is if your URLs don’t include www. but the canonical links to the www. version.
Canonical tags can feel overwhelming. So ensure you get an SEO professional to help you if you’re not confident.
With a large portion of the site migration technical aspects out of the way, it was time to focus on optimising the client’s most important pages.
What are the most important pages of the site?
Short answer: The ones that make you money.
Every page has a purpose. But the bottom line is that some pages are more important than others.
While you should work to optimise every page on your site, you must pay closer attention to important pages that generate:
At the end of the day – they bring the most value to your business!
Here are some of the key things you should consider when optimising your site pages:
The search intent of the primary keyword you’re optimising a page to rank for will determine exactly what content the page should have.
On a service page, the intent is transactional because searchers are looking to hire you for a service.
But on the other hand, it could also be considered informational because the searcher wants to learn more about the service itself and what’s involved.
In some cases, it can be both!
Unsure about the user intent of a keyword?
Do a quick Google search and look at what pages rank at the top of the search results. This will give you the answer.
The page title is one of the first signals that both Google and visitors use to determine whether a page is relevant to their search query.
Optimise your page title by making it engaging and explain what information the user will find on the page.
You should also include the primary keyword you want to rank for.
The H1 heading should summarise what the user can find on the page and be optimised for your target keyword.
The H1 heading works similarly to the page title in telling the user and search engines what they can expect to find on the page.
In most cases, they can be identical.
Although it’s not a direct ranking factor, the meta description offers you a chance to encourage the user to click through to your website from Google instead of your competition.
Think of it like an advertisement for your page.
Including key terms or phrases within the description is good practice.
This also means adding keyword variations, as Google often highlights these in bold, making them stand out more to the user.
One of the best ways to optimise your content is to look at the top ranking pages for your keywords and identify any content gaps between you and your competitors.
More specifically, keep an eye on things like-
Use these gaps as inspiration and ensure you fill them in on your content.
Maintaining organic traffic through a site migration is already a big win.
But since the start of the migration campaign, the client’s organic traffic has grown significantly:
This is a huge win and shows that all of the optimisations within the migration gave the site a huge boost in rankings and traffic.
But that’s not all…
The site is now ranking for 411 keywords in the top 10 positions of the search results compared to just 115 last year – representing an increase of 257%:
In addition, the overall search visibility in the top 100 positions grew from 946 to 3980 keywords over the past 12 months – an increase of 320%.
As you can see the site continues to grow in favour with Google as more keywords come into the top 100 and into the top 10.
We couldn’t have asked for better results which continue to grow.
What’s the big takeaway from this case study?
Site migrations can significantly impact a website’s SEO performance and must be handled carefully. But when done right, you can gain traffic!
You just need a proven strategy combined with real SEO skills. This will ensure a smooth transition from the old website to the new one.
Here’s a brief recap of what we covered in the case study:
Follow the steps above and you will be in a good position to grow your site on the other side of the migration.
Need help with a site migration? Get in touch with us here and let our team take care of it for you.
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