Yo! You ready to talk some SEO and website migration?
About 150 people attended the “SEO Essentials for Website Migration” panel at SMX West on March 1, 2012. It was a good turnout for the last day of a 3-day conference and a morning session. A large number of attendees where in-house SEOs, and manywere in the midst of a website migration to a CMS or had one upcoming.
A Website Relaunch Takes Planning
I opened my presentation by asking the audience to close their eyes and proceeded to tell a true story experienced by “netmeg” a month earlier:
Imagine you’re going into a client meeting and found out they are migrating to a new CMS and will be changing ALL of the URLs…in 3 WEEKS!
They have 2/3s of the site built in Drupal but didn’t think to talk to you, their SEO firm, about it first. There is no content developed, and the Drupal site is broken. The site must stay on the same domain, but a different server… until they get around the broken issues. PLUS! It’s important there is NO SERP loss. It’s a 15-year-old domain with lots of juice and has to be done right.
You explain the importance of redirects, analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, etc.
Your client explains they “had no idea it would be this involved.”
To top it off, the #1 issue is that the client’s representative is 9 months pregnant and due THAT DAY!
How do you handle the situation without making her go into labor?
Now you can understand Meg’s frustration. You either plan details of your site relaunch, or loose rankings and traffic… and kill kittens!
3 Stages to a Website Migration
The following represent the three stages to planning SEO into your website migration:
- Discovery & Data Collection
- Planning & Implementation
- Launch & Clean-up
Below is a high-level overview of each stage/phase/step, or whatever you want to call it:
Phase 1 of a site migration is to discover the migration variables & collect benchmark data.
- You want to know what’s going to change and what’s not. Capture it ALL!
- Will you redesign now or later?
- Is it just a migration to a new platform?
- IA structure?
- Content & Meta?
- Plugins & functionality?
- And of course, you want to measure performance before & after relaunch. Begin collecting data as early as possible.
Phase 2 includes identifying your assets with a content audit, keyword research and strategy, information architecture and site hierarchy, dealing with those precious URLs.
- Rewrite URLs and redirect page-to-page, 1-to-1, with 301 redirects.
- Make sure those new URLs are friendly to people and search engines.
Phase 3 includes the labor pains leading up to the big launch and the clean-up afterward. Monitor those 404s, update links, and reclaim those external links.
- Remember, a 301 redirect does lose a little bit of PageRank, so you want linking websites to list the correct new URL.
- Keep that link juice flowing to your new baby!
SEO Website Migration Presentation
View my SMX slides for tips with a few checklists and resources:
Format Caveat: SlideShare isn’t happy with the white & semi-transparent background image along with my “Franklin Gothic Book” font.
The SEO Migration Panel
As mentioned in my post about speaking at SMX West, panel speakers included myself plus:
- Jessica Bowman of SEOinhouse.com
- Rhea Drysdale of Outspoken Media
- Ryan Jones of Team Detroit
- Shari Thurow of Omni Marketing
It was an honor to hear their juicy insights and experiences. <I wish I would have had the opportunity to take notes!>
Live Blog Coverage
- Search Engine Roundtable – SMX Live: SEO Essentials for Migrating Websites
- Outspoken Media – SEO Essentials for Migrating Websites
Thank you, Lisa & Barry! <How you do this so proficiently, I shake my head.>
Below are a few resources mentioned in my presentation:
SEO Migration Checklists
- SEER Interactive – SEO Website Redesign Checklist: Don’t Mess Up Your Site Traffic
Not only is this a great checklist, but you’ll reap a lot of data and information to help you avoid migration fallout. For your baseline metrics, follow their tips to track the following metrics, weekly:
- Pages Indexed, Cache Date, Page Rank, Home Page Authority, Domain Authority, Google Webmaster Tools Errors
- SEO Gadget – Surviving a Site Migration [An SEO's Guide]
Richard Baxter delivers the SEO goods with tips for handling a website migration. This post is a MUST read. Period.
- SEOmoz – Web Site Migration Guide: Tips for SEOs
This post was not part of my presentation, and I refused to read it prior to avoid adding anything extra that would entice me to go over 12 minutes. It’s huge, a big guide full of tips, tools, and considerations for migrating a website.
Redirects Worksheet – FREE Download by Yo! Yo! SEO
I provided a download of a Redirects Worksheet Template you can use to track your 301s. It can also be used to help with your link-reclamation efforts.
Tools – FREE versions
Get your groove on with webmaster tools before and especially AFTER launch. Keep an eye on those 404 errors, crawl stats, and more. Heck, you can even submit an XML sitemap or two.
Identify pages with the most links, your top pages:
- Google Webmaster Tools:
Your site on the web > Internal links > Download CSV
- Open Site Explorer:
Link Metrics > Top Pages > Download CSV > sort by Inbound Links
- Majestic SEO:
Site Explorer > Top Pages
Identify what types of content you have on the old site – text, images, PDFs, etc.
- IIS SEO Toolkit:
Site Analysis > Report > Export All URLs > URLs
Download a CSV scrape of your site with tons of rows and columns to begin your content audit.
Search-Engine Friendly CMSs
Someone asked about content management systems during Q&A. What’s SEO-friendly? I recommended Pixelsilk CMS. You have nearly full control over your URL structure, which means you could avoid changing URLs if your current site is already optimized.
So what about you?
Do you have any additional resources or checklists you want to share about ensuring SEO is the foundation of a website relaunch? Tips, tricks, insights?