Site Redesign? Don’t Forget SEO Migration! #SESLondon

Site Redesign? Don’t Forget SEO Migration! #SESLondon

22nd February 2012

If you moved home you wouldn’t think twice about having your mail re-directed or telling your friends your new address. In fact, you may go out of your way to make sure everyone knows by throwing a house warming party and sending out invitations. However, a surprising amount of businesses when changing their website address or making significant changes to their web pages, CMS, content or URL’s let anyone know at all – least of all search engines.

When people make changes especially when they are relying on search, not considering any SEO Migration strategy can have a disastrous effect, so if you don’t want to run the risk of irreparable damage to established rankings, history of webpages and link juice – this session is for you!

SEO Migration Considerations


In order for the experience to be seamless, positive and productive you need to have a plan and strategy for before, during, and after SEO migration occurs. There are 3 categories of considerations.

Technical Considerations

  • CMS – what you have now, what you are going to
  • Redirects – 302, 301 – URL shorteners, links, – ‘what about your Google + votes?’
  • Links – What are the most powerful links that are driving conversions
  • Maintain – SEO best practices at the destination

Also for consideration: Sitemaps, Custom 404, Analytics, Webmaster tools – anything you have now you may need to have when you move – make sure you find out before you move sites.

Process Considerations

  • Design – is it consistent
  • Content – editorial assets, social assets – keep or kill
  • Linking – link building – do you need more in the transition period?
  • Benchmarks – get a record of everything!
  • Monitoring – once you have moved – you may need to tidy things up – don’t just leave it

People Considerations

Tell everyone you have moved, do not just assume they don’t matter or they will be thinking on your behalf

  • Designers – do you have a ‘brand cop’?
  • Developers – May need to be instructed as they may assume that you can change your own Analytics ID!
  • Marketing – PPC and other departments may need to know URL’s have changed
  • PR – releases in the pipeline – direct to current URL is a better practice than letting the re-direct do the work
  • Webmaster – you may need to re-validate the WMT code
  • Link friends – do they know you have moved? Contact them and let them know
  • Training for Best Practice – do people know how to use the new CMS?

3 stage Plan

There are 3 stages of your SEO migration plan to consider: before (migration preparation), during (the migration itself), after (post migration)

Migration Preparation


  • Benchmark important metrics before the changeover so that you have something to compare
    • Best performing kewywords
    • Incoming links
    • Page view
    • Page versions
  • Crawl using Xenu – we want to know where all the links are and map that out old to new – architecture for 301
  • Ensure any new CMS is able to provide the same SEO friendliness
  • Maintain old to new integrity -if you can’t then go with the closest match

Migration Process


  • Phase it into place – have to have a persistent effort to acquire high quality links to the new domain name.
  • Use Majestic SEO or open site explorer to identify the most authoritative inbound links and ask them to change the link to your new destination.
  • Implement best practices at the destination
  • 301 re-directs will move link juice but not ALL link juice – set old links to the new address

Post Migration

Watch out for:

  • Indexed pages dropping
  • Site and search traffic drop
  • Lower ranking
  • Increase of 404 errors
  • Site not being indexed
  • Lower quantity or rate of conversions


  • Things to fluctuate
  • Broken links – they are inevitable
  • To have to reclaim links – this will be on-going
  • To have to ramp up social PR and promotion


  • What data means
  • How do other parts of the site relate to each other
  • What works and what doesn’t (get rid of things that don’t)
  • Mapping the old to the new – realise how big the job is

But most of all…

Bring in the SEO expertise in from the start and remember that no one hits the ball out of the park the first time with a site migration, but by taking the above steps, it is less likely that your metrics will end up looking like this: (an actual example from a client that came to me having not asked the SEO first! Case study on how to turn it around coming soon!)

This post in part made possible by a sponsoring from Majestic SEO who have the largest Link Intelligence database in Search.


Written By
Jackie Hole is an Award Winning Search Marketing consultant specialising in Paid Search, Conversion Improvement and Organic Search / SEO for the USA, Canada and European markets. Starting out in Multimedia & Interface Design, Jackie has over 15 years experience in online marketing and was recently awarded European Search Personality...
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