How to Avoid SEO Disaster from a Replatform

How to Avoid SEO Disaster from a Replatform

February 22, 2017 12:59 pm

Redesigning your ecommerce website or altering platforms is nerve racking. It’s straightforward to overlook an necessary step and lose invaluable natural search visitors and income.

I have assisted many ecommerce websites with redesigns and replatforms. Most go easily. Many truly improve web optimization visitors. But a number of are painful. I attempt to study from them.

When I look again on the successes versus the failures, there’s clear sample of nook instances and conditions that aren’t a part of the overall suggestions in Google’s documentation or on search engine optimization blogs.

In this text, I will share my battle scars — the instances that required additional steps to stop catastrophe or to shortly recuperate after the very fact.

First, I will summarize the usual suggestions from Google and from search engine optimisation practitioners.

Standard Recommendations

Comprehensive 301 redirect maps. This is probably the most important step when a brand new design or platform requires URL modifications. You should map each previous URL to the equal new one. Do not simply map the highest pages. Map each web page.

Consistent search engine optimization metadata. If you have got high quality metadata within the present website — titles, meta descriptions, H1 tags — ensure you no less than import them into the brand new platform. There is not any excuse to have pages with no meta descriptions within the new website once they existed within the previous one.

Lower DNS TTL. Anything can go improper throughout a platform change. Reverting again DNS modifications could be painfully sluggish. Reduce this danger by establishing the primary DNS report on your website to the bottom TTL — time to stay — period of time.

If, during a replatform, you need to revert back to your old site, setting the domain's DNS records for a low time to live — TTL — will force ISPs to recognize the change back to the old site more quickly.

If, throughout a replatform, you should revert again to your previous website, setting the area’s DNS data for a low time to reside — TTL — will pressure ISPs to acknowledge the change again to the previous website extra shortly.

Check DNS propagation. In addition to creating positive your DNS switchover occurs shortly, and you may return to the earlier website shortly, hold monitor of how briskly your new IP is up to date throughout the online. DNS Checker is a useful, free device that will help you do that.

DNS Tracker is a good tool to keep track of how fast your new IP is updated across the web

DNS Tracker is an effective device to maintain monitor of how briskly your new IP is up to date throughout the online

Update XML sitemaps and robots.txt. Your XML sitemaps and robots.txt file must be up to date to mirror the brand new design or platform URL conventions.

Eliminate redirect chains. If you’ve redirect maps from earlier redesigns or migrations, it isn’t a good suggestion to chain these redirects to the brand new ones. It is best to attach the supply URLs within the previous maps to the ultimate locations within the new platform.

Monitor crawl stats and crawl errors. After you launch it’s attainable that you’ll nonetheless see new 404 errors in Google Search Console. It can also be attainable to see massive spikes within the crawl exercise. It is regular to see that for the primary few days, but when after every week you continue to see them, you may need infinite crawl areas, which ought to be fastened.

Move sections individually. It is rather a lot much less dangerous to maintain the brand new and previous websites stay on the similar time, with the brand new website invisible and inaccessible to look robots. Then, you redirect and open sections at a time, beginning with the bottom danger ones. This follow is especially crucial for giant retailers.

Not-taught-in-faculty Recommendations

I’ve discovered a number of the subsequent suggestions the exhausting method: I first adopted greatest practices, then discovered nook instances that created all types of points.

Many website house owners attempt to enhance seemingly all the things throughout a brand new website migration or redesign, comparable to a flowery navigation, infinite scrolling, and improved titles and meta descriptions.

But in my expertise, the much less you modify throughout a redesign or migration, the higher. Phase within the largest modifications. For instance, first full the redesign or replatform, then change title tags, then make navigation modifications.

The principal advantage of this strategy is that if there’s a efficiency hit, it’s simpler to isolate the trigger and revert again.

What follows are different suggestions I’ve discovered from expertise.

Don’t change title tags earlier than launching. The drawback with altering title tags is that they have an effect on rankings. If you modify title tags throughout the location you’ll probably see in depth rating shifts. In some instances you possibly can improve rankings. But in different instances, you would lose massive time. It shouldn’t be well worth the danger.

A couple of weeks after the redesign or migration, and if there are not any points, is a greater time to replace title tags. But even then, change title in batches of pages. Keep the title modifications that carry out higher, and roll again those that don’t.

Map all URLs from Google Analytics. I typically see the case the place redirect maps embrace solely the highest performing pages, or in the perfect instances embrace solely the URLs within the XML sitemaps. But Googlebot has an extended reminiscence. It crawls and ranks pages which might be not linked from anyplace within the website however are linked from third social gathering websites. If you overlook to map these pages, you’d lose helpful visitors.

A easy method to make sure all pages are redirected is to retrieve them from Google Analytics.

Make positive redirect maps protect redundant parameters. Developers incessantly search for shortcuts to get extra carried out in much less time.

But you don’t need your builders taking shortcuts together with your redirect maps. Redirect guidelines must be generic sufficient in order that they account for any potential variations of the supply URLs. In specific, they should account for redundant parameters you haven’t seen.

The following rewrite is wrong as a result of it removes the URL parameters (together with paid search monitoring).

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^p/1002/(.*) [L,R=301]

This rewrite is right because it preserves the URL parameters.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^p/1002/(.*) [L,R=301]

Don’t consolidate giant teams of pages. During redesigns or replatforms, ecommerce retailers typically need to get rid of some sections of their shops, or consolidate sections, to make it simpler for guests to finish their purchases.

It’s incorrect to imagine that 301 redirecting sections or pages eliminated or consolidated will enhance the visitors and rankings. While the consolidated pages usually obtain a lift in web page status and carry out higher than earlier than, they typically lack the content material of the consolidated pages, and don’t rank for a similar phrases.

If you’ll want to consolidate pages, do it after the redesign or migration, and in addition think about opening faceted navigation pages that may make up for the consolidated ones.

Don’t take away an excessive amount of content material. Another necessary lesson I’ve discovered is to maintain the general quantity of distinctive content material in your ecommerce website the identical after the replatform.

The graphs under present a submit-migration evaluation I carried out to know why the location’s visitors and income have been down, and to seek out the problematic pages.

A post migration analysis performed to understand why the traffic and revenue were down.

A submit migration evaluation carried out to know why the visitors and income have been down.

Note on the graphs above that merchandise, content material, and the home page have been performing equally, however the class pages have been acting at half their earlier ranges. We in contrast the full variety of pages and the phrase counts earlier than and after and noticed big reductions within the quantity of content material.

Wait to maneuver to https. I use to advocate to take the redesign or replatform alternative to maneuver to https. However, current migrations have been much more difficult resulting from this alteration. So, I now advocate to maneuver to https as a separate step after the migration.

The transfer to https requires as a lot cautious planning as a redesign and replatform. I will cowl it intimately in my subsequent article.

Don’t overlook URL parameter settings. Your new platform is more likely to require utterly new URL parameter settings in Google Search Console. These parameters assure a clean Googlebot crawling expertise. It is sensible to configure new URL parameters upfront earlier than (or on the time of) the migration, whereas protecting the previous ones intact.

Wait to launch infinite scrolling. search engine optimisation-pleasant infinite scrolling requires a sophisticated implementation that additionally must help commonplace pagination. If you launch with out an web optimization-pleasant infinite scroll, you’ll find yourself with paginated class pages not crawled or listed.

Consider finishing the replatform with out infinite scrolling, then add the function in an web optimization-pleasant method later.

Be conscious of JavaScript rendered pages. Sophisticated ecommerce techniques typically render product itemizing pages utilizing JavaScript in a method that Google doesn’t index. The difficult half is that it’s essential to use Search Console’s Fetch and Render to verify your pages for this, however Search Console solely works with public websites, and your redesign or replatform can be in a staging setting.

A easy shortcut is to ask your ecommerce platform to offer examples of different public websites operating the system, after which use Google’s cache command to see if there are points.

Ask your ecommerce platform to provide examples of other sites running the system, and then use Google’s cache command to see if there are issues. In this case, a page grid is missing.

Ask your ecommerce platform to offer examples of different websites operating the system, after which use Google’s cache command to see if there are points. In this case, a web page grid is lacking.

Another answer is to arrange an instance check web page to open publicly and verify with Search Console’s Fetch and Render function.

Set up an example test page you can open publicly and check with Search Console’s Fetch and Render feature.

Set up an instance check web page you’ll be able to open publicly and examine with Search Console’s Fetch and Render function.

Migrate previous redirects and redirect configurations. Some improvement groups at retailers I work with discard redirect mapping information after the migrations. But the issue is that redirects are everlasting. Google by no means forgets them. It continues to re-crawl even previous 404 or 410 URLs in case they ever come again.

I skilled this problem final yr throughout a replatform. Google generated over 20,000 404 errors after the replatform, making the identification of the particular publish migration 404s almost unattainable. The concern was difficult additional as a result of Search Console solely lets you pull B,000 404 URLs at a time, and the brand new platform vendor stored net server logs for less than 30 days.

Note that Search Console used to tug all errors utilizing its API, however Google modified it and the brand new model doesn’t supply that functionality.

Keep ninety days value of net server logs. Search Console is a incredible, free web optimization device. But relating to narrowing down crucial search engine optimisation points, net server logs are your good friend. You can discover any URLs crawled or not crawled by Google and different serps, and in addition determine any main issues.

In the case the place you face plenty of sudden 404 errors after a migration, a complete record of URLs visited by Google earlier than and after the migration are essential to finish your redirect maps extra shortly.

Map picture and video URLs. I typically see solely net web page URLs in redirect maps. But in the event you examine in Search Analytics in Search Console you’ll possible discover fairly an excellent quantity of visitors coming from pictures. Image and video URLs typically get hyperlinks too. So it’s a good suggestion to create 301 redirects to new picture and video URLs within the replatform.

Avoid fancy analytics implementations. This might be probably the most obscure problem I have seen after a replatform. Google labeled the location as hacked with spam content material injected. But once we seemed nearer it was no hack, however a complicated Google Analytics implementation. The builders used hidden div parts for some customized properties as an alternative of a extra commonplace use of JavaScript variables. The hidden div parts possible introduced Googlebot with an identical sample as hidden spam textual content.

In one instance, the developers used hidden div elements for some custom properties instead of a more standard use of JavaScript variables.

In one occasion, the builders used hidden div parts for some customized properties as an alternative of a extra commonplace use of JavaScript variables.

Double examine analytics setup. Sometimes a publish-migration efficiency seems to be worse or higher than anticipated because of a monitoring difficulty. Some pages is perhaps lacking Google Analytics tags, or have duplicate tags, or there are lacking settings that consolidate third social gathering purchasing cart metrics, in order that the visitors is labeled as referrals.

Other points I’ve encountered are paid search visitors incorrectly labeled as natural as a result of the redirect maps are stripping out the gclid used for tagging AdWords campaigns.

It is sensible to crawl the brand new website with a software akin to Screaming Frog to make sure all analytics tags are in place and proper.

Monitor logs submit launch. I require shoppers’ improvement groups to publish net server logs day by day to an SFTP website or an Amazon S3 bucket so I can pull them and monitor Googlebot’s exercise quicker and with a extra decision than in Google Search Console.

For instance, we launched a brand new website the place pages solely present different language variations when the request has the ACCEPT-LANGUAGE header, which Googlebot supposedly helps. But, after many weeks we haven’t seen a Googlebot fetch pages utilizing various languages.


My classes in managing natural search visitors after redesigns or replatforms gained’t cease right here. This listing will develop with different migration battles. If you could have experiences that I haven’t coated, please share them within the feedback.

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