Migrating to a new site can be stressful, especially for a B2B company’s SEO team who has put an insurmountable amount of effort into building domain authority, ranking for keywords and developing great content. B2B spends weeks and even months cultivating a relationship with a customer until they are ready to buy. Disrupting this chain of trust and nurturing can derail any B2B Sales funnel. Migrating your website can be difficult, but there are ways that you can prepare yourself to ensure that this site migration is successful for both your B2B company objectives and SEO purposes.
Worried if you’re executing your site migration properly? Follow these tips to prepare your SEO team for a site migration and get traffic back to your site.
Set Expectations with Management and Yourself
No matter how great your SEO preparation is for a migration, you are going to see a dip in organic traffic. It typically takes around 3 months to recover from a site migration and to start seeing the type of traffic that you were seeing before moving sites. Google needs time to process the change and update its index. Due to this dip in traffic, it’s recommended that the migration happens over a slow part of the year for your company’s business.
Although a site migration may seem like a good idea for other aspects of the company, it rarely offers any SEO benefit., When you are in the B2B space, the disruption of nurturing a lead can provide additional stress. Be patient with yourself as the site recovers. Make sure to communicate effectively with those not in the SEO space that the loss of traffic is inevitable when it comes to a site migration, and is hopefully only temporary.
Use a Test Server
You would never put on a show without a dress rehearsal. A migration is something that requires a lot of moving parts, most likely from different departments, to move together perfectly. Using a test server ensures that everyone is on the same page. That way, you can catch any breakdowns or glitches and fix them before implementing on the real site. This will make for good practice when the new changes go live on your real site and will hopefully mitigate any surprises on launch day.
Benchmark Your Analytics
This is a very important factor for site migration. Without a reference point, there’s no way to know if your traffic has increased or decreased. I recommend creating a Google sheet with benchmark data pulled from Google Analytics. Start with what traffic looked like 4 weeks before launch, then pull data for one week before launch. After that, pull data weekly to closely monitor that the number of sessions is tracking upwards or that nothing seems out of place.
You will want to pay special attention to your top sites. I recommend pulling your most visited web pages and putting them in a separate tab. These pages can tell a lot of the migration story. If traffic goes way down on these pages, it’s a sign authority isn’t being properly attributed after the migration.
I would also recommend creating a tab for ranking keywords. Pull your priority keywords, what position you are pre-launch in Google and to what page the keyword is ranking on. This is another check point that helps your team ensure that priority pages and content are preserved and closely monitored to help negate traffic dips.
Map Changing URLS
Are all URLS on the site changing? Just some? Are you only migrating your blog? Create a spreadsheet with every old URL and every new URL. The SEO team will need to do this regardless in order to pass on to their web developers to start the migration process. Column A should be old URL’s, Column B can be if it is changing, staying the same or being deleted and Column C can be the updated URL.
Mapping old URL’s gives you the opportunity to scrap old content that you don’t want anymore. That way, this migration can also serve as a small cleanup project as well. Ideally, the URL architecture should remain the same to avoid confusing Google. If you change both architecture and migrate at the same time, it can be tough to decipher what caused the outcome of increased or decreased traffic.
Keep Your Google Analytics Up to Date
Be sure to install analytics on the new domain, even if you’re going from something like a www to no www. You’ll want to do this step well before you launch your site. Data Collection is like the book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”. If you make changes in your Google Analytics, you are going to have to make changes to your Google Tag Manager too! Here are some important things to keep track of in both platforms to ensure a smooth site migration.
- Tags, Triggers, Filters: You will want to determine that all tags, triggers and filters are firing properly. Verify that any filters utilizing hostnames are checked and updated. Once the site is live, check to make sure that tags are properly firing on their assigned pages.
- Referral Exclusion List: You will also want to add your new domain in the referral exclusion list so that you do not end up inflating your data once the new site is live.
- Goal Structure: As best practice, it’s always a good idea to check your goals. If they are URL based goals, you should determine if the destination has changed based on the site migration.
- Form Submits: You’ve worked hard to provide invaluable insight into your B2B customer by creating opportunities for further interaction. Ensure forms still pass through URL parameters and that forms are able to be filled, sent off and received without a hitch.
And for” the glass of milk that goes with it”if you change your GA and GTM, your Google Search Console is going to need an update too! Make sure you set up a new property in GSC and submit both old and new sitemaps. Be sure to double check that the new sitemap was crawled as you launch the site.
Monitor Site Health and Traffic
Once launched, it’s time to monitor! Crawl your site to help identify any 404 issues that may have appeared. Verify that all redirects are 301’s and not temporary redirects. Another issue that arises frequently with site migrations, especially in a B2B space, is duplicate content issues. Self canonicalization is key in avoiding duplicate content created by URL query strings. Duplicate content can also result due to redirect issues, so keep an eye out for what type of duplicate content problem you are dealing with.
Use your benchmarking spreadsheet to track changes weekly, so you can get ahead on any massive dips in keyword changes or traffic. Crawl all old URL’s using a tool like ScreamingFrog to ensure that they all redirect to the new site.
It sounds overwhelming, but taking these steps is imperative to ensure that a B2B site migration is successful. Use these SEO Site Migration tips to help reduce the impact of traffic loss and create a smooth transition to your site’s new home.
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