How to Migrate an Ecommerce Website Without Affecting SEO Rankings?

1. Consult an SEO Specialist Before Beginning Migration

Are you planning an eCommerce site migration? Consider its impact on your SEO efforts. An unplanned migration can spell disaster for your site rankings. It can undo months or even years of hard work.
Plan your migration well by bringing in a specialist to oversee it. Your teams may not have the time to focus on it, even though they may be knowledgeable. A trained and experienced SEO specialist can add great value.
They can help with:

  • Prioritizing key migration tasks
  • Defining a strategy to minimize errors
  • Track pre-migration and post-migration SEO changes
  • Provide direction to Design and Technical teams

SEO specialists will evaluate both customer experience and technical aspects that affect SEO. This balanced and unbiased approach will aid in maintaining your SEO rankings.

2. Plan the Migration Activity Time Window

Set aside a time window when visitor traffic is minimal for migration. You don't want customers struggling to purchase due to it. It's better to avoid festive seasons around November and January. Select a time window during the leanest business season of the year.
Schedule a few days buffer to accommodate testing and validations. Your old site must still be operational until you ensure the migrations are complete.
Use the buffer time to prepare backup plans to restore the old site if anything goes wrong. Complete the planned transition in a phased manner. It will give everyone ample time to take stock of any issues.
Ensure clear communication between internal teams and stakeholders. It will ensure a smooth migration that does not affect SEO scores.

3. Do a Research About Re-Platforming

Research is key before any re-platforming. It helps you identify the pros and cons of the effort. You should consider a website migration only under special circumstances. In most instances, a feature upgrade should be enough.
The main reasons to switch platforms are:

  • Security issues
  • Excessive maintenance time and cost
  • Poor integration with other systems
  • Scalability

Of course, customer usability is a major factor. If your buyer's journey through the sales funnel is poor, it leads to a loss in revenue. Conduct extensive customer surveys to determine whether there is a need for replatforming.
The next key step is to identify the platform to migrate your eCommerce site. Choose a platform which is scalable, flexible, and preserves your existing data. The new platform must be easy to integrate with future technologies seamlessly. It's also important that any replatforming effort results in a higher ROI.

4. Put Together a Migration Checklist

Moving to a new eCommerce URL can result in a variety of changes. If you do not track these thoroughly, the entire effort could fail. The most effective way to not miss any key items is to maintain a checklist of the high-level items. The list should include planning, implementation, and launch phase.
The list should cover everything from URL and content validation, to monitoring SEO rankings. Make sure that each key item in the checklist is assigned to a team member to track. In a typical eCommerce migration, a few items are more important than others.
These are:

  • Measuring SEO rankings after migration
  • Ensuring no broken links on new site
  • Verifying redirects from old URL
  • Checking the migration of all contents

Addressing the above checklist item solves the biggest hurdles during migration. It also ensures accountability among internal team members.

5. Create an XML Sitemap for Search Engines

Google and other popular search engines crawl sitemaps to index any site. It helps them map the main URLs for landing pages and other popular pages on your site. This process has a direct impact on the SEO scores of your eCommerce website.
While Google may have site mapped your old website, it may not have the changed URLs for the new one. Simply redirecting on the old website is not an effective eCommerce SEO strategy. Search engines leave out aspects of a site which are key to improved SEO rankings.
All your URL's must appear in your XML sitemap before publishing it to Google.
Maintaining updated XML sitemaps increases discoverability by Google by up to 20%! Setup dynamic XML sitemaps that automatically update. It takes the burden away of manually updating dynamic links or new URLs.
You can also generate reports on your sitemaps to spot any errors on your website.

6. Launch SEO Campaign to Educate Customers

Google determines your SEO ranking using a lot of factors in your site. Customers may pick a competitor site if you poorly communicate your website migration. A strong marketing campaign to educate customers is crucial.
It serves two purposes:

  • Educates them about the new URL
  • Shows that they are valued

Your communication must go out on existing channels like email and social media. Be sure to tell the customers why the migration is happening.
Your customer is your best critic and ally. Use every opportunity to gather feedback. It could be about the site layout, the content, or any bugs they notice. Ensure that your design and development teams incorporate customer feedback on priority.
Maintain communication with customers via blogs and regular social media posts. It allows you to promote new features as well as sales events.

7. Prepare Your Development Teams for the Migration

The key to a smooth migration lies in clear communication. Your design and development teams must work in tandem to ensure a bug-free migration. The development team's role is critical in eCommerce migrations. It determines the success of your project.

  • Communicate your decision to migrate the site well in advance. It will help the team to allocate dedicated resources for the effort.
  • Conduct daily interlocks. It will help them to identify any blockers and identify a solution.
  • Conduct internal training on any new tools or resources they may use for the transition.

Be sure to specify the SEO requirements that apply to developers.
Some common examples are:

  • URL structure
  • XML sitemaps
  • Headings,
  • Content formatting, and
  • Site metadata

Your hard-earned eCommerce SEO rankings can take a big hit if you don't track these items carefully. It's also important that the development team document all changes. It helps in falling back to a previous working state.

8. Put Together an SEO Monitoring Plan

There is a high possibility of your SEO rankings taking a hit due to site migration. As an eCommerce site, SEO is crucial to generate revenue and expand your customer base.
You must put together an SEO monitoring plan post-launch. It will help you to track key metrics that affect your site traffic and reputation. You can also check if Google can crawl and index your new site easily. SEO monitoring helps you identify indexing and redirect issues.
You should focus on comparing key eCommerce SEO metrics between the old and new sites. It is a good barometer to measure any SEO gaps after the transition.
Compare factors such as:

  • Visitor traffic
  • Conversion trends
  • Bounce rates
  • Site load times

Regular monitoring maintains your site reach and traffic. It is a complex task, but with due diligence, it pays off generously in retaining your SEO position.

9. Maintain a URL List Before Migration

Migrating small websites is a simple task. When you take up the task of migrating a massive eCommerce site, things get complex. An eCommerce site may have hundreds to thousands of URLs. These URLs could include both key landing pages and individual product pages.
Poor SEO rankings are inevitable if customers reach broken links when redirected. For a flawless migration, maintain a complete list of all URLs on the website. It must include both static and dynamic URLs. It's also useful to have a list of broken or redirected URLs on your current site.
You don't want your hard work and investment on the website migration to go in vain. Avoid redirecting old URLs to newer redirect URLs if the URL structure is changing. It slows the page loading time and tends to frustrate customers. Missing or incorrectly mapped URLs are the leading cause for bounce rates.

10. Check Broken Links and Existing Redirects

One of the main activities after migrating your eCommerce site is link validation. You must verify whether you have mapped all the links from the old site to the new site.
To do this, use specialized software to verify broken links and site redirects. These tools crawl every link on your old site and confirm if it leads to a valid URL on the new site.
They efficiently identify broken links and incorrect redirects. It saves you a lot of time as you can automate the whole process and generate results in a short time. You can view the reports to identify key URLs that you need to address first.
Focus on fixing links or incorrect redirects to landing pages. These pages generate maximum traffic and are key to sustain your eCommerce SEO efforts.

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11. Plan Customer Journey for Improved SEO Rankings

The path through which a customer navigates on your site until they make a purchase has a direct impact on its SEO. Ensure that the new site retains some familiarity in navigation. Customers may feel lost if the new site's look and feel are radically different.
Get an experienced UI/UX designer on board to design the new site. They can assist in chalking out an intuitive and clear journey for the customer. Your new site must retain some familiar aspects of your old site.
It includes:

Actively seek feedback from site visitors about the navigational experience. Visitors move away from a site when the navigation is confusing. Keep the experience clean, uncluttered, and simple. It results in reduced bounce rates and better SEO rankings.

12. Create a Redirect Map to Resolve URLs

Always use 301 redirects when you migrate your eCommerce website.

  • It tells search engines that the site has moved permanently.
  • It also tells them that the content has now moved to the new location.
  • It makes the search engines carry a similar link weightage to the new URL.
  • It helps keep your eCommerce SEO score consistent.

Google may take some time to validate that the new and old content is legit. It could lead to some delays in bringing up your SEO ranking to the previous state.
Create a 301 redirect map to help search engines find your new site and resolve URLs on it. Your risk is losing valuable SEO points without a valid redirect map. Check Google's search console to ensure that it is not reporting any errors after submission.
Add this activity as part of your checklist. It will ensure that it's not forgotten during the migration process.

13. Focus SEO Efforts on New Site Landing Pages

Migrating your eCommerce site can help improve your SEO score. Start by adding trending keywords and meta tags. Pay special attention to the new site's landing pages. The landing page is like the 'face' of your website. It receives maximum traffic and can influence the visitor's decision to stay or leave.
Optimizing your landing pages goes a long way in building the new site's visibility. Mirror the same on-site optimization techniques as your old site.

Relevant : Tips for Your eCommerce Landing Page

This time around, you have an opportunity to use new keywords and meta tags. Research latest eCommerce keywords and implement them on the landing pages. Ensure that the landing pages are hosted on a custom URL on your domain to gain more SEO authority.
Focusing on SEO for new landing pages is great for bringing organic traffic to your website. Make sure that you compare the landing page traffic before and after migration.

14. Track Top Ecommerce SEO Keywords Before & After Migration

How can you be sure that the keywords on your old site are still effective for the new one? Your eCommerce site SEO score can vary a lot based on your keyword choice. Run a comparison between the keywords on your old and new sites. Then check if the visitor traffic and site ranking are still consistent.
Usually, you will notice a small to large variation in the SEO scores. Website migrations are complex. Keywords that scored well on the old portal may not show the same results on the migrated site.
The best strategy is to deep dive and researches the most trending keywords in your industry. Try to capture as many new and relevant keywords for your industry or products. Retain older keywords if they continue to grow your visitor traffic.
Choose the right balance between old and new keywords to boost your sites SEO scores.

15. Have a Plan to Address Missing Pages After Migration

Missing web pages are a harsh reality when you migrate eCommerce websites. Inevitably, some pages don't map to the new site as planned. What's important is that your eCommerce migration checklist features a plan to address it. It's a good practice to archive and backup the entire contents of your old website.
This mirror data comes in handy when you notice pages or content missing after migration. It's a good idea to test the migration in a sandbox environment before the actual move. It helps you identify the common points of failure.
Have a plan to address missing pages. Run crawlers on your pages to generate reports of missing and duplicate pages. If a missing page is obsolete, remove it from the site as well as the XML sitemap. It ensures that your site content is always relevant. Search engines and visitors favour up-to-date content.

16. Use Google Analytics to Track Migration Changes

Reduce data and SEO loss by using Google Analytics to track migration. Include it into every phase of the process. Begin by mapping the existing implementation.
Identify the key metrics and their behaviour over a period. Use these reports as a benchmark to measure the performance of the new site.
Begin drafting a full transition plan that ensures that every aspect of the tracking also gets migrated to the new site. Track each metric after the replatforming and identify gaps. It's normal for some minor variations until the new site is familiar with Google.
Look for large gaps and focus your efforts on fixing these. Use the data and reports after the analysis to make decisions about the future strategy for the new site. It could include both off-page and on-page methods.

17. Re-Audit the Site to Identity SEO Gaps

A key item that you should not miss on your migration checklist is website audits. These are essential both before and after eCommerce site migrations. Several factors need more focus than others.
Work on boosting technical SEO first. It is important to ensure that the site is not buggy. Next, examine the page titles and metadata. Identify ways by which you can improve these from before.
Don't ignore UI/UX in your post-migration audit. Search engines increasingly rank sites lower that has poor UI. Check the site colours and navigation to ensure that it is non-cluttered and pleasing to the eye.

Read : Importance of UX for an eCommerce site

Check if any images and videos are appearing as desired. Correct the size and quality of the videos if they are causing the pages to load slowly.
Finally, run a full SEO audit report and compare the findings for improvements or gaps.

18. Verify Content Transition and Formatting

Content is king. Add content strategy as one of the main items in your migration checklist. A lot of visitors traffic is driven purely by great content. Poorly authored and formatted content is a leading cause of poor SEO scores. Regardless of your previous SEO rankings, relook at your content.
There is always scope to improve content after a migration. It can boost eCommerce SEO scores and increase your brand reputation.

  • Take backups of all content before migration.
  • Verify that you have ported 100% of the old content to the new site.
  • Use the backup to plug in any content gaps after the migration.
  • Focus on key landing and high-authority pages. These should not be missing any content.

Formatting how the content looks on the page is equally important. Cluttered or overlapping text or image leads to poor customer experience. It also causes a big dent in your SEO ratings.

19. Review On-Site SEO Optimization Metadata

Metadata and header tags on a web page have a direct impact on SEO scores. Search engines read this information to understand the type of content hosted on your eCommerce site. Pay attention to these tags after migration.
A good strategy is to generate a report before and after migration to see if the metadata is intact. Identify ways you can improve this metadata for greater SEO. The metadata on the new site must be relevant and help drive the right type of visitor traffic.
The Title and Description tag carry maximum weightage. Improve these to drive increased organic traffic. Make sure you also focus on other elements like headings, sub-headings, and keyword tags.
Remove on-site optimization data that is obsolete. Analyze competitor sites to decide on the best approach. The focus should be on making your site's on-site elements stronger and effective than before.

20. Verify Site Links and Content in Marketing Communications

Informing your customers about your new site is as important as the migration itself. Communication is a key aspect of any site migration. Keep your loyal customer base informed by creating a marketing campaign.
It should inform them about:

  • Expected transition time
  • Things to expect in the new portal
  • The way of handling the backlog orders
  • Site downtime timelines
  • Helpline numbers during migration

This information instils further trust among customers. They may have placed orders already or maybe planning to in the future. This communication helps clarify the top questions on their minds.
Ensure that any links to the new site or content is accurate and verified before using in the marketing communications.
Be sure to reach out to customers for feedback on their browsing experience on the new site. Use this opportunity for product promotion events which coincide with the site launch.
Are you looking to do a safe migration of your eCommerce site? Get in touch with our eCommerce SEO experts before proceeding with the migration.

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Naomi Wilson

Naomi Wilson has been in the digital marketing industry for more than seven years. She has helped companies such as Kellogg, Best buy, Honeywell to improve their online presence. She is an expert in writing high-converting content, especially for ecommerce sites.

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