NineFiftyNine was recently commissioned by African Safaris (www.africansafaris.com) to oversee a site re-design and platform migration from an SEO standpoint. There are numerous SEO factors to consider from both a client and agency perspective when performing any kind of site migration. It’s important for clients to understand such factors and the implications of site changes before taking such steps. This post will outline what needs to be considered, as well as the steps to take in order to ensure a smooth transition and limit a drop in ranking due to a poor site migration.
Why the Need for Site Re-Design for African Safaris?
The African Safaris site design was inherited, with the initial site being developed with a limited budget. Historically, the client was hesitant to over-invest in the business as a 50% shareholder. The client has since become a 100% owner of the business, building a case for further investment.
The primary areas needing attention were:
- Content not optimized for SEO
- Pages loaded too slowly
- Poor user journey experience
- Users were struggling to find vital information in a timeous manner
- High bounce rate due to poor user journey
- Pages were loading too slowly
- User interface and site aesthetic needed improving
Overall, the site was needing a fresh look and an improved user experience. African Safaris was missing out on potential leads due to site usability issues which influences the conversion rate.
Why the Need for Platform Migration for African Safaris?
There were numerous reasons for migrating platforms for the African Safaris site. Originally, the site was developed on a custom PHP platform. NineFiftyNine advised to migrate the site to a WordPress format. There are strengths and weaknesses for all platforms and CMS’s. WordPress is however very suitable due to its flexibility and scalability. There is also good reason for 90% of the world’s publishing sites to deploy a WordPress framework.
The primary benefits of using WordPress over other CMS platforms are as follows:
- Money and time saved: With WordPress, one does not need to rely on a developer to make the smallest of changes to their site. Changes can be made very easily by the site owner or company themselves. This has time and money saving implications, allowing site owners to be more efficient in keeping sites and company information up to date.
- Greater accessibility and flexibility: A site can be updated and managed from any computer with a browser and internet connection, anywhere in the world. This flexibility and accessibility translate into improved efficiency and response time to queries and comments.
- SEO Friendly: WordPress code has been streamlined, is consistent and doesn’t contain excessive HTML coding. These are all factors are very inviting for Google indexing and therefore SEO benefits. The platform is also highly social media friendly, with blog posts being easily linked to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Blog posts can be scheduled and posted automatically with the platform too. Such social interconnectivity has further SEO benefits, sending positive social signals and linking to Google spiders.
Steps to Take During a Site Migration
From an SEO perspective, changes to a site can be detrimental to site rankings if not managed correctly. There are specific stages of a site migration and steps to be followed during these stages, as outlined below:
1) Plan the migration
- Use Google Webmaster Tools to identify all site stats, links, settings and problems
- Generate a hierarchical list of all site images, videos and pages in order to create a site map
- Identify pages returning 404 errors
- Identify blocked content (robots.txt)
- Identify indexed content for each of the structural areas of the site
- Verify page and keyword rankings and gather all organic traffic stats
- List all links relating to your site (incoming and external)
2) Implement the migration
- At a page level on both the old and new site (in the development area), test and program the 301 redirects
- Enable robots.txt and authentication to avoid the new site from being crawled
- Launch the new site content in the development area
- Referring back to the pages list created, verify that all pages are correctly linked, house accurate information and status codes
- Enable all 301 redirect from the old to new site on a page level
- Remove the robots.txt blocks, allowing the new site to be crawled by search engines
- Create and submit an XML sitemap of the new site to Google Webmaster Tools
- Update external links to go to the new site and incorporate new external links to the most important pages of the new site
3) Monitor the migration
- Regularly check for any crawling issues on the new site in Google Webmaster Tools
- Continuously measure the levels of indexation for both the new and old site. The new site indexation levels should increase whilst those for the old site should disappear.
- Track the previous rankings and monitor keyword and URL correlations for the new site
- Pay attention to organic traffic rankings and behaviour and identify new keywords driving traffic to the new site
- Compare data from the old site for conversion rates per page and keyword and follow-up conversion volumes
- Ask sites still linking to the old site to update these links to the new site
- Maintain this monitoring until the old site stops indexing, attracting links and pulling traffic
Evidently, this is a complex yet vital process for any business wishing to successfully launch a new site without taking a knock in SEO. 959.net performs these services on both a retainer and ad-hoc basis and can customise a package around each individual client’s needs and site specifications.