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site migration case study

In this ecommerce site SEO migration case study, we show how we minimised the organic search visibility and traffic disruption for our client following their major site migration and actually managed to increase search visibility by 21.1% and organic traffic by over 33% within a few weeks of the move.

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Search Visibility Pre and Post Site Move

As exciting as launching a brand new website is, it is easily one of the most stressful of times for any search engine optimisation (SEO) professional. It’s also one of the easiest and most common causes of catastrophic search engine optimisation resulting in falling traffic and ultimately, business fails. Many website owners are oblivious to the risks, believing that Google will automatically love their new site and prefer it to the rubbish old one they were so keen to ditch or simply assume that sorting out the site migration is part of the web designers or developers remit.

In truth, we always believe that site migration is a job best done by the SEO’s, as they should have more experience and having another set of eyes, rather than relying purely on the developers, is always a good thing, provided they work together and avoid the blame game. This ecommerce site migration case study details a very complex migration and how the risks and impact can be mitigated and how a site can actually see improvements in visibility and traffic in less than a week.

background

Our client has an ecommerce business in the health and beauty sector, which they have built from scratch to become a leader in their field. They have been working with Zelst for over 5 years, originally engaging Zelst when they were suffering from declining organic traffic. Zelst developed and implemented a strategy which turned around the decline and enabled the site to dominate its vertical’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and, in the five years they have partnered with Zelst, organic search traffic and revenue have nearly quadrupled.

However they had a highly customised bespoke site, which although it worked extremely well for their users on desktop computers, was not mobile friendly. Recognising that mobile was essential for future growth and that they needed a more stable platform to build their growth, in early 2015 they commissioned a new Magento website. Unfortunately, although the site was originally promised at the back end of 2015, the new site did not go live until February 2019, some 4 years since development began.

The site had more than 200,725 visited pages and over 1,000 significant traffic driving keyword ranking pages. With over 60% of overall traffic from organic search and a similar proportion of revenue, a smooth move was essential, but with the scale of the site and the added complexity of working to a constantly changing go-live date, this site migration presented a significant SEO challenge.

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We have worked with Zelst for a number of years. Their willingness and ability to provide strategic direction for our ongoing campaigns make them valued partners . . . . and they are also, really nice people!

All of the Zelst team play an important part of our strategies, as they are all very competent and knowledgeable in their own area of expertise. Our main point of contacts are Peter and Sophie. Both are extremely diligent and completely trust their work ethic. All in all, a great team!

Health and Beauty
Managing Director

the strategy

Like any building project, a successful new website relies on strong foundations. Working closely with our client, Sophie, our Account Manager, developed a new site architecture, which took advantage of the new technology to create a clearer, easier to navigate structure and removed a number of obstacles and issues that the old site faced, whilst attempting to maintain and build on the strong pages and search visibility of the incumbent site.

A new menu was system was also introduced which developed much closer links with the ecommerce site and the extensive range of quality content, blog posts, video and guides from the rest of the site.

The Zelst team then followed a carefully developed plan of reviewing the website, optimising all of the pages, developing content for the new pages,  extending content for the existing pages, identifying problems with the coding and CSS, undertaking page speed testing and making performance improvement recommendations, reviewing user experience and customer journey and following the proven Zelst 40 point Site Migration Plan.

Because of the changing nature of the business and the length of time the site development took, this site structure needed to be regularly revisited and the architecture was revised a number of times over the four-year project.

This had a knock-on effect in that many of the thirty two thousand manual redirects that we created had to be re-mapped and changed a number of times and there was considerable amount of work in revisiting and changing issues that were previously addressed.

Nevertheless, due to a process of regular and frequent crawling and analysing of the development site and extensive testing and retesting, when the new site launched in early February 2019, we were confident that there would be minimal disruption to search visibility or traffic, though conscious there would be a major process of adjustment for the business that we did our best to assist with and provide support for.

Organic Search Traffic, Compared to Previous Year, Pre and Post Site Move

the result

The new site went live in the early afternoon of the 5th February after a number of delays with various issues and all of the 32,883 redirects were uploaded and tested. By 5pm the site had all of its sitelinks back and these all featured their new URLs.

Furthermore, Google had re-indexed the new URLs for virtually all of the site’s key pages and the majority of the key rankings terms maintained position.

Search visibility, the measure we use to assess how the site is appearing in Google, which demonstrates the estimated percentage of clicks based on keyword rankings for target terms, dipped slightly the following week, as we had anticipated, however by the week after it had regained this and actually improved upon the pre-site move visibility. By the end of March, 7 weeks after the site went live, search visibility was up by over 21%.

Organic traffic also experienced minimal disruption and despite 4 hours downtime on go-live day and another further two further periods of extended downtime over the next two months, organic traffic increased by just under 20% in February and grew by over 33% in March.

Not only did the site regain all of its extensive range of featured snippets within a week, but by April, it had increased the number of featured snippets by 106%

Revenue also increased by 25% during February and was up by over 27% by April. Despite a number of teething problems and a steep learning curve for the business, the site is now well on its ways to achieving its ambitious growth targets for this year and the next and it can safely be said that this Ecommerce Site SEO Migration was very successful.

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