6 eCommerce Site Migration Tips
Last month I undertook a large site redesign and migration for an eCommerce client of mine. Their previous website was last updated in 2012, wasn’t SEO friendly at all, and had a poorly thought out UI/UX. When I took them on as a client (initially for content work), I recommended they update their site design at the very least, and ideally migrate to a new CMS. After a few meetings with the owner, I was given full responsibility of their redesign/migration.
Migrating any website to a new platform is tedious. Migrating a 500+ page eCommerce site is migraine-inducing. Luckily, I have experience in managing large-scale websites, and I know which steps to take to minimize headaches and ensure a smooth transition. Below are my top 10 tips for site migrations. Before you start the long process of migrating your content, give this list a quick read to start your migration off strong.
eCommerce Site Migration Checklist
1.) Plan it Out
Proper planning is an absolute must for any site migration. You need to take into account redirects, page formats, metadata, and SEO before you start moving even one word of content. Have a clear end goal written down, and plan the steps it will take to achieve it.
2.) Overall Site Structure
Will your URL structure change? Will there be 404s? What about 301 redirects? Generate a sitemap of your existing site, and carefully go through each URL and define whether or not it will be redirected, 404’d, or require no change at all.
If a page isn’t going to exist on your new site, 404 it. If the URL is going to change, you must 301 redirect it. Don’t fall into the trap of redirecting all of your old URLs to the homepage of your new site. This is terrible for SEO, and search engines actually view these types of 301s as “soft” 404s.
3.) Content migration
Rarely, if ever, will written/image/video content seamlessly transfer without needing to be reformatted. There might be spaces where there shouldn’t be, images might not upload to their proper location, written content might need to be stylized again, etc. This is an important part of the migration process that’s also time-consuming. Don’t neglect your content for the sake of convenience. Download/copy all of your existing content and store it offline to use as a reference after your site’s been migrated.
4.) Perform a Metadata Audit
It’s common for site owners to change page titles and meta descriptions during a migration. There’s nothing wrong with this, and if your old metadata wasn’t SEO friendly (or it was non-existent), than I highly recommend doing it.
Perform keyword research and write your titles/descriptions accordingly. Title tags are without a doubt the most important to focus on. They should contain whatever keyword you want that page to rank for, and they shouldn’t be long or contain numerous keywords. Aim for a length of 50-60 characters.
5.) Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is the bane of SEOs everywhere. On an eCommerce site in particular, duplicate content is actually quite common. Products may be very similar, and that in itself is not an issue. However, if all your product descriptions are the same (minus the product name), that’s where you’ll run into some serious SEO problems.
Aside from product descriptions containing duplicate content, you can also run into problems with URLs and category pages. If you have 50 products, and all of them can be found in different categories or filters (on different URLs), Google will view that as duplicate content. You need to use canonical tags to help Google determine which product page is the most relevant. The canonical URL is the one that search engines will display in search results. Most modern eCommerce platforms (such as Shopify) will automatically set canonical tags for you.
6.) Check Your Redirects
After you’ve migrated, you need to ensure that all of your redirects are properly working. If your site has a large number of URLs, you most likely missed some 301s (that have since turned into 404s). There are several free 404 checkers online that will crawl your entire site and return a list of all 404s. If any of your 404s need to be redirected, now is the time do it.