Winston Burton, May 5, 2015
There comes a time when every company needs to look at its current technology platform to make sure it is cost-effective, productive, adapts with new technology, is scalable and meets business objectives. On the downside, most companies will evaluate many different platforms and involve only the tech team, ignoring the most important group of all: SEO.
As a result, when it comes time to set up the website on the new platform, things can go horribly wrong. Many companies routinely make mistakes that result in a tremendous reduction of traffic, revenue and conversions. All of this can easily be avoided by following SEO best practices.
1. When you are replatforming and changing the URL structure, you must set up 301 (permanent) redirects and move once. Not twice, only once. I have seen many companies set up redirect chains from here to China. Once many redirects are set up, the search engines get confused and only the first 301 will transfer the historical value over to the redirected page on the first move. It is surprising that many companies still utilize 302 (temporary redirects) when they have permanently moved to a new URL structure or changed domains, given that 302 redirects do not pass along historical value and could harm your search engine visibility.
2. One of the most common mistakes happens when developers forget to update the robots.txt file and end up blocking the entire site from Google and other search engines. Before the replatform process is complete, make sure the robots.txt file is not blocking the entire website.
3. Some brands don’t migrate content successfully to the new platform. You need to make sure the content on your old site matches the content on your new site. Moreover, all the content must be optimized for organic search: for example, titles, metadata, headings, etc. Then monitor before and after the replatform to see if it was successful.
4. Many companies make the mistake of not setting up canonical tags for duplicate pages, or the canonical tags are pointing to the wrong pages and/or have multiple tags. This confuses search engines, so the canonical tag process must be approached strategically.
5. Some may think the process is over after the migration process is finished. But there are still things that need to be done. SEO is an ongoing process that must be used to complement migration efforts and set the foundation for long-term success.
Replatforming can be a daunting task, especially for big companies that have several hundred, thousand or millions of pages. The most important rule to follow for a successful replatforming project is to always involve the SEO team. Then plan, test, measure and follow SEO best practices.