So you’re planning a website redesign. Maybe you’re migrating from one platform to another or upgrading from an old version of your current ecommerce software. In either case, you’re probably up to your ears in fonts and photos, but you can’t forget about your SEO ranking.
To be sure the new version of your online store maintains your current SEO position, you need to prepare a little before you let your developer go to town. Specifically, you’ll need to think about structure and 301 redirection.
In this article, we explain what a site migration is and how to prepare for it, so you have a smooth, successful redesign experience.
Who needs to read this article?
The following advice is aimed primarily at merchants who already have an ecommerce site and are undertaking a redesign.
This article is not aimed at merchants changing their store domain name. The SEO work required for that is different.
What is site migration?
Site migration simply means transferring your old site to a new site. If you take the time to develop structure and plan ahead for 301 redirects, you’ll have a smoother transition with the following benefits:
- Direct traffic to your old pages will be automatically redirected to your new website.
- Links to pages on your old store will not lead to 404 errors.
- You guarantee the continuity of your site SEO, which means you’ll hardly notice any drop in traffic after migration.
A little structure
Before going any further, we suggest you read this article on creating an 'SEO friendly' structure for an ecommerce site.
Designing the structure of your new online store
A site redesign is the perfect moment to reassess categories and determine which should be kept in the new version of your site and which should be eliminated. The idea is to keep what works and rethink the areas that don't.
The whole point of redesigning your store is to improve upon your old store, so don’t remove categories that bring in SEO traffic and sales. You must recreate those categories in your new store in addition to developing other areas.
Improve existing site structure
Here are some places to find inspiration:
- Take a look at your competitors' stores. What are they doing right? Carry out a simple benchmarking project and note what works in terms of SEO. Resist the urge to copy and paste. Good SEO demands original content
- Revisit your initial semantic analysis and look for more keywords to target.
- For merchants who already use AdWords campaigns, this report may also be useful. It corresponds to keywords typed by your visitors via AdWords, and not keywords that have been paid for.
Google Analytics: think of it as a housewarming gift
Okay, so you’ve done some surfing and revisited your initial keywords. You know you need to change some categories, but what should you replace them with? And how will you know if they’re better than what you already have?
SEO Ecommerce report by PrestaShop (Click on the link to add the report)
“This page is no longer at this address”
So you’ve built the foundation for your new store. Now you need to let the world know where it is. Enter the 301 redirect.
What are 301 redirects?
When you move house and you want the post office to forward your mail to your new address, you fill out a form that looks something like this:
Old postal address -> New postal address
You have to do the same thing when you move your site, only it’s called a 301 redirect. When a web page changes URL, you have to tell your server so that all searches can be directed to the new URL:
Old URL -> 301 redirect -> New URL
When is a 301 redirect necessary?
- When an old page disappears entirely--redirect this page to your home page.
- When a page changes URL address--you need to redirect the old URL to the new URL.
When is a 301 redirect not necessary?
- When a URL remains the same in the old and new versions of your site.
- When a new page is created within your new structure which did not exist before.
How to put 301 redirects into place:
Redirect page by page. This creates a link between your old structure and the new website. It’s more precise for Google, and it provides a smoother SEO transition.
Redirect all old URLs to your new ecommerce website home page. This isn’t the most SEO-friendly option, but it’s more appropriate when you have many URLs to migrate or there are no new equivalents for obsolete pages.
How to prepare for 301 redirects
Before your technical team can get to work, you need to prepare your URLs. Here’s how:
1. Identify all your site URLs
These tools give you access to the list of URLs from your old and new e-commerce websites and make it easy to export them to an Excel spreadsheet.
2. Link the two sites
Display the list of URLs from your former site in one column. These URLs must either be redirected to the new equivalent URL or to the home page.
List the new URLs in a second column.
3. Integrating the 301s
If you’re a developer with expert experience in SEO, then by all means integrate the .htaccess file for your new store. Otherwise, I highly recommend that you call on the expertise of an SEO expert or developer.
The big day has arrived
When you’re ready to launch your new store:
- Place your site under maintenance using the 503 code
- Publish your new website (containing the 301 redirects in the .htaccess file)
- Remove the maintenance code to activate your site.
- Test the 301s immediately by typing an old URL; you should be automatically redirected to the new URL.
You have successfully completed your migration!
Be aware that 302 codes are not the same as 301 codes. They are temporary redirects that don’t transmit SEO information. Make sure your developer is aware of this too!
Was this article helpful?
I had the idea for writing this article at a trade show where I met a PrestaShop merchant who was migrating his site and wasn’t aware of 301 redirects.
Also feel free to ask any questions about this article in the comments section below.