Anton McCarthy

Digital Marketing Insights

Category: Digital Marketing

5 Considerations for Migrating Your Website

I was once in charge of managing a site migration for a client from an SEO perspective. I was working with the managing director and developers within a web design agency, who were carrying out a website redesign for the client. The website was going to stay on the same domain, but it was moving to a new platform with a new format for URLs and additional content which included new product description formats (this was an Ecommerce store).

The business owner was naturally concerned about the potential traffic and sales implications, and obviously there were a number of SEO considerations which required attention prior to, during, and in the post-migration period.

Here are my top 5 considerations for site migrations from an SEO and broader digital marketing perspective. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list, but it will give you a good framework from which to work from.

site migrations seo

#1. Formulating a Plan

First things first – it’s essential that a plan is in place from the start. A site migration of any type is no trivial matter, and so it is critical that all stakeholders are on board from the outset and understand what their role involves. For example, you could have the following stakeholders:

-Project manager (manages developers, designers, marketing people, content writers, QA, etc).

-Content manager

-Developers and designers

-QA / Testing

-Marketing, SEO

-Site managers or clients

site migration plan

Once all stakeholders have been identified, it is up to the project manager to formulate a plan for the migration, ensuring that everyone is on the same page and that all activities and requirements have been scheduled in prior to any changes to the website.

In terms of SEO, a critical part of the migration process is monitoring rankings and traffic prior to, during and after the migration. However, all parties – in particular the project manager and site manager – should have some insight into this element, since it is a reflection of how well the migration process is going overall.

#2. URL Redirects

One of the most important elements in moving a site from one domain to another – or just redeveloping / redesigning a site on the same domain – is ensuring that all URLs on the old site are redirected to the most appropriate URLs on the new site or platform. In the case of the website referenced in the introduction, while the domain would remain the same, the URL structure was going to change quite significantly. As such, we had to carry out the following activities:

-Download all URLs on the old site

-Decide and agree on the most appropriate URL to map to on the new site

-Implement 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new URLs

URL redirects

Since the site in question received a reasonable amount of traffic and delivered online sales each week, these activities were very important in the context of preserving traffic, rankings and ultimately sales.

Tip: Ensure that you understand what is happening with each individual URL on the site, and decide on the most appropriate course of action for each one. Use Screaming Frog to identify each URL on your site (you can import all data into Excel and build a tracking report from there).

#3. Managing Content

Since content is so crucial in terms of SEO, it is essential that it is given as much priority as managing URLs. Imagine if certain pages on your site were drawing lots of traffic from search engines, referral visits and other sources, and you simply forgot or neglected to bring the content onto the new site or new pages? It could result in a dramatic and perhaps sudden drop in your traffic, and a corresponding fall-off in traffic, rankings and sales which could take quite some time to recover.

Tip: Carry out an inventory of your content in the same way that you monitor your URL set, so that you understand where each page and piece of content is going. Also consider taking the opportunity to enhance your content or perhaps even drop some content that is not particularly adding to your site.

content management site migrations

#4. Sitemaps, 404s and More

You will want to ensure that you have taken care of submitting an XML sitemap to Google and other search engines, checked that your robots.txt file is not blocking any URLs it shouldn’t, and that you have set up Webmaster Tools and analytics for any new domain. However, you should also take the opportunity to check for outdated pages, 404 pages, and broken links.

Tip: Think of the site migration period as the perfect ‘Spring cleaning time’ for your website.

#5. Tracking Key Metrics

How does the expression go? ‘If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing’. As with all aspects of digital marketing, measurement and tracking is critical. If you are not on top of your metrics in the normal course of events, then how will you know if your site migration is a success or not? If it is a success, you should see your metrics (specifically rankings and traffic) stay much the same, perhaps dip slightly for several weeks and then recover – or perhaps even improve!

Some of the key metrics you will need to track include website visitors, bounce rate, time on site, rankings and of course conversion and revenue-related metrics.

Do you have any tips to share on this topic? Have you migrated your own site, and how did it go?

Want to Succeed in SEO in 2015? Build Your Brand First!

When you do a search on Google for ‘accountants San Francisco’, what do you see? Let’s imagine that you are the owner of an accountancy firm in San Francisco, or an SEO or digital marketing specialist working with such a firm. If you are seeking to rank and get more traffic from searchers looking for an accountant in San Francisco, would you feel daunted – or encouraged – by the challenge ahead?

Let’s quickly take a quick snapshot of this very query on Google.com (click to enlarge).

search result accountant san francisco

Do you notice anything striking? Firstly, there are almost 93 million search results for the query ‘accountants San Francisco’! Secondly, the first three search results are paid listings, meaning you have to make a fairly serious investment to appear in top billing for such a competitive commercial phrase.

However, the most striking observation you could make is that not a single ‘regular’ (non-brand) website appears above the fold in non-paid search results for this query on Google.com. Not only that, but the first FOUR non-paid results are all dominated by a major online brand – Yelp!

If you perform the search query yourself, you will see you need to scroll down to the fifth result – and past the Maps listings – to see a non-brand website. In this case this is ‘www.safeharborcpa.com’ (note that all searches in this post were performed from Dublin, Ireland, so results may differ). Since Google Maps listings take up a large chunk of search results real estate in the middle of the page, you have to scroll almost to the bottom of the page to view non-brand sites that are not paying to be listed or appearing by default within the Google Maps section.

This means there is space for just five additional websites below the Google Maps section. Even then, however, four of these five listings are actually also brands. These are Indeed.com (appearing twice!), Angie’s List, and Craigslist. In summary, outside of Google Maps, just two non-paid listings on the search results page for a search on ‘accountants San Francisco’ are non-brand sites.

Maybe this is more of a US play? Think again – try the same query performed on Google.co.uk (click to enlarge).

accountants London search results

Again, we see a somewhat similar but improved picture emerging – three paid results followed by a non-brand listing, a directory site and a brand (Crunch). Then, we have Maps listings which again take up a large chunk of the page. Once more, we have to move below the fold before we can see more than one or two non-brand listings – and one of these is still a brand listing (Yell.com).

What is happening?

It’s clear – Google has moved from a search engine that seeks to display the ‘best’ result for a given query, to one that seeks to serve the best result for a given query, but also maximise its revenue and ‘Local’ play at the same time. Google wants to make as much money as possible (which is fair enough), but this conflicts to a certain degree with the average website owner’s desire to rank on on its search engine and attract as much traffic as possible. 

In 2015, in the context of this shifting Search landscape, it is worth considering a new approach – brand first. Instead of having rankings and traffic from search results as your number 1 goal – a target that is clearly becoming more difficult to hit – consider shifting your focus towards building your brand across various marketing channels first. This means both offline as well as online.

branding for SEO

Then, when people start to notice you and feel attracted to what it is you offer, you will find your search traffic starts to increase as they are searching you by name. In other words, you start to become more of a brand as opposed to just another website competing for attention in a sea of online properties. This means that instead of trying to compete on the phrase ‘accountants San Francisco’, you bypass a large chunk of the competition and the millions of search results appearing alongside you, and you attract new customers and prospects at source – by having them google your name and find you directly.

Of course, this is not the only benefit, as becoming a brand also has a positive impact on your ability to rank and attract traffic from all sources – and the impact is exponential. When you are perceived as a brand, people naturally link to you more. They talk about you more, share your content more, talk about you on social media more and recommend you online and offline more. All of this adds up to increased authority for your brand generally, but in particular online – and this is where you can start to see your original rankings and traffic goals come to fruition, as Google starts to see you as an increasingly relevant and authoritative match for search queries like ‘accountants San Francisco’.

Accountants of London and San Francisco – build your brand first!

What are your thoughts? Are you a believer in this approach when it comes to building traffic and awareness for your brand online?

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Google ‘Not Providing’ – Why It Doesn’t Really Matter

Did you ever hear the one about the SEO and digital marketing consultant who turned down the client who just wanted to get to no. 1 on Google? This post is a little bit about why I might turn down such a client – and a lot more about why you shouldn’t be that client!

The announcement from Google this week, which dismayed many a marketer, only serves to highlight why you should start thinking about online marketing within a broader context. It reinforces the argument for taking a more holistic approach to marketing your business online.

Google not provided data

SEO is Changing

Ok, let’s jump straight in. SEO is changing. I almost feel sorry for all of those agencies who have ‘SEO’ in their name somewhere, as it may be the case that they will be forced into a re-brand sooner rather than later! Why? The reason is that SEO is no longer ‘just SEO’. It is no longer – and can no longer be – a standalone product. SEO is now simply marketing. This is why you need to stop thinking just in terms of ‘doing SEO’, or zeroing in on improving search engine rankings for its own sake.

Specifically, we should collectively start to move away from rankings and organic traffic measurements (although they are still important), and away from over-analysing data in general. Instead, ask – “what does my customer actually want?”. Instead of second guessing them via Google Analytics, why not just ask them about what’s most important to them? Then, you have a framework and foundation on which to build and augment your marketing efforts.

A Digital Strategy That Works

Let’s say you own a bike shop, and you know you should be blogging more – but you are missing valuable data around your top queries in Analytics. Forget that! You know your customers better than anyone. Do you notice a gap in their knowledge somewhere, perhaps around maintaining their bike or knowing which model suits them best (to give but two potential examples). Why not make a blog post out of that and promote via social media? In fact, here is a ready-to-go model for you to run with right now:

  1. Ask your customer about what they need, quiz them on the gaps in their knowledge (if you aren’t already aware of what these gaps are).
  2. Formulate some blog post / web content ideas around these topics.
  3. Write awesome content which addresses their queries – content they will refer back to and instinctively share.
  4. Share this good stuff on social media – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook – but don’t forget Pinterest, YouTube, Slideshare…
  5. Interact with your top sharers – show that you appreciate that they value your content and have taken the time to share it.

If you do all of the above, you will reap the rewards over time in the search engines without even trying. Your authority will increase, your rankings will rise of their own accord – and with the rise of the importance of social in SEO, you will be perfectly positioned to take advantage of it.

If you do all of this, are you really going to be worried about missing keyword data in Google Analytics? Or will you be too busy at the cash register and on the phone?

I would love to hear what you think. As a business owner, have you adopted this type of strategy already? If not, why not?

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Google’s Matt Cutts – Watch Out For The Next Penguin Update!

If you work at an SEO agency – or you’re an SEO practitioner – and still believe in outsourcing your link-building to India for $5/hour, you may want to read the latest soundings from Matt Cutts on the next Penguin update. Read all about what Matt had to say at SES San Francisco last week.

Yet another good reason (if one were needed) to invest wisely in SEO – ensuring you are creating great content and making use of viable, sustainable SEO link-building strategies such as guest-blogging and building relationships with relevant partner websites. It’s a marathon, not a sprint (although get the right person on board and the results can come faster than you think).

 

Article on Shopify – Optimising your Google AdWords Campaign

Hi all,

Hope this post finds you well. I recently wrote an article on optimising your Google AdWords campaign through lesser-known techniques for the cool folks over @Shopify, for their ecommerce blog.

Check it out and since everyone seems to run an AdWords campaign at some point, hopefully it gives you some helpful tips.

http://www.shopify.com/blog/5941301-5-ecommerce-adwords-tips-from-an-ex-googler

First Bloggertone Post!

Well, need to catch up on my blogging! It’s ok though, I’ve been a-blogging elsewhere.

Feel free to have a look at my first ever Bloggertone post on start-ups

Hope you enjoy and maybe even find some of the info useful. All comments welcome.

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