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Store migration and SEO ranks

You’ve run professional SEO campaigns, got some valuable traffic and your website is ranking high in Google search? That’s great news. But do you know that you can lose it all during your store’s migration? The threat is real but it can be dealt with. There are some tricks you can use to keep your hard work from being wasted.

Make friends with crawling bots

In an SEO process, it’s a good idea to become familiar with those influential robots - Google bots. Their main purpose is to crawl a website and gather all necessary data which support indexation. Secondly, there are algorithms. Their task is to analyze a page in order to establish if it’s suitable enough to appear in the search engine results page (SERPs). Everything that Google does is for the benefit of its users. It always wants to give them exactly what they’re searching for.

Be nice to your code

Before you jump into the migration process itself, there are a few things you need to do with your code:

  • Use correct HTML semantics including main, header, footer, article, and aside;

  • Define unique meta titles and meta descriptions for each page - they should involve keywords and be of an appropriate length;

  • Apply short and descriptive URLs structure with relevant keywords and no redundant digits or letters;

  • Use only one h1 header per site and proper headers’ structure - they should include the keywords too;

  • Update the http protocol to 2.0;

  • Optimize the CSS/JS and use asynchronous CSS/JS files loading;

  • Optimize the images - compress the files, name them, and add an alternative ALT text;

  • Add a valid XML sitemap to Google Search Console - it has to be updated after every alteration;

  • Create a clickable menu - so called breadcrumbs - on each page to define the website’s structure;

  • Use a hreflang attribute in the page section if you have another language version; remember correct regional codes, full addresses, and return links;

  • Don’t overuse plugins and external libraries - they’ll slow down the loading speed;

  • Apply rel=”canonical” for the parent page;

  • Add robot.txt file to every low factual value page;

  • Apply no-follow linking to external URLs and pages of lower value.

You may have already done some of these things, but make sure to conduct an audit of your website before you move to the next step.

Keep track of any changes to Google algorithms

Google tends to change its algorithms. Don’t be surprised by totally new algorithms at least a few times per season. Sometimes Google will inform you about the change and sometimes it won't - it’s just how it works. It’s a good idea to follow professional SEO blogs and Google specialists’ Twitter profiles. They can give you heads up about the upcoming changes. As for 2021, there are two important changes you should take into account: mobile-only index and Core Web Vitals.

Mobile-only index & Core Web Vitals

You’ve probably heard about some older algorithms which favor mobiles, but there is something special about this one. Many people use the internet mostly on their smartphones. Well, Google decided to attend to their needs. The new algorithm sees the mobile version of your store as the most important one and it can index it long before than the desktop version. So keep track of both your website’s versions. Both should include the same content and be optimized in the same way. And don’t get spooked by all of this, it can be done.

Core Web Vitals are pretty simple. Google lists three of them:

  • Loading

  • Interactivity

  • Visual Stability

They are related to the specific aspects of your website:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) loaded in less than 2.4 seconds;

  • First Input Delay (FID) - time of interaction with the page should be less than 100 milliseconds;

  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) should be less than 0.1 second.

But no worries, you won’t have any issues if you have a good developer.

Optimization and then migration

Let’s optimize now. The better you’re prepared, the smaller chances for headache afterwards.

  • Meta tags, descriptions, and all of the content from your previous store version have to be transferred to the new website;

  • Put the test version of the new store in the robot.txt file and remember to take it off right after the migration is finished;

  • The code has to be optimized;

  • Update the XML sitemap of the fresh page in Google Search Console;

  • Check your website’s loading speed and improve it if needed;

  • Make sure that the mobile version of your store works flawlessly and is user-friendly.

301 redirect routine

You should map all of your old store’s URLs before the final migration and redirect them to the new page. If you’re not sure where to find the full address list, check the current sitemap, landing pages in Google Analytics, or server logs. If it still doesn’t help, you can scan your website with a special SEO crawling tool like Sitebulb.

Redirect all URLs if possible.

And what if an old page doesn’t have its equivalent in the new version of the store? It should report the 404 or 410 status. But remember that you shouldn’t redirect too many addresses to the same place. Google may treat it as an apparent 404 error.

Almost ready…

Migration is over, but your work isn’t. Now it’s time to test the new store's performance, and check traffic volume and accuracy of the links. You can go over the Google Search Console to look for possible indexation errors. It will also show you the site’s visibility in search results.

Ready!

We hope you found this article helpful. Please feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions.

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