The SEO migration of an online store and its change is often one of the most crucial decisions in the context of growing and scaling a business. The new system should support and develop the e-commerce channel. However, these are often long and costly projects that are also burdened with the risk of failing to deliver on time or losing a store’s organic traffic.
The e-store migration project itself is such a vast field that we shall only focus on the SEO migration, only briefly systematising the preceding steps.
This is a task that requires taking into account many different areas, such as: Briefing Design (UX / UI), e-Commerce Development, SEO, Law, Project Management or Analytics.
Online store SEO migration process
Graphic showing the online store migration process, which starts with the briefing and ends with the SEO migration.
01. — 02. Briefing & Pre-Implementation Analysis
Specifying a store’s business requirements and the budget within which we want to implement. These include, but are not limited to:
- Time to market — implementation time
- Budget — the total amount for the new technology implementation
- Design — store and product range presentation
- Applications — additional features, such as a calculator that calculates how much paint is needed to paint a room of certain dimensions or a 3D system that applies and matches the glasses to a user’s face
- Other — e.g., changing a domain name, expanding sales to additional international markets, etc.
03. E-commerce System Selection
An e-commerce system should be selected based on specific requirements No. 3
The following architecture involves the most common systems in which online stores are implemented: Open Source, SaaS and dedicated, proprietary systems tailored to custom requirements.
04. — 05. Design & eCommerce Development
The design phase involves working on the layout, adapting a store to the needs of users, and adapting it to selected eCommerce system functionalities. In the development process, however, the store layout is implemented and adapted to the new store engine.
06. Historical Data Migration
Migration of all historical data from a store’s CMS, including: orders, customers, newsletter list, loyalty programme data, consents or history of consents by users.
07. Content Migration
08. Online Store SEO Migration
The next section will address in detail a number of measures to transfer and secure organic traffic to an online store.
Online Store SEO Migration Process
One of the inseparable migration components of an online store is SEO migration. This is nothing more than a series of operations to transfer and adequately secure a website’s organic traffic.
Graphic demonstrating the online store SEO migration process.
01. Content SEO Optimization
It is also worth ensuring SEO Optimization of the migrated pages before implementing the migration. In addition to the content, the page title, meta description and URL should also be optimized. When transferring products across e-commerce systems, I suggest checking whether the old system offers an option to export SEO-related data (meta title, meta description, or URL).
02. URL redirection (redirection map)
When transferring all content from an old system to a new one, we should, where possible, ensure that the link structure overlaps. This means ensuring that the old URLs are the same as the new URLs. Below is a sample link structure when migrating a store to the Shopify platform.
The same URLs
Should it be possible to transfer a page while keeping the same URL, it is not required to create a permanent 301 redirect.
(Old website) www.eobuwie.com.pl/jak-kupowac → (New website) www.eobuwie.com.pl/jak-kupowac.
Old URL New URL Redirection type
www.eobuwie.com.pl/jak-kupowac www.eobuwie.com.pl/jak-kupowac none
The URL of an old store is the same as the URL on a new system. Therefore, no redirection is required.
Permanent 301 redirects are required to redirect traffic from pages with different URLs. These redirects are intended to indicate to Google’s indexing robot the locations (addresses) where the transferred content is hosted.
(Old website) www.eobuwie.com.pl/meskie.html → (New website) www.eobuwie.com.pl/collections/meskie
www.eobuwie.com.pl/sneakersy-new-balance-bezowy.html → www.eobuwie.com.pl/products/sneakersy-new-balance-bezowy
Example of a redirection map for an online store based on the Shopify architecture:
Old URL New URL Redirection type
www.eobuwie.com.pl/meskie.html www.eobuwie.com.pl/collections/meskie 301
www.eobuwie.com.pl/sneakersy-new-balance-m5740cbb-bezowy.html www.eobuwie.com.pl/products/sneakersy-new-balance-m5740cbb-bezowy 301
www.eobuwie.com.pl/meskie/polbuty/sneakersy.html www.eobuwie.com.pl/collections/sneakersy 301
Poorly executed URL mappings, or the lack thereof, can result in 404 errors and a page drop in organic search results. Manual redirection mapping due to the volume of all indexed URLs can be problematic and time-consuming. A redirection map is used for this purpose. This is a file with all the indexed URLs and their equivalents from a new store website.
There may be hundreds of thousands of indexed store websites. Therefore, methods are used to automatically find all indexed URLs, these include:
a list of landing pages in Google Analytics
a list of all pages in a sitemap
tools to scan a website, e.g., Screaming Frog SEO Spider
03. Addition of analytical tool scripts
Another item is the addition of the required analytics tool scripts to a website, such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager, Google Ads or Facebook’s Pixel. In this way, once the migration has been implemented, we will be able to measure any traffic drops and 404 errors that occur or implement PPC paid campaigns. When changing a store engine, you should also remember to generate and add a new sitemap to Google Search Console and XML product files to Google Merchant Center and directories to Facebook Business.
04. Redirection map import tests & eCommerce tests
Depending on the number of indexed pages of an online store, the redirection map can have up to hundreds of thousands of records. Therefore, its correctness should be verified before it is imported. A good strategy may be to select random records and import them as a whole into the new eCommerce system. If the file structure is correct, it is a good indication before the final migration. In this step, we should also test applications or scripts to generate automatic permanent 301’s redirects. If everything is in order, we can import the redirection map and prepare to redirect the domain and switch to a new eCommerce system.
05. Adding a Domain & Mail Configuration
In this step, we attach the domain to the new eCommerce system and determine which email address will be the main one for the store’s mailbox. Redirecting the domain will take place once all the previous steps have been properly completed and the redirection map test import has been performed beforehand.
06. Change of DNS records or A record of a domain
By changing the eCommerce system, the location (server) under which the data will be stored (hosted) will also change. It is now necessary to provide the domain with information that the server has changed. This is done by editing (the A record or DNS URLs) in the domain settings. Bearing in mind at the same time that it can take up to 48h to change the DNS, depending on the country and type of service provider (domain).
07. Addition of a sitemap to Google Search Console
By changing the eCommerce system, it is likely that the URL at which the sitemap is stored (hosted) will also change, as will its new structure. Therefore, a new link to the sitemap should be indicated for Google’s indexing robots. The changes are implemented in Google Search Console. We make changes here: Google Search Console → Index → Sitemap.
sitemap google search console
Graphic showing the sitemap substitution in Google Search Console for the blog site grzegorzsekowski.pl
08. Monitoring of Traffic Drops & 404 Errors
After correct redirection, DNS propagation and import of a new redirection map into GSC, it is time to verify the accuracy of the work we have done. The more complex the eCommerce system with many thousands of pages to redirect is, the greater the chance of errors. This is a rather unavoidable part of the migration procedure. Therefore, the first hours or days after the migration are spent working hard to correct errors and preparing redirection maps with missing 301 redirects. In the case of Shopify or Shopify PLUS systems, the easy redirects app, which captures all pages with 404’s errors, might help.
09. Correction of misdirected URLs (404 errors)
Correction of 404 errors can take up to several months after migration. A tool for verifying the errors occurred is Google Search Console, which returns the error codes generated when our website is indexed by Googlebots The standard correction involves preparing a 301-redirect map for URLs that have not imported or redirected correctly, and then importing it into the new eCommerce system.
Main errors and risks occurring during the SEO migration of an online store:
- Migration trial and online store launch on a tight schedule
- Launching migration processes (i.e., import of redirect map, change of domain DNS) before an extended break, for example, on Friday evening.
- Incorrectly prepared redirect map (i.e., URL errors or misdirection)
- Misdirected domain
- Non-functional analytics (tracking scripts not added to the new system)
- No sitemap added to Google Search Console
- No 404-error monitoring after the migration process
For the SEO migration of an online store to proceed correctly, a number of steps consecutively need to be followed. This is often a stressful time for online store owners and managers. Years of SEO work and hundreds of thousands spent on positioning are at stake. Find out more about online store migration in the article here
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eCommerce Manager at Paul Rich – multimillion jewellery premium watch brand. Shopify & Shopify PLUS consultant, blogger and ex-founder of napnell.pl