Website migration gone wrong
SEO is sometimes only known for two things – dodgy link building and spammy blog posts.
While this is where it ends for some poor-quality services, when it comes to quality SEO, it’s like saying a car mechanic only changes your oil and pumps up your tyres.
Good SEO involves a huge range of technical and non-technical tasks. In isolation, many of these have minimal impact, collectively they form an ecosystem which is critical for real, sustainable results. Some of these tasks can also have devastating results when not done right.
A recent experience highlighted the impact of messing up one of these tasks. In this case, website migration.
Website Migration Gone Wrong
Think of website migration like moving to a new house. We can’t assume that by simply moving your belongings into a new addxress, everything will automatically carry on as usual. There is mail to forward, phone numbers to redirect, electricity and gas to reconnect, friends and family to notify. The list goes on.
Launching a new website is no different. Simply moving your new website to your domain without a migration plan is a recipe for disaster, particularly if you have any keyword rankings.
Recently this issue was highlighted by a real example of a long-term Distl client. For various (legitimate) reasons, the client decided to change their business strategy, which involved ceasing SEO with us. Not long after this, the client launched a new brand and website to reflect the new strategy. Unfortunately, we weren’t involved in the process and when we discovered the change, we saw this…
This chart represents the clients average ranking across a wide range of keywords. For many, the site was holding steady on page one.
The sudden drop is where the new site was launched.
While the new site uses mostly new URLs (generally not ideal, but workable if handled right), not a single redirect was implemented. When a page moves to a new URL address, we typically apply a 301 redirect – an instruction to the search engines that the page has permanently moved. This has the effect of reassigning most of the page authority and therefore rankings, to the new page address.
Instead of this scenario, each of the original pages which had built up page authority and ranking over the years, were suddenly shut down and replaced with new pages at different URLs. As the search engines weren’t instructed how to handle this change (a step we would normally address with a migration plan), the rankings tanked, and the valuable page authority is lost.
We’ve since notified the client and will work with them to retrospectively apply the redirects. Unfortunately, most of the damage is done. Years of SEO work, lost.
The lesson is confronting, but an important reminder of the importance of a thorough, expert SEO service.
Our approach to website migration has been used on hundreds of sites over many years. If you’re considering launching a new site, avoid the pain.
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