A site migration is, without a doubt, among the most challenging projects an SEO can undertake — no thanks to the risk that is involved with the process.
A successful website migration can help a company achieve its objectives faster. A new site, improved site architecture, or even updated content can truly propel the site in search engines' results pages; a faulty site migration, on the other hand, can erase everything the SEO team has achieved.
It’s no surprise that SEOs pay so much attention to the migration process, and why many turn to a partner for website migration services.
Yet, many forget about one, absolutely critical aspect of it, and only realize it when it’s too late: Reporting when you may not have the ability to combine new and historical URL data.
Before I tell you more and show you how to overcome this problem easily, let’s cover the specific types of site migrations where this problem occurs. Knowing this will help you understand how you could wind up losing valuable URL data in the first place.
Recommended Reading: The Guide to a Successful Site Migration (Free Checklist Included!)
Different Types of Site Migrations
#1. Moving or Merging Parts of the Site
This is a common scenario for a site migration: A company decides to merge its existing web properties into one. Or, it decides to move a particular section of the site to a new destination.
A good example here are hotels that consolidate multiple old sites of individual properties into a single, parent site.
Another example is changes made to the domain name or structure, like moving the company’s blog from a subdomain (blog.domain.com) to a subfolder (domain.com/blog) to ensure a better flow of the link authority.
Unfortunately page URLs change as part of the process. They may either move from multiple domains into one or their structure can change. As a result, the company loses critical historical information about the page’s performance.
#2. HTTP to HTTPS
In this scenario, the company migrates the site to a secure, SSL connection. Although the process isn’t complex, the result is that the domain ends up on a new URL, the one starting with HTTPS.
These will be new URLs disassociated from the site’s performance data to date.
#3. Site Move with URL Changes
Similarly, the site may move to a different domain or URL structure, causing an SEO team to not be able to monitor the performance data of both sites combined. This situation also calls into question your internal links. If URLs change, be sure to update your internal linking appropriately so the user is brought to the right page. Also consider implementing 301 redirects on those pages.
#4. Site Hierarchy Changes
In order to improve the site taxonomy, the company may also decide to change the site’s hierarchy. This process naturally involves changing the URL structure of many pages, which results in breaking the connection between their past performance data and new URLs statistics.
#5. Content Migration
Naturally, just updating the content will not affect the pages' URLs. However, changes such as consolidating content, pruning content or even improving the on-page SEO will certainly result in losing that connection between the past data and new page’s performance.
#6. Updating Old Event Pages
Often, event pages include date modifiers in the URL, for example, domain.com/black-friday-2020. But when the date modifier changes to the current year, suddenly all analytics packages will consider it a new URL, and dissociate its performance from the historical data.
#7. Consolidating Dynamic URL Variations and Pagination
This isn’t a way to lose data, per se, but a common situation where a company lacks the ability to see the full picture of a page’s performance. Because, let’s face it, a page with multiple dynamic variables will end up triggering multiple individual instances in a typical analytics package. The result is an inability to evaluate how the page actually performs.
Recommended Reading: A Professional SEO's Guide to International Site Migration
The Problem with Losing Related URL Associations
As you can imagine, all those website migration projects lead to a massive problem: Losing the continuity of the data for each URL. After each of those migrations, the company typically loses the ability to report on its pages’ performance in relation to the past.
In fact, they can no longer see the relationship between the parent-child URL and evaluate the data.
Where Does This Occur?
We see this occurring in various stages of the site migration, such as:
- Domain Changes: The company wants to ensure user tracking with domain changes, like if they are moving away from a subdomain and transitioning to use a subfolder system (or vice versa). Data becomes lost if the related URLs are not set up correctly. If the URL structure changes completely, it won't be intuitive to set up a parent/child URL relationship.
- Secure Protocol: Businesses encounter challenges when they are making the switch to a secure protocol (HTTPS) and want to keep the data from their non-secure site on their new, secure site.
- Site Optimization: Sometimes, businesses choose to deprecate some of their pages. We see this particularly with ecommerce brands trimming category pages or restructuring their product pages.
- Different Acquisitions: If a brand has acquired another brand and is migrating site content to one domain, there can become some overlap or confusion with related URL structure.
Ultimately, this is about improving your search visibility and making sure your content is as relevant as possible to the user so that they can answer following the question:
Has the Migration Been Successful?
Since there is no easy way to associate old URLs' performance with their new counterparts, companies often find themselves struggling with evaluating the success of the migration. To be fair, SEOs often find workarounds to this problem. However, none of those are a workable solution to continue monitoring performance at scale.
Some SEOs turn to Excel, simply. They create spreadsheets and manually insert data for old and new URLs to consolidate and analyze. Others switch between URLs in their analytics platform (and often, do the math in their heads, trying to make the sense of it all).
Another common method is to filter GA for common modifiers in the URL to see the comparison between two URLs. Again, the method can work, however, not at the scale required by large enterprises.
Just think how difficult it would be to benchmark year-over-year page performance using any of the methods above.
It's practically impossible on a large website!
So, what's the solution?
Related URLs Within seoClarity
You know the problem: Not being able to associate the parent (i.e. new) URL performance with the child (i.e. old, or legacy) URL. As a result, you can’t see the page’s continuous performance and have to start collecting data from scratch.
seoClarity solves that challenge and is the only SEO platform on the market that gives you the ability to associate URLs.
With the feature, you can easily define parent URLs and the respective child URLs, and the platform will merge all this data to provide you with seamless reporting for before and after migration.
(Easily upload your related URLs into the platform - you can even copy-paste directly from Excel!)
What’s more, you can use a whole range of data and reporting tools within the platform:
- Traffic, sales, bounce rate
- Search analytics (impressions, clicks)
- Even the page-level data to see whether the new URL continues to rank for the keywords that you’ve associated with the original URL
For one client in particular, we organized all historic pages and new pages into single page tags to track their historical data as well as new data, so the user received a trend line in their dashboard of what they did in the platform.
See how a luxury retailer saw an increase of 100k visits in 4 months with seoClarity.
seoClarity is the only platform that do this with related URLs, giving users a look at the historical data within their solution.
Once your URLs are uploaded, this process is fully automated. No need for manual data entry or reviewing data sets in isolation. You get all the data about the page’s performance, before and after the URL change.
This feature may be small, but it is extremely helpful after any site migration, saving users tons of time on their post-site migration reporting needs.
And don't forget to use our migration checklist!
One final thought on site migrations: be sure to appropriately update your sitemap and submit it to Google Search Console so your pages continue to be understood and indexed accordingly.