I’m going to start off by saying this is not a technical article about the top 10 tips on how to improve the SEO of your site while migrating platforms. There are tons of good articles on the web for that. Rather I’m approaching this as many business owners would, trying to identify what are the key things you need to be aware of. This is what I've discovered from talking to dozens of solution architects and senior developers at SilverStripe who have been in the trenches during complex site migrations.
Setting the scene
SEO. Search Engine Optimisation. It's a staple to anyone who wants to get noticed on the internet – even more so if you’re a small/medium sized business. The difference in getting displayed on the first page vs. the second page of a search engine could have a massive impact on the amount of time and effort you spend drawing visitors to your site.
So naturally, when it comes to upgrading to a new platform, many businesses hesitate. Whether that be from outgrowing their existing platform or requiring more specialised functionality. On top of the technical tasks, there’s an uneasy uncertainty around how the change would impact their SEO equity (that was won an inch at a time, scaling up the unforgiving search engine mountain).
However, despite all these unknowns, this is definitely not the first time anyone has moved sites to a new platform. Are these concerns legitimate or simply unfounded? Let's get into the meat!
In a nutshell, it's just like moving a house
As a website grows, and new capabilities are needed, one would inevitability face the challenge of upgrading their website/platform. It's like having a new baby. All of a sudden, the needs of the house (platform) changes, we need an extra room, a bigger car, a warmer house.
To meet the needs we generally have two options. We can either upgrade the existing house (website) or if we can’t upgrade, move our contents to another house that accommodates our new requirements (i.e. migrating website to a new platform).
So what's it gotta do with SEO?
Everything! In the real world, if you were to move houses, after finding a new place and moving stuff, one would have to go about changing their address for their banking, insurance, as well as telling your friends and relatives where you are going to live (unless you don’t want them to know). We would want to make sure that everything and everyone gets directed to our new address.
This is the same for moving platforms. They are called 301 redirects. They will need to be set up to ensure that everything going to the old address gets redirected to your new address. For SEO this is rather important. It tells Google that your addresses have changed and to update its search listings with the new address. You could only imagine what would happen if you were to move house and didn’t tell anyone where you went. So unless your website addresses are going to remain unchanged, consider investigating into 301 redirects (in SilverStripe Platform this is usually done by our migration team).
Is your house set up for guests?
Now that your family and friends know where to find you, we also want to arrange all our contents so that they are inviting and positioned where people expect. This is your standard SEO work. For example, one would ensure that the sofa is not missing from the lounge. It sounds absurd, but there are many websites out there that have links that go to missing pages, i.e. nowhere!
Although a bad user experience doesn’t directly correlate to bad SEO, it does make the content less relevant. Relevancy, however, is really important for SEO. Search engines generally aim to provide users the most relevant content, and websites with a bad structure and broken links don't inspire confidence that the content is up-to-date and relevant. I’ve included a couple of sites that will help you get started.
- Look into tools and guides from Google.
Google Webmaster Tools is a brilliant site aimed at helping site owners understand how Google looks at their sites. It also suggests actions to improve your website's searchability such as including a sitemap and having a better site structure.
- Consider using third-party analysis tools.
SEO analysis tools like Screamingfrog (PC/Mac) and integrity (Mac) are excellent – helping you identify areas of your site that can improve such as broken links and duplicate pages.
So, to answer the question
Would moving my site onto a different platform impact my SEO? Yes! But not necessarily for the worse. Remembering to redirect your addresses and understanding how your new platform organises your content is a solid step in getting it right.