We had a task to preserve the targeted traffic of the website that was already quite popular among users (the traffic was 30,000+ visitors/month) while transferring it to a new CMS and making design and structure changes. Generally, solely the change of a CMS or design will not severely impact SEO or cause serious consequences, of course, if the online store will continue to work properly with no technical issues. But changing the structure and the URLs of pages, you may be unfortunate enough to lose 99% of the free traffic. To avoid this, it is important to complete the transfer correctly: old pages must be properly redirected to the relevant pages of the updated website.
We aimed to do a flawless change of the CMS and redesign with no traffic loss. To reach these goals we had to:
To perform the set task we needed an access to Google Analytics and Search Console. That’s why the first step was to ask the client to give us the access. Having received it, we started to analyze the pages through which users arrived to the website, or in other words, the pages that gave traffic. These were the pages that had to be redirected to the relevant pages of the updated online store.
Usually, it is amlost impossible to redirect all pages because many online stores have tens of thousands of them or even hundreds of thousands. Therefore, the analysis is limited to the most visited or extremely valuable pages or those with many of external links.
It is the redirection of the trafficked pages that allows to keep the highest number of visitors. These steps are necessary because when you change the CMS, which leads to the change of the website structure and the URLs of pages, it can cause the following consequences:
Eventually, the website will lose its ranking, all organic and referral traffic. Paid traffic can be easily forwarded to the new site, so it won’t cause any problems. Yet free traffic is something you should forget about as search systems will treat the updated website as an absolutely new one, so basically, only the main page will remained trusted.
To avoid this, you need to show search engines that your online store is only an updated one, not absolutely new. So you should ensure that all the website pages with high traffic and authority are now available at new URLs. This can be done using 301 redirect that saves the page rating fully transferring it (transfers 90-99% of trust links) from one URL to another and replaces the pages in search results to keep them. In case the links lead to the old pages, 301 redirect will just forward the user to the relevant page of the new website.
The pages that are redirected with 301 redirect must be relevant.
Which means that the contact page of the old online store should be redirected only to the contact page of the new online store.
Also, the new website should have at least the same quality of SEO-optimization as its old version. Even all redirects in the world will not give you good ranking if the website doesn’t meet the requirements of search engines.
So we conducted a preliminary SEO audit of the new website version on a test domain, corrected all the found shortcomings, transferred SEO-content of the optimized pages, and indicated meta tags based on the old version optimization.
At the same time, we worked to find out which pages of the website were the most visited and important. As the result, we had almost 500 pages to be redirected. Later we defined pages of the updated online store that were relevant to the old ones. After that, the new version was transferred to the main domain while these 500 pages were redirected on the server.
Having completed the redirect, we restored Google Analytics, which showed that the traffic was coming back (to relatively fully restore the traffic of the redirected pages, search systems must reindex them and update search results).
The old website pages that weren’t redirected lose visitors and drop out of search results. On the other hand, the pages of the new online store with no redirects from the old one will need promotion to regain ranking and traffic because search engines treat them like new pages.
Therefore, the number of implemented redirects is directly proportional to the saved traffic. Although they don’t keep 100% of traffic to pages as during reindexing the website ranking and visibility may be lost, you can promptly regain the previous positions if the updated pages are optimized on the same or better level as the old ones. Whereas the improved ranking will help to renew previous traffic rates.
In our case, to keep the visitors is was enough to complete 500 redirects (the other pages weren’t highly visited), This way we saved the number of sales and the online store ROI of 1,477.40%.
Visitors per day from organic search
Online store ROI