How do you ensure a successful migration from your trusty old website to a brand spanking new one? How do you make sure you don’t lose ground, especially with regard to your hard-earned SEO rankings?
In June , 2021, Skilled Electrical, registered electricians in Christchurch, migrated form the website they had been using for many years, to a new WordPress site.
It doesn’t sound like a big deal right? Choose a template, add some content with nice, fresh photos, throw a few keywords in, and hey presto!
Not that simple.
The checklist for developing a website, plus the checklist for preparing to go live, plus the checklist for going live, and then finally, the post-live checklist… hundreds of items long!
Yes, you can DIY a website and it can look good on the surface. But to make it truly functional in the modern world requires a highly specialised skillset, and genuine experience dealing with all of the things that can go wrong.
Creating a Bold New Look
As you can see above, their old page was quite plain. We wanted them to have a strong presentation.
The owner likes black and orange so we incorporated that using orange text and button elements, as well as natural occurring elements like the orange hi-vis in the photos. We also placed a semi-transparent black screen over some of the photos.
We then balanced the need for images and text to have white space above and below, so that the reader is not overwhelmed.
Skilled Electrical were consistently ranked #1 in Google Search Engine Page Results (SERPs) for “electrician Christchurch” and other similar keywords.
When migrating to a new site, the fear is that you can lose those rankings.
Google ranks pages based on about 200 different items in multiple, complex algorithms.
Types of Google ranking factors
According to WordStream, Marketers usually talk in terms of on- and off-page ranking factors, but there are really three groups:
- Off-page ranking factors: These are being measured by Google elsewhere from your site, and primarily involve backlinks.
- On-page ranking factors: These are mainly related to the keywords and informational quality of your pages.
- Technical ranking factors: These are also measured on your site, but have more to do with it’s overall performance as a whole, as opposed to individual pages.
It’s important to note that there isn’t one single ranking factor that will make or break your SEO. It’s the combination of all your technical, on-page, and off-page efforts that work together to build an SEO-friendly website.
1 Site and page speed
The new site is faster due to a better template and optimisations. Nobody likes a website that takes forever to load, and if you could ask search engines what they think, they would agree. That’s why having a website that loads quickly and seamlessly is a core component of technical SEO.
2 Usability on mobile
Skilled Electrical made sure that the template is mobile responsive and the user experience on a smartphone is good. Google uses mobile-first indexing when crawling websites. This means that the search engine predominantly uses the mobile version of a website when it’s evaluating a page.
3 Internal links
They took time to recreate many of the internal links that existed previously. This was difficult as there are far fewer pages on the new site. As mentioned earlier, search engines work by crawling and indexing different pieces of content on your website. The crawlers use internal links as a signal that helps them to analyze and properly index this information.
4 Keyword targeting
Incorporating an appropriate number of the keywords that Skilled Electrical are ranked for was a priority. Keywords are at the center of an effective SEO strategy. These are the search terms that people use when they go on a search engine to find what they’re looking for. Before you can start creating content for your website, it’s critical to conduct keyword research.
5 Title and header tags
Skilled Electrical updated some of the heading to include keywords and communicate a strong message. Once you know which keywords you want to rank for, it’s important to insert them into specific places on your page, like the title and header tags. Search engines use these tags to learn what the page is about and index it appropriately.
6 Meta description
The meta description is a short description that lives in the HTML code of your web page. Although it doesn’t appear on the page itself, it’s displayed in search results. In the image below, you can see the meta description that appears in light gray text. This didn’t change from the previous site as it was already optimised.
7 Image alt-text
There are still some images that lack alt-text, and this will be improved over time. If you’ve ever searched for anything on Google Images, you can probably guess that there’s an SEO component to images as well. Every image on your website comes with alt-text, also referred to as an alt-tag.
8 URL structure
Some of the URls were changed to improve clarity for the user. It may seem simple, but the way you structure your page URLs does have some impact on your search engine ranking. A jumbled URL with many mixed characters doesn’t do a good job of helping search engines learn about the page.
9 Information quality
Again, information has been clarified and is more concise to improve user experience. Google values freshness as well as accuracy and relevancy when determining rankings. If your website has been around for a while, there’s a good chance there’s a lot of old and underperforming content that’s just sitting there.
A backlink is a hyperlink that comes from a page outside of your website. Google launched its game-changing PageRank algorithm update back in 1996, which made clear that the number and quality of links to a page would be a strong indicator of the quality of a web page, and more than two decades later, it still is. This blog is now a new backlink for their website.
So how did they do?
Skilled Electrical had a brief hiccup when they went live, as Google indexed a temporary page instead of the new home page. Because of the post-live checklist this was picked up quickly, but took over 24 hours for Google to correct.
Skilled went from having 8 keywords ranked in the top 3 for electrical companies Christchurch, to having them ranked in the top 8 one week later.
That’s not too bad and can certainly be improved.
What else was done to ensure a great migration?
There are several keys to a successful migration.
Some, like content and keywords have already been mentioned.
Other critical aspects include making sure that redirects are put in place for all of the pages that have been getting traffic. There is nothing worse from a user experience than going to pages that no longer exist. The user shouldn’t even be able to see that this is happening – just take care of it.
When a business has multiple locations it ca help to add a separate page for each location. For example, Skilled Electrical operate in Christchurch and throughout Canterbury, but the are based in Bromley, Christchurch.
Creating a page, complete with internal linking to and from the home page tells Google that this is a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle that we need to be ranked for.
Submitting XML Sitemap & canonical
Because of the hiccup mentioned above Skilled Electrical needed to resubmit the sitemap a few days after launch. It took to recrawl requests before Google recognised the correct canonical info. Note that you want to be sure that your XML sitemap file(s) are pristine. You want to have zero URLs resulting in 404 errors and ensure all URLs are the destination URLs versus redirects or pages that canonical to another version.
Skilled Electricals’ developers monitored the new site for two weeks to ensure that any issues were picked up and corrected with urgency. Fortunately, nothing else has been an issue for them.
SEO is never a one-off piece of work. Skilled Electrical work with Duoplus, who are a leader in online marketing in NZ, as well as Google Ads in Hamilton, to ensure that they continue to dominate the rankings for electrical companies in Christchurch.
We wish Skilled Electrical all the very best with their new website.
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