Migrating your ecommerce site?
That’s a good thing, particularly if your current site just isn’t up to par for today’s impatient mobile shoppers. But as anyone who’s been through the process can attest, it’s also complicated, and can create a lot of headaches.
Conversions could drop. Reporting could be off. SERP rankings could tank.
Don’t let those things happen to you.
We sat down with Erick Smith, Lead Retail Search Manager at CPC Strategy, to compile this checklist for your next site migration so you can avoid common pitfalls.
Build & Optimize a New Master Feed
Switching platforms most likely means a new master feed.
Whether you’re working with an agency or managing your feed in-house, keep a copy of your existing feed as a sample that your developers can use when building the new feed.
And if your current feed is missing useful information, now is the time to include that additional information.
Maintain Existing Product IDs if Possible
This is probably the most important part of your migration.
A product’s history on Google and other channels is tied to its product ID, so if the product ID changes, relevancy may take a hit.
If possible, maintain your existing Product IDs or SKUs. As new products are added to the feed, they should receive the new IDs.
Get more details about how to avoid losing feed relevancy during a migration.
Re-Install Tracking Pixels & URL Verifications
Most likely, when you switch platforms, you’ll need to re-install tracking pixels.
Send your tracking pixels with installation instructions to your developer to be installed ASAP so you don’t miss out on valuable data.
Frequently, the verification tags needed for Google/Bing Merchant Centers get lost in the shuffle, so make sure to keep those copied in a safe place.
Check Referrals in Google Analytics
Check Google Analytics to ensure all referral sources are accurate (no cross-domain or self-referrals).
The biggest culprit here tends to be Paypal.
If you start to see “Paypal” referring sales, you’ll want to follow these steps from the Director of Technology at CPC, Tien Nguyen:
- Within Google Analytics, go to:
Admin>Tracking Info>Referral Exclusion List>+Add Referral Exclusion
- Type in “paypal.com” (or the source you want to exclude)
- How to Block Referrer Spam From Your Analytics Account
- How Attribution Modeling Impacts Retail Marketing Campaigns [Video]
Update Landing Pages & Site Structure
A new site might look and function better, but we’ve seen conversion rates take a hit because:
- The “Add to Cart” button is too small or below the fold
- There’s a lack of product information (e.g. product descriptions and features)
- Your site isn’t mobile-friendly
In terms of site structure, be careful if you carry products with size and color variations.
We’ve had examples where the “child” variants that are listed on site changes and leads to a decrease in conversion rate.
For example, you may have previously listed all child variants in their own URLs, but your new structure may add them all to one page. This can decrease conversions simply because products are harder to find (SEO) and navigate on site.
One final note about your redesign–make sure you’re testing landing pages for usability amongst your target market.
Here are some sites that are helpful for generating user feedback:
If the site is not easy to navigate, even if your pages look pretty, your conversions report might not.
A Note About Mobile Optimization
We could write an entire section about mobile optimization. In 2015, one report showed “U.S. adults spent 59% of their time on mobile and 41% on desktop, but just 15% of their dollars on mobile and a staggering 85% of their dollars on desktop”.
However, that’s not because users didn’t want to make a purchase on mobile. Instead, it’s likely that the site’s mobile experience was too slow, hard to navigate, or glitchy. Make sure that’s not you.
- How to Creatively Build Out Your Landing Pages with Unique Content
- How to Tell if Your Site is Mobile Friendly
- 4 Ecommerce Site UX Problems That Are Killing Your Conversions
Take Care of Technical Errors
A site redesign is also a great time to take care of some technical spring cleaning. What we mean:
- Take care of 301 redirects/404 errors
As you migrate your site over and your developer generates 301 redirects page-to-page, make sure to generate a list of 404 errors on pages. You can use the Google Search Console to monitor the status of your pages.
- Ensure images are compressed
This is a good time to optimize your images for the web if you haven’t already–especially for mobile users. You have to strike a balance here between usability and site speed. Large file sizes for images can bog down a site, but you don’t want to sacrifice image quality. After all, your visitors will want to zoom into a picture in order to see more features. Compress images enough so that they speed up your site loading time without sacrificing quality.
Optimize the Checkout Process
Similar to landing pages, the checkout process will often change when switching sites.
While it’s often improved, we’ve had instances where conversion rates decrease after a platform switch.
Some factors that could impact your conversion rate:
- Switching from a multi-page checkout vs a one-page checkout (or vice versa)
- Sticking with a default checkout vs. custom checkout
The moral of the story: Not all checkouts are created equal. Make sure you know how your current checkout process performs, and make sure to keep an eye on your new checkout process to ensure your customers aren’t hitting walls along the way to completing a purchase.
Avoid Common SEO Issues
Certain CMS platforms aren’t SEO friendly.
Hidden behind the flashy design of the site, there’s a ton of code.
Some platforms limit code bloat while others are excessive. This can slow down page load times and add crawlable content that is mainly noticed by search engines.
A strong developer can and should clean a lot of this up, but most of the time it’s overlooked.
Here are a couple keys to maintaining your site rank on the SERP:
- Ensure that the URL structure remains the same. Changing the URL structure has a massive negative SEO impact. If URLs are rewritten, then Google is forced to crawl and re-index the entire site–not to mention you’ll have to rebuild entire text ad accounts so that the destination URLs are accurate. This process can take a while and unless you’re a major brand, it will likely cause a drop in rankings.
- Make page titles, descriptions, and H1s unique to each page of the site. This doesn’t mean there can’t be overlap for some products or categories–just make sure that everything isn’t identical across the board. All three elements play a role in organic ranking since Google uses this information to understand what each page is about.
- Don’t omit valuable keyword-driven content. Wholesale changes or removal of content (body copy) on the site will impact the overall keyword density of a page and the website ranking overall. If anything, increase the amount of keyword-rich copy on your site. Obviously, don’t go overboard, but adding in a couple terms to key pages can have a positive post-launch effect.
Site visitors who use your search bar are closer to buying your products than the average visitor. Most site search plugins pull from content within each page: Categories, headers, paragraphs, tags, etc. If you keep all of those consistent, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Pro-Tip: Implement a site search plugin or plugin that will give you the ability to see user queries. This will give you a clue about what your users want to see most.
KPIs to Monitor Post-Migration
Here are some basic metrics to keep an eye on post-migration. These metrics can alert you to negative effects from your changes. Make sure you keep track of what these metrics were on your old site for comparison:
- Organic traffic/rank drop: Are you seeing a dip in traffic to your site overall?
- Conversion rate drop: Conversion rates vary for ecommerce sites, but what is normal for you? Have you dipped?
- AOV: What’s your average order value, and has this declined?
- Site speed: A low site speed could be anything from a platform issue to an SEO problem. Either way, it will decrease conversions.
- Bounce rate: Are customers bouncing from your site faster than normal? Are mobile users bouncing faster than desktop users? Get to the root of bounce rate issues (hint: it’s frequently tied to your site speed).
- Add to cart rate: Are your customers having trouble navigating your site and finding products? This metric is often reflected in a higher bounce rate.
Have a Backup Plan and Test, Test, Test
In the flurry of changes during a site migration, don’t neglect to implement a fallback plan.
As Hiram Cruz, the Lead Graphic Designer and website development guru at CPC Strategy points out, you should always develop your new website in a “dev” or test environment, not on your actual site.
In addition, if you have a high volume of organic or paid traffic, don’t roll out changes all at once. Implement A/B tests across portions of your population using a tool such as Optimizely.
Finally, keep your old site files as a backup. That way, if things go awry, you can revert back to your original site.