Do You Fear A Big Ranking Drop From Moving Ecommerce Platforms?
Moving your ecommerce site to a new platform is a huge decision. For well established sites generating good traffic and income the choice of platform and migration partner can be down right nerve racking. 99.9% of migration inquiries that I deal with start with the same opener, “I have to make sure that my site rankings don’t drop, so 301 redirects have to be set up.”
Will you experience a ranking drop when changing ecommerce platforms? Most likely you will.
I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but the majority of sites experience a drop in traffic after being moved. Typically, this drop in traffic ranges from 5-10% and is only temporary lasting a couple weeks, but sometimes up to several months.
Neil Patel of Quicksprout states that, “7 out of 10 marketers who release a new design see a decrease in either traffic or sales. It happens so often that everyone is now afraid to update their designs.”
If you have recently migrated ecommerce platforms resulting in a massive drop in traffic, unfortunately you are not alone.
The following example is pulled from a Moz discussion in which a site owner experienced an 80% drop in traffic.
So my main question is what are the odds our rankings have decreased due to the lack of 301 redirects during our migration to Bigcommerce versus the rankings decreasing do to Bigcommerce being a bad choice as a platform?
You said, “If you are sure that the technical issues are the main cause for your drops, then you better move it.”. To be honest, that’s what we can’t figure out. Did the lack of comprehensive 301’s which caused a lot of 404’s cause this, or our platform choice. That’s what we don’t know but are trying to figure out before we make a big move.
What could cause such a massive drop in traffic when migrating an ecommerce site?
The most common assumption is that 301 redirects weren’t implemented correctly, but there are a few factors that could actually trigger a drop in traffic like this.
1. URL Structure – Often times switching platforms coincides with a change in the url structure. This is probably the leading cause of massive drops in search traffic. URL structure and 301 redirects go hand in hand. If 301 redirects have not been set up or set up properly then it will take Google’s search engine quite a while to sort out the mess of old and new urls not to mention that any page authority and back link juice will be lost.
Some issues can start right at the root domain: Browsers today will display to a website to the user regardless of whether or not he or she typed “www.” Duplicate content issues arise when search engines see both www and non-www addresses as two different versions of the same page. Again, the best way to fix this is to use a rel=canonical tag in the code, telling Google which page is the best version for scanning.
2. 301 Redirects – “According to Matt Cutts in a recent Google Webmaster Help video, 301 redirects pass exactly the same amount of link juice (aka PageRank, or authority) as regular links. Cutts puts in a disclaimer that this policy could change over time but that, as of February 25, 2013, both pass equal amounts to the destination page.”
Do Too Many 301 Redirected Backlinks Hurt Rankings?
Matt Cutts has suggested that there is a Google algorithm created to discourage buying and 301ing domains for PageRank. As Matt Cutts said, If you’re only trying to buy a domain because these domains have some pre-existing links, then Google doesn’t necessarily want you to get that credit for free. Is it possible this algorithm may catch a few innocent 301d backlinks in the crossfire? Its certainly possible. Google’s algorithms may look unfavorably upon websites that have a high percentage of links being 301 redirected. This certainly could account for some webmasters’ reports of their sites dropping in rank after moving domains.
3. Change in Structure – More often than not a site migration coincides with a change in design. A change in design often means a change in the website’s navigational structure and content. Even minimal changes in the content of a landing page can cause problems in search by changing the relevance of ranking keywords for a given page.
4. BigCommerce Pagination – If you’ve got a large site with multiple pages of products, you may notice a duplicate Meta or content issue in Webmaster tools. This can actually become a pretty serious problem very quickly.
Simply, pagination is the sequential numbering of pages. In reference to the web, pagination means dividing a document, file, or database entries into sequential parts.
Many common blogs and CMS and forum platforms utilize pagination. In fact, it’s possible pagination is happening on your site without you even realizing it. Pagination is used in traditional publications, word processors, by search engines (see the bottom of Google’s results pages), and even Gmail.
For example, a long article may split into three pages, with links to “next” and page two and three at the bottom of an article. Or a typical blog might show 10 blog posts per page, with options at the bottom to go to “older” or “newer” posts.
Read Brent’s full article on this topic here.
5. Drawing Negative Attention – Lastly, moving a site will undoubtedly cause Google to take a good look at your site for re-indexing. There are still some sites that fly under the radar so-to-speak and for websites like this migrating to a new platform can be a devastating mistake. An example of how this can happen is when a website has been ranking for some decent terms but the content hasn’t been maintained or updated. Static website simply get phased out, but some linger in prime positions longer than others. When a website has been neglected a redesign or site migration can actually draw Google’s attention in a way you hadn’t anticipated; forcing Google to re-index your pages in a less opportune position.
So, can you move your ecommerce site without a traffic drop?
The truth is you should expect a slight traffic drop, but by paying attention to and creating a migration plan that addresses the points above you should be able migrate your site with minimal impact and then continue to improve your site’s performance on the new platform.
Please see Neil Patels infographic for a great reference as how to migrate or redesign your site successfully (attached here).