Content is the driving force behind the most effective marketing strategies, from inbound campaigns to demand generation. With personalized user experiences, Uberflip’s content experience framework gives marketers tools to make the most of that content at every stage of the buyer journey. Any website migration, however, can result in organic traffic loss if it’s not executed carefully.
Marketers’ fear of losing hard-earned organic traffic is completely valid. Organic traffic reflects the highest potential for attracting prospects:
- In 2019, BrightEdge reported that organic search dominates website traffic, accounting for 53% of all trackable traffic. That represents a 2% growth from their 2014 study, and compares to 15% for paid search and 5% for organic social.
- Google research shows that when a question or need arises, 87% of people turn to search first, a statistic that underscores the importance of search as the beginning of a buyer’s journey.
- SparkToro's 2018 case study concluded that 65.6 of 100 desktop searches resulted in clicks on organic search results. That’s far stronger than comparable data for paid search at 3.7 clicks for every 100 searches.
There are many reasons for a company to implement Uberflip. Sometimes they’re in the early stages of their content marketing efforts. In other situations, companies switch to Uberflip after having achieved a notable level of success generating organic traffic with their existing content, including blogs, thought leadership pieces, and product material. But no matter where a company is in relation to their content goals, organic traffic is invaluable and must be protected during migration.
Search engines move in one direction—forward. Google’s value to advertisers stems directly from their value to users who are searching for content. Errors can cause search tools to skip over previously performing pages. Given an unlimited supply of content for Google algorithms to rank, they likely won’t return.
Some organic search traffic can occasionally be recovered if errors are fixed quickly, but there are no guarantees. The only way to prevent this traffic loss is to establish, implement, and thoroughly test all content prior to the launch of the new site. A seamless migration that retains all organic traffic requires careful planning and testing.
What Are the Causes of Traffic Loss?
There are four common causes of organic traffic loss—and all are avoidable:
- Not having the right redirects in place. Redirects ensure that content that was generating organic traffic redirects users to new pages.
- Content changes. Changes to the original pages that either alter meaning or substantially edit pages will affect results.
- Major technical SEO issues. Technical issues can block the function of SEO tags and tools and undermine access to the organic traffic.
- UX changes. Changes in the way a webpage appears or functions can undermine the user experience (UX) making access to content more difficult.
How Can I Prevent Traffic Loss?
Once understood, these issues can be addressed and tested prior to launch—thus avoiding the loss of a single organic traffic visitor from search engines.
Let’s take a look at each issue in more depth and explore the most effective means to counter them.
Launch Uberflip With Perfect Redirects in Place
Redirects reroute incoming traffic to a different destination. Their implementation can be subtle, however, and errors can cause substantial damage.
One-to-one redirects protect a website's authority and search rankings when subdomain or subfolder changes put the page in a new location. The one-to-one redirect points a specific URL from the original location to its new location at a new URL. This is critically important because search engines will not hunt for the new location.
URLs might change for any number of reasons, including site restructuring or a migration to a content experience hub like Uberflip. With one-to-one redirects in place, browsers will display the page at its new location instead of the one originally entered by the user, keeping the migration seamless.
In organic search, URLs that result in Page Not Found (404) errors lose rankings and, thus, traffic, as users disengage due to a poor experience and/or Google tries to crawl the page and finds it missing. The primary cause of organic search traffic loss is imperfect redirect implementation, or no redirects at all.
Redirect failures undermine other channels as well. On social channels, a broken link often creates a broken preview image, which tells users not to click. On paid channels, broken links are penalized. Google’s AdWords policies specifically state that “destinations that don't function properly or have been incorrectly set up” are not allowed.
Terminology can be important in SEO work since protocols define subtle differences in behavior, so let’s start with a definition of terms. A 301 redirect refers to the HTTP response status code for “moved permanently.” The response code should include the new location of the page. The code redirects site visitors and search engines to a different URL.
Create a 301 Redirect Map
To avoid redirect errors in migrating existing URLs to Uberflip, it’s helpful to create a redirect map that specifies redirect targets. The map establishes a clear set of objectives that can be used to test the staged implementation before a site goes live.
To create a redirect map:
Collect lists of both original and planned Uberflip-based URLs. Depending on the complexity of your site, tools like Excel or crawling apps can be helpful for gathering current URLs and reviewing the planned redirection.
Compare the lists side by side. Spreadsheets can be useful for this as they allow filtering and sorting of lists independently. A side-by-side arrangement makes it easier to be sure every URL is captured.
Map the current URLs to the new target URLs. The mapping creates a clear one-to-one redirect between the links.
For many URLs, such as the contact page, the association between old and new is straight forward. The most important pages, however, are often those that are not obvious and require care to correctly map. Your thoughtful analysis of your buyer journey and content categorizations will help considerably in building the redirect map.
Test 301 Redirects
Using your map defining the plan, your team can execute the 301 redirects for your deployment in a staging or test environment. Thorough testing is crucial.
The best way to run the test is to follow a structured quality assurance test plan that follows the direct map. Screaming Frog SEO Spider software is a great tool for this kind of testing. You can use it to easily crawl your existing environment to capture the list of URLs, and then in your staging environment to execute the same test. In staging, every URL on the original site should redirect as planned. After releasing the new site to production, you should execute the test one more time to be sure no organic traffic visitors are lost.
Freezing Content Simplifies the Migration
Web content lends itself to a process of continual testing. The concept of optimizing starts with known and predictable data that forms a benchmark for future changes. In preparation for the launch of an Uberflip content hub, it’s important to freeze content changes before and during the migration.
This ensures that traffic data from before the migration can form a clear baseline for post-move analysis. Once benchmarked, the changed site becomes the new analytical standard after the migration. Queuing changes until after the analysis is complete helps avoid distortions created by the content changes themselves.
Common content changes that affect organic traffic include:
Truncating content: If long-form content is cut short for the new site, the page may start to lose organic traffic as Google crawls it and determines that the content no longer meets users’ needs.
Refocusing content: This commonly occurs on product and solutions pages. If those pages are getting organic traffic, but the content is updated to address a different purpose or new direction, Google (and users) may decide that the content no longer serves users’ needs, so it starts to lose traffic.
These may seem like innocuous changes meant to improve a page, but changing them during the migration risks muddying data that is vital to optimizing the new content hub.
Mitigate Technical Issues
Uberflip’s SEO certification from Profound Strategy mitigates the mission-critical and high-priority issues that typically tank site migrations. This is particularly important for custom-built websites where complex structures can make testing difficult.
While Uberflip is the only SEO-certified content experience platform, implementing best practices in search optimization is still important.
1. Use canonical tags. Add a canonical meta tag to a page's HTML if the content is the primary resource for a set of information. The tag essentially tells Google, “these pages with different URLs look like duplicates of one another, so here's the URL of the primary version.”
This is particularly important in Uberflip implementations where the same piece of content may appear on multiple pages. In general, Uberflip recommends webmasters enable the canonical metatag on all streams. Designating a canonical tag is better for SEO than not having one.
2. Don’t copy over junk code. So-called "junk code" is typically inserted by web builder tools that use templates to simplify the creation of webpages. To protect the integrity of templates, user modifications are added in addition to template code creating a nest of redundancy that slows performance for visitors and for crawling tools. Cleaning pages of junk code can improve both responsiveness and discoverability.
3. Make sure a site is indexable. Various configurations in a webpage specify access to search engines. The robots.txt file, for example, tells search engine crawlers which pages and files the crawler can or can't request. Search engines can only follow links that include an <a> tag with an href attribute. Links that use other formats will not be followed. Google can natively index a wide variety of file formats, including PDF, RTF, and Word documents. If a file type is not natively crawlable (videos or podcasts, for example), provide relevant metadata in a sitemap.
Don’t Exacerbate UX Issues
To evaluate UX improvements from a site migration, having a benchmark for UX is as important as content. You don’t want to make changes to the UX prior to migration because you need to ensure that comparisons will be useful. You also want to make sure that the new site reflects continuous UX improvements over the original site.
Fortunately, migrating a site to the Uberflip platform can very positively transform the user experience and drive conversions. The nature of Uberflip content streams allows for the creation of personalized experiences tailored to the interests of buyers.
Perform a Post-Launch Audit
After completing all tests and launching an Uberflip-enabled site, it’s essential to perform a post-launch SEO audit. The audit is critical to identifying any errors quickly so that they can be corrected before they negatively affect organic traffic and page rankings. The longer any issues fester, the more difficult they are to mitigate.
The careful preparation work prior to launch forms a useful checklist for best practices and avoiding likely errors.
Ensure pages are crawlable by search engines (review tags, attributes, and errors).
Review all Redirect (301) and Page Not Found (404) errors to be sure pages are behaving as expected.
Review the list of SEO technical issues found during the pre-launch preparation to ensure that none were carried over and no new issues were introduced.
Submit URLs (or a representative sample of them) to tests using Google Search Console.
These tests should be completed as quickly as possible after launch. Testing should also become a routine part of monitoring to ensure that updates and changes don’t negatively impact organic traffic results. Be particularly careful to review and retire content that becomes contradictory, redundant, or out of date with the addition of new material.
Get No-Loss Migration Support from an Uberflip Partner
By anticipating and mitigating the aforementioned issues, marketers can accomplish a successful migration to an Uberflip content experience platform without the loss of even a single organic traffic visitor. The key is a clear-eyed understanding of how web crawlers work, careful mapping of the hard-earned organic traffic to the new pages, and thorough testing of all changes before and after the new site goes live.
A strong technical team can manage the migration on their own, but if you need help, Profound Strategy offers an SEO Support for an Uberflip Migration service package. Profound Strategy is uniquely positioned to support Uberflip at this stage because they’re the team that gave Uberflip its SEO certification.
Once migration is complete, your new Uberflip content experience hub can start with your original site’s organic traffic as a baseline to grow engagement and drive conversion.
About the AuthorMore Content by Nate Dame