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Recovering Your Organic Search Traffic from a Web Migration Gone Wrong

I know you would never change a URL without identifying where to 301-redirect it and making sure that the links, XML sitemaps, and/or canonical tags are also updated. But if you’ve been doing SEO for a while, I bet you’ve also had a few clients — even big ones — coming to you after they’ve tried to do structural web changes or migrations of any type without taking SEO best practices into consideration.

Whenever this happens, your new client comes to you for help in an “emergency” type of situation in which there are two characteristics when doing the required SEO analysis:

  1. You need to prioritize:
    Your client is likely very nervous about the situation. You don’t have a lot of time to invest at the beginning to do a full audit right away. You’ll need to focus on identifying what hasn’t been doneduring the migration to make sure that the fundamental causes of the traffic loss are fixed — thenyou can move on with the rest.
  2. You might not have all the data:
    You might have only the basics — like Google Analytics & Google Search Console — and the information that the client shares with you about the steps they took when doing the changes. There are usually no previous rankings, crawls, or access to logs. You’ll need to make the most out of these two fairly easy-to-get data sources, new crawls that you can do yourself, and third-party “historical” ranking data. In this analysis we’ll work from this existing situation as a “worst-case scenario,” so anything extra that you can get will be an added benefit.

How can you make the most out of your time and basic data access to identify what went wrong and fix it — ASAP?

Let’s go through the steps for a “minimum viable” web migration validation to identify the critical issues to fix:

1. Verify that the web migration is the cause of the traffic loss.

To start, it’s key to:

  • Obtain from the client the specific changes that were done and actions taken during the migration, so you can identify those that had been likely missed and prioritize their validations when doing the analysis.
  • Check that the time of the traffic loss coincides with that of the migration to validate that it was actually the cause, or if there were different or coinciding factors that might have affected at the same time that you can later take into consideration when doing the full audit and analysis.