SEO Best Practice When Migrating to Shopify
April 7, 2022
Our StoreFeeder software is used by clients with sites hosted on Magento, Woocommerce, Bigcommerce, OpenKart, EKM, Bluepark and more. And, although we integrate with many platforms, it’s not uncommon for our clients to migrate between different hosts when upgrading their website. In fact, Storefeeder acts as a consistent partner for our clients, regardless of their ecommerce platform, as we enjoy helping them migrate successfully to ensure their business doesn’t miss a beat.
Migrating your ecommerce store from any other platform to Shopify is quite the task and needs plenty of preparation. A thorough understanding of SEO best practices and migration principles will be invaluable during this process and so, although we have created the below guide, we would highly recommend seeking expert advice or contracting an experienced marketing agency to ensure that all goes well.
Below, we’ve split our migration preparation guide into two parts. The first, outlines a number of tasks we would recommend undertaking in advance of any migration to Shopify in order to prepare, and the second is a checklist of items businesses should ensure are being taken care of during the process.
Advanced Shopify Migration Preparation for SEO
- Create a Site Plan and Supporting Spreadsheets
It’s important to look at your new website through an SEO lens. This means deciding on a structure that is both sensible from an SEO and UX perspective, as this will allow you to maintain key search positions, and allow your new website to rank highly.
In order to create a site plan, you will need to do a lot of research beforehand. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Conducting competitor keyword and keyword gap analysis to determine search opportunities that could assist with both the structure and the design of key pages
- Creating a keyword map to identify target keywords for each page based on keyword volume and difficulty scores
- Undertake link gap analysis to identify quick-win and long-term linking opportunities which will increase domain authority and improve chances of ranking organically
- Keyword cannibalisation, to ensure that internal pages are not competing with each other - and diluting the chances of different pages ranking. This might be caused by having multiple overlapping categories, or categories which hold only one product and therefore compete with the product page itself organically.
- Conduct a full audit of your current website
Although it’s tempting to abandon your current website (which is perfectly natural when you’re investing in a new website), we do encourage you to undertake a full audit of your current site. By conducting this audit you can consider optimisations that could be made in advance of the new site going live.This could include optimising page titles, meta descriptions and on-page descriptions early on in the build project. The benefits of content improvements, in particular, can then be carried over to the new website.
However, we do recommend that you avoid making too many changes just before your site is due to go live. Many high-quality sites are often well researched, considered and can take months to build. Because of this, we would recommend using your build-timeline effectively and schedule time in the build process to make content improvements in advance, as these amendments can then be transferred to the new site.
If you are pushed for time when it comes to SEO content, ensure that any new meta content is uploaded only after a smooth transition has been achieved (roughly 1-2 weeks after launch).
- Conduct toxic link analysis
Another small task that we would recommend in advance of your new website launch is to conduct a toxic link analysis. This will see you identify and disavow any backlinks which could be negatively impacting domain authority. This should be done fairly regularly throughout the year, but if it’s a task that has been neglected, then getting a new website is the perfect opportunity to add this to your SEO to-do list.
Consult with your developer about SEO plugins for Shopify
We recommend consulting with both your developer and SEO specialist ahead of your migration, particularly when it comes to choosing which Shopify Plugins will support your new site. As a starter, we often recommend the following plugins:
- Matrixify. For the import/export of meta content and redirects when migrating
- Product Filter & Search - For managing SEO-friendly filtering
- Smart SEO - a handy top level SEO suite which allows you to make speed improvements, fix broken links and manage your sitemap among other things. Ideal if you don’t have an in-house SEO or agency
Essential Go-Live SEO Shopify Migration Checklist
If you’re reading this blog post long before the migration date to Shopify, then we hope the above information helps to make the process run smoothly.
For those who are gearing up to the migration or are looking for an SEO checklist to pass on to an expert or agency, then we have prepared the below list of core tasks that should be undertaken in order to ensure a seamless transition away from your old platform and onto Shopify.
- Setup Google Analytics and GA4
- Ensure Advanced Ecommerce Tracking is enabled
This might seem basic, but when you get caught up in the thousands of tasks that run alongside a site launch, there is a risk that this isn’t prioritised. Not only should you ensure that Google Analytics is up and running with ecommerce tracking enabled, you should also ensure that it’s set up correctly. Look out for things like an unusually low bounce rate (<10%) - as this may be a sign tracking is triggering twice causing pageviews to double and bounce rate to be artificially low.
If you’re reading this blog in 2022, Universal Analytics will be replaced with Google Analytics 4. So it’s important to ensure you set up both on your new website. GA4 does not pull across old data, so if you want month-on-month or year-on-year results from 2023, then this needs to be set up correctly in cohesion with Universal Analytics. Please note that any goals and events won’t pull across, and so these will all need to be set up manually within GA4.
- Setup Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster Tools
- Upload sitemap.xml to both platforms
- If the root domain is changing - register change of address in Google Search Console and the Site Move tool in Bing
- Crawl old and new sites using a tool such as Screaming Frog or Deepcrawl
- Ensure there are no broken links (404s)
- Ensure there are no server errors (500’s)
- Ensure there are no or minimum redirects (301s)
- Update any links pointing to old URLs (usually found in the information pages and blogs)
We recommend using Screaming Frog software to crawl your old and new websites. The software can then be used to identify any broken links, server errors and redirects across the entire site. These can then be addressed quickly on a case-by-case basis. You can also set up a 404 report within Google Analytics on migration day to flag any redirects that may have been missed and are causing users to receive a 404 error. A free version of Screaming Frog is available but is limited to 500 URLs so if you have a larger site - it could be worthwhile investing.
- Generate redirects CSV and upload using Matrixify (if applicable)
- Ensure no redirect loops are present (which occurs when the old and new URLs are the same)
- PageSpeed Insights: website should score 80 or above
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to check the speed of your new site across all devices. Of course, this should have been tested throughout the development process - but it’s worth monitoring on website migration day and beyond too.
- Default meta titles and descriptions based off [page title] + [business name] separated by a pipe symbol ‘|’ (this gives you a little more room when constructing title links and meta descriptions).
We recommend using the page title with | [business name] as default when new pages are created. All page titles and meta descriptions on the site should be optimised by this point, but it’s worth consulting with your development team on a fixed structure rule which is automatically created when new pages are generated. This should minimise the risk of new pages being made that feature your business name twice and keep page titles looking consistent.
- Valid HTTPS - no mixed content issues
Watch out for mixed content issues caused by pages indexing with HTTP and HTTPS or trailing slashes.
- External links - open in a new window by default
Request that your developers ensure that external links are set to open in a new window by default.
- ‘Business‘ structured data added to the homepage (name, contact info, address etc.)
Add business and other relevant structured data to your homepage and other key pages (e.g. FAQs). This will give your business the best chance of appearing in brand, local and other rich result panels.
Which types of structured data you would benefit from on your website will vary from business to business, so we highly recommend consulting an SEO expert or agency to work alongside your development team on this.
- Google My Business page set up and optimised (only applicable if your website has a physical address accessible to the public)
If your business has a Google My Business page, then check that it is properly set up and optimised accordingly. Remember, if you are changing your URL, then this is just one of the places the link should be updated manually, rather than relying on a redirect.
- Custom favicon - ideally in SVG format for retina displays
Your custom favicon appears in search results as well as within a browser tab - so check that this is correctly set and that you’re happy with how it looks.
- Fetch as Google - test to see if everything renders correctly
Using Google Search Console, you can submit your URLs to check that everything is as it should be. This is worth doing with a selection of different pages, including the homepage, product pages, category pages, blog pages, information landing pages and more.
- Google Mobile Friendliness test
Use Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly to check that you receive a passing score.
- Monitor live analytics on the day of launch to check that 404 pages are not being accessed. Add redirect if and where applicable
On the day of your site launch, check for 404s using Screaming Frog and Google Analytics to ensure that no redirects have been missed.
For international sites:
- Ensure hreflang tags are implemented correctly (if multiple language URLs are present)
- Geo IP detection - it’s best practice to ask users if they want to be directed first, no automatic redirects
- Validate all properties in Google Search Console
Although after your shiny new website goes live a lot of the hard work will be done, there are a couple more things that we would recommend undertaking to ensure that best-practice is followed end-to-end:
- Request that high-value links are updated if the URL has changed
This is important if you have recently changed your domain name, but is still particularly important even if this is not the case.
Over time, your old website will have built up a number of valuable links from other websites. These are referred to as your referral links.
Use a piece of software such as Ahrefs or Semrush to give you an export of all of these websites which link to your website. Using this software, you will be able to identify referral links that are of the highest value. Even if a redirect is in place for that link, we recommend that you contact any websites with a strong domain authority (e.g. 60-70+) and request that they update the link that they use to the most relevant new link.
The value of your referral links may be diluted slightly by a redirect, so if you manage to get some of these high-value links updated then this may help with your site’s overall SEO performance.
- Continue to monitor your performance over time
Although we have outlined a lot of migration best-practice if you’re moving your website onto Shopify, we cannot account for every change that has been made to your website along the way.
For example, your new website design may be minimal and strip out space for on-page content. Design changes that impact content in this way may harm your SEO performance.
Therefore, it’s important that you monitor your website’s keyword and organic traffic performance over time post-launch.
We would expect some movement in positions as Google adjusts to the changes you have made, but this should settle over time. If you don’t see things improve, then you may need to unpick changes which may have been detrimental to performance. In order to do this, you need to consult a specialist for a full audit of your site.
We hope that the above information is valuable to you if you are planning to migrate your website from your existing platform onto Shopify.
At StoreFeeder, our software supports clients across Magento, Shopify, Woocommerce, BigCommerce and many more leading ecommerce platforms. As such, from time to time, our customers require our support when moving from one platform to another.
Should you require any assistance, please get in touch with a member of our team who will be able to support you or point you in the direction of an SEO specialist.