SEO migration: domain name change Case Study

SEO Migration

During the last few years, I’ve been working on a number of new, established and startup businesses, involving multiple websites and different goals.

What I’m going to tell you about now is an SEO migration that I did in 2016 for a start-up company in the sporting goods.

The business was running a 2011 version of their site with an old ecommerce platform. Their website wasn’t responsive and updating the content of product pages required the assistance of a developer, which was obviously a situation they wanted resolved.

Inline with improved brand awareness the business wanted to migrate their whole website to a different domain name.

SEO migration results

The old domain was in the format of brand name + main product .com (www.brandnamemainproduct.com). The client requested to change it so it was just the brand name .com (brandname.com).
The site had 4 languages, for 6 markets. It was on HTTP, and the web hosting company had to change to a VPS.

As a start-up company, they had to follow the decision made by the board of funders. I’m specifying this because, even though the website was not ready for a migration, we had to proceed anyway.

Summarising the migration requests, they wanted to:

  • Change the ecommerce platform
  • Migrate from http://www.brandnamemainproduct.com to https://brandname.com
  • Migrate from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Migrate 4 languages and 6 markets in 1 language in 3 markets
  • Change the web hosting space to a VPSI was asked to migrate the site to English as the only language in 3 markets: Ireland, UK and USA, removing the other languages of the site.

A mapping file was created to redirect all the pages from http://www.brandnamemainproduct.com to the corresponding ones on https://brandname.com.
The new version of the site didn’t include some of the products and categories previously on sale. So, these URLs were redirected to the most relevant alternative category and product pages. I wanted Google to discover and rank the site as quickly as possible, so implementing a significant number of 410 error pages was not feasible because each product variant (colour, size, etc) had its own page.

The migration deadline had been postponed many times, and Christmas was rapidly approaching. The board decided to go live with the new site, even though it was not completely ready.
The main technical work had been undertaken during the first half of October, and it lasted for approximately one month.

The new site was ready in October. Once the site structure was fine, a number of permanent 301 and temporary 302 redirects were activated with a .htaccess file.

Permanent 301 status code redirects were implemented for the main Irish area of the site, and the blog.
Temporary 302 status code redirects were implemented on areas of the site which were not yet localised, UK and US version included.

SEO migration SEMrush

A few weeks later, once all the English language contents were ready and implemented, the temporary 302 status codes were moved to a permanent 301.
At the same time the 302 redirects, which redirected to the temporary alternatives in English, were transformed to permanent. The board then decided that they didn’t want to implement any other languages in the future. This decision was made after the SEO migration had commenced, even though the site content was supposed to migrate entirely in 4 languages and 6 markets.

Together with the content and redirects, the hreflang annotations were implemented to make sure that the right users (and Google) could find the right content.

After the technical aspects were almost complete, I worked on the backlink profile, prioritising the most authoritative backlinks and reaching out to the website owners to request a change the backlink address.

Consequently, during the implementation of the SEO migration, there was a fall in traffic for a few weeks. After that, in the following period of a few weeks, most of the rankings went back to their pre-existing status, and the site recovered.

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