Platform migrations are always a risky activity. Do I have the technical resources I need? Do I need to worry about the impact to my marketing channels? Are there best practices to follow? There are a ton of questions and you are right to seek the answers to each and every one. In this article we explore platform migrations and some of the common mistakes that are made and what the leader of the migration needs to be monitoring from project start to migration cut over. Platform migrations include a myriad of concerns so in this article our focus is path management.
The most common mistake companies make when migrating to a new platform is thinking that the core requirement is to find someone with experience migrating to the platform you have selected for your new website. While experience with the new platform is always an added value, it is actually the easiest adjustment for an experienced technologist. What you should be concerned with is how many migrations has this individual managed and what were the results of those migrations.
A platform migration can be a disaster for marketing channels with SEO being the most difficult to recover from when a migration goes bad. The key to managing a platform migration and retaining the value and continuity of the marketing channels is to look at the platform migration as a PATH MIGRATION. If I am performing a migration to Shopify, WordPress, Magento, Salesforce, of Big Commerce, the reality is I have experience with each of these platforms, but my primary concern is making sure I migrate the paths on the websites. With most migrations the top question should be “Will the URLs change?”. In some cases, you may want the URLs to change to reduce site management activities. A platform migration is an excellent time to provide more structure to your URLs to allow for advanced analytics and to segment sections of the website in Google Search Console. If the URLs will change, we need to think about the impact on existing customers and customers finding paths to the old platform.
Path management is like Adopt a Highway. Each channel of traffic is a section of a highway and someone must be assigned the task of keeping that section of the highway clean during the migration. Product feeds to support Affiliate and PLA (Product Listing Ad) channels must reflect the new product URLs. SEO history and link equity must be passed to the new URLs. Paid Search campaigns need to be updated to account for new URLs. The idea here is simple…do not create dead ends for existing paths to your website. With a large website, missing one path can be a significant impact. Consumers and fans provide links on websites and in Social channels to your website. Failure to account for these paths can result in lost traffic and skewed web analytics.
Platform migration managers handle these finite details so internal resources at the company can focus purely on the new experience, administrative training, and communications. A web developer rarely has the marketing knowledge required to manage path migrations. A SEO professional rarely has the technology background and or the background on other channels to successfully manage the migration. Redirecting URLs is one concern, how they are redirected to maintain paid channel tracking is a completely different concern. Handling the contingencies like passing parameters in the URL on redirects just in case product feeds or ad campaigns were not updated are what you should expect from your migration manager.
So how do I select a migration manager for my project? Start with asking each candidate for their checklist. Every platform migration expert has refined their checklist of activities over time. The more migrations under their belt, the more refined their checklist or migration cookbook so to speak will be. Selecting the platform migration manager before contracts are in place for designers or web developers is critical to eliminating additional cost. Every path migration item in their checklist becomes a contractual requirement that must be met for a successful migration. Obtaining the checklist and including the checklist in the contracts saves time, money, and prevents a website launch that frustrates existing customers and poorly functions as a source for new customer acquisition.
At sitejet we have extensive experience with platform migrations of all sizes. Protecting your customer experience is protecting your brand and protecting your brand is our top goal in all of our engagements. Contact us and let us provide guidance on your migration. We want your project to be successful regardless of who you choose to manage the project.