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Righting the ship: Shopify migration SEO (10/17-6/18)

Migration SEO: how I resolved critical SEO issues from a client’s WordPress>Shopify migration.

Opportunity

Business: reclaim valuable organic search positions lost from moving from WordPress platform to Shopify
SEO: consult to offer client a “best path” to address and fix the priority migration SEO issues within a contained scope of work
SEO: do 301 redirects & redirect resolution, indexation fixes, and structural SEO spreadsheet and Shopify implementation work to make an impact and right the ship as quickly as possible

The Way Forward

October 2017-present: Based in the Chicago area, SeabuckWonders, an e-commerce site selling health & beauty supplements, runs an online business dependent on having a strong search presence on Google. When they moved from WordPress to Shopify (a move that can make sense for similar businesses, based on Shopify’s out-of-the-box functionality for e-commerce and typical ease of use), they noticed a significant drop in rankings despite doing the migration SEO tactic they thought was needed to keep their search value: 301 redirects.

What went wrong? When they contacted me to provide SEO consulting and propose a way forward, I saw after looking into the redirect app they were using that redirects weren’t consistently set up “one-to-one” (old site URL A > matching new site URL B), and things were generally a mess in the new site. So Google hadn’t properly attributed the value (and corresponding search position) to new Shopify URLs. Many review pages with search value had been stuffed in an /archive/ folder and left unpublished.

Additionally, there were a ton of Search Console 404’s – one sign of a sloppy site migration – URLs on the WordPress site that not been redirected.

In October 2017, when I was first approached by the client, I saw this using the tool SEM Rush (an approximation of what the change in keyword positions was causing in terms of organic traffic): see slide 2.

So the move had been done in August and the site still hadn’t recovered two months later. To reclaim as much SEO value as possible, I:
• Cleaned up and optimized their URL & site structure
• Removed junky/low quality pages from the index using “no index”
• Revised existing 301 redirect chains (redirects from URL A> URL B > URL C can cause performance lags)
• Added new 301’s to address convoluted URL structure in certain folders as well as the broken links (404s) that Search Console had found

In short, it was a mountain of technical SEO clean-up work. Shopify also complicates things in one aspect regarding URL structure: they force users to use certain URL folders for their Product, Category, Blog and Static (CMS) pages, and so it’s not advised to use a simple sitewide 301 redirect without looking at how/whether your URLs will fit into these constraints.

That wasn’t all of it, of course; in addition to trying to reclaim all of the value from the WordPress site I also was looking at how to optimize SERP appearance and Shopify pages for the target keywords that they should be owning in search, including how to improve in search (both onsite/offsite) via competitor analysis.

Through technical SEO work (in short: an intensive effort that involved lots of spreadsheeting and a gained familiarity with the ins and outs of the Shopify framework) my goal for SEO was to “right the ship” so to speak and stop the drop in organic search positions, positioning for a climb after three months.

It wasn’t easy, and due to the WordPress>Shopify site migration I had to communicate to my client that the short-term SEO expectations were simply a leveling off in search performance metrics, but these efforts were successful. I noticed by March that the number of new 404s that Search Console was picking up had slowed to a trickle — good news that the migration SEO work to “stop the bleeding” had been successful — and, even better, by the end of January the Shopify site had finally started to improve over pre-migration performance metrics.

And with intensified focus on improving for specific keyword positions, here’s where things stand now in June. This is the “long view” of organic clicks and search impressions (the two metrics I key in on for most SEO projects) over roughly 8 months: see slide 3.

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