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Google Shares Advice on Site Migrations

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Google Shares Advice on Site Migrations


Google published a new video about site migrations. John Mueller offered insights into how Google handles website migrations and how long they can take. The major takeaways are that site migrations can be difficult and that a comprehensive plan needs to be in place before the migration.

The video begins with a question:

“We’re currently going through a site migration and we’d also like to restructure the URLs on the site. Does this impose any risks?”

Migrating a site typically means changing the domain name, sometimes because the company is merged with another one or because the branding changed.

Joining two sites together are the trickiest because you have to choose what URLs will remain and which will be merged into existing pages that are similar.

John Mueller answered:

“Unfortunately, while this may at first sound like a small change within a website, it’s not that simple for search engines.

In particular, search engines like Google store their index on a per-page basis.

So if you change the address or the URL of a page, that page’s data has to be forwarded somehow, otherwise it gets lost.

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It doesn’t matter if you’re completely rebuilding a website or if you’re just removing a slash from the end of URLs. These are all essentially site moves.”

John Mueller Offers Site Migration Tips

1. Research the Options and Potential Effects

Site moves can be disruptive so it’s important to plan out the move by mapping one site to another. One way to do it is to divide the two sites into sections and see if sections can map to each other.

From there it’s a matter of mapping URLs one to one and deciding which URLs cannot be moved to the new site and should resolve to a 404 response, which can be tough if there are links pointing to those pages. Which is why it’s important to plan ahead, thoroughly.

Mueller advised:

“Since these changes take time and have ranking effects, it’s also recommended to consider the timing of when you make a move.”

Screenshot of Google’s John Mueller

2. Create a List of Old and New URLs

This is an important step.

According to John:

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“…This tip will help help you to track and check the changes afterward.”

A good practice is to create a spreadsheet of URLs, which can easily be done with Screaming Frog.

Once you’ve got the redirects in place and the new URLs up, you can check the work by uploading the list of the old site structure to Screaming Frog so that it can crawl the URLs.

This is easily done by selecting Mode > List then clicking on the Upload drop down menu tab and selecting the type of file being uploaded.

Screaming Frog will crawl the old URLs in the list and show you which URLs are redirecting to the new URLs and which are not and returning a 404 page not found error response code.

The 404 URLs may be the URLs that didn’t make it over to the new site (if they aren’t the URLs planned on being purposely dropped).

You’ll have to determine if the 404 is the correct response (you meant to do that) or if the URL was unintentionally left out of the site migration and needs to be mapped to a new URL.

3. Implement the Migration

Mueller advised:

“301 redirect all the old URLs to the new ones, also update all internal mentions such as:

  • links
  • forms
  • structured data
  • sitemaps
  • and the Robots.txt file”

4. Monitor the Migration

Mueller advised using Search Console for this:

“Check all pages for the redirect. In Google’s search console report you should see a quick change for the most important pages and then a slower change as our systems reprocess the rest.”

Mueller cautioned that this last part can take months to finish. He’s talked about how determining overall site quality can take months. Google has to basically learn what a site is about, including site quality and to understand where the site fits within the Internet.

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John recommended leaving the redirects in place for at least one year.

In my experience, it may be necessary to consider leaving the redirects in place for longer than a year. The reason is because old URLs that have links from other sites pointed at them will become broken links if the redirects are removed.

You can create an outreach to contact sites that are linking to you and ask them to fix the links to point to the changed URLs.

But you have to be aware that doing this kind of outreach can backfire because some sites, for many reasons, may decide to remove the link altogether.

Also, there may be links out there that you don’t know about, so you can never be sure that you had all the inbound links updated. So for that reason, it may be necessary to keep those redirects in place and be ready to update them should some of the URLs change again, to avoid creating chained redirects.

A chain redirect is when an old URL redirects to another old URL which itself redirects to another old URL before it redirects to the final URL. Over the years this can create a chain of redirects which becomes problematic for crawling.

Site Migrations are Tough

As Mueller advised, it’s important to plan ahead. Map similar pages together and be conscious about link equity from inbound links. Site migrations can result in a site losing search presence but it doesn’t have to happen if it’s preceded with a thorough migration plan.

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Watch John Mueller Offer Site Migration Tips

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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