The Website Migration Guide: SEO Strategy

In a perfect world, merchandising or marketing teams would never use internal search URLs to link to products or categories. Those who link to our e-commerce sites would take the time to find the right category, brand, or product URLs instead of, you guessed it, search URLs.

In a workspace where everyone scrupulously respects the rules, internal search URLs would be reserved for what they are specifically intended for. Yes, internal research!

But hey, it’s not a perfect world and that’s precisely why it’s not “good” to factor in your site’s internal search URLs when you migrate. It is “essential” to go through this process to ensure that your migration will not leave any gaping holes after the transition.

Internal search URLs are often one of the most overlooked subsets of URLs when it comes to taking stock and migrating to a new website.

To make matters worse, it is often very difficult to determine the extent of the damage done once the migration is complete and the search URLs have not been processed. With such a large number of URLs (often several million), it is very difficult to determine the impact of a website transition.

Site search migration is essential to ensure that search is not only SEO success but also a business success. Whether you’re migrating to a whole new URL structure or just a new domain name, it’s time to stop forgetting those search URLs!

Why should I care about migrating search URLs?

Customers who use your website’s internal search have a 50% greater chance of converting than those who don’t.

The last thing you want is to ignore migrating URLs that are high in conversion, and that are collectively responsible for the sales on your site by proactively making it easier to buy what your customers are looking for.

Second, up to 30% of your visitors will use the site search at least once during their visit, which is far from negligible.

Why are search URLs so often ignored during a migration?

The main reason? Internal search URLs are often not impactful from a purely SEO standpoint and when a website is migrated without taking SEO into account (yes, this still happens in 2020) it is unlikely that one can throw away have a look at the basic URL mapping.

Ultimately, that means internal search URLs are left out. If you don’t migrate these key URLs, your eCommerce site will likely only be hit where it hurts, costing you both customers and sales.

When it comes to site migration, maintaining SEO is usually the primary focus.

I’m not here to start a controversy, SEO has to be a central focus. But migration is also deeper and broader than SEO.

A migration should also focus on CROs and UX, especially in the world of e-commerce. For example, you can have a solid technical SEO migration with all actions preserved and passed on, etc., but if critical URLs are misdirected you will, unfortunately, lose customers.

When looking at a site’s internal search URLs, depending on how it has been structured, there are often millions of internal search URLs to consider.

Often, this plethora of internal search URLs pose only a small threat to SEO, which is why it’s so often overlooked during a migration.

Yes, search URLs for individual sites may pose a low threat to SEO, but they can be a pretty big part of an eCommerce site’s authority, market power, and structure. This is where the problem lies.

Consider the big picture here.

Search URLs often feed internal links

It’s no secret that promotional banners, categories, or featured articles on an e-commerce site can be linked using internal search URLs. Especially during the sales period. Additionally, these links are often placed on the homepage which is arguably the most powerful page when it comes to SEO.

These search URLs must also be identified and migrated.

Search URLs can also collect authority through backlinks

While there aren’t many, equity can also be conveyed through backlinks using search URLs. Especially if your e-commerce site resells products from other brands.

The backlinks of official branded websites can offer powerful keyword opportunities. These backlinks to the search URLs of the websites must be preserved to best ensure the preservation of the respective keywords and rankings.

Many big brands often have “stockist” pages with a list of featured sellers. These sellers can often be linked using internal search URLs

Site search URLs can appear largely in emails

Often, the team and person (s) responsible for email marketing are seldom affiliated with SEO disciplines or website URLs when defining which links to use for email.

The important thing is usually that the destination is correct. This often means that the hyperlinks chosen are search URLs.

While URLs used in emails have very little to do with SEO, ensuring that links in emails continue to work after migration helps prevent customer frustration and abandonment of purchases.

 Internal search URLs often have less to do with SEO and much more to do with UX and CRO

What I’m trying to say here is that while search URLs may not be a priority for an SEO program, they are nonetheless powerful or important from a business perspective.

Maintaining and redirecting internal search URLs has less to do with SEO than maintaining conversion performance and user experience.

How do I properly migrate search URLs?

First, you need to identify the search URLs that need to be prioritized and looked into in more detail. To identify key URLs, here are the prerequisites.

Identify search URLs that have backlinks of interest

This will help you identify the search URLs that have the greatest SEO potential.

In some cases, these search URLs can be migrated to a destination that can better leverage the acquired capital.

For example, let’s say you have an e-commerce site that sells suits and you have the search URLs “tight suits for men” that has attracted several backlinks.

Instead of just being redirected to the same search URL on the new website (/search/men + slim suits + suits /), the website would likely rank higher if redirected to the category URL. equivalent (/ wetsuits/men/slim wetsuits).

This has several advantages. By migrating to a more appropriate URL, you apply better AI. Also, category URLs as landing pages generally convert better than their equivalent search URLs.

Identify search URLs that consistently generate high volumes of traffic

Identifying these URLs allows you to find and isolate search URLs that are essential to your audience and therefore should be given priority when creating redirects.

It is essential to ensure that these URLs are redirected as expected. Your visitors search for these terms in consistently high numbers every month. To avoid eroding sales and conversion performance, these URLs should be prioritized from the start.

Given the importance of these URLs, we can devote more time to them and define the best possible destination to which they should be redirected. Some questions to consider might be:

  • Should they just be redirected to the same search result on the new website?
  • Is there a better service URL that a high traffic search term should redirect to?
  • Are you still selling the products that site visitors are looking for?

How you manage each of these URLs will determine their respective destinations.

Identify search URLs that convert well

So you’ve identified search URLs that have strong authority and are widely accessible to your customers and visitors. Now is the time to identify the internal search URLs that convert well.

Identifying these URLs allows you to clearly understand which search URLs are responsible for significant conversion performance. You can then focus on reflecting the customer’s behavior and experience or at least having this properly factored into the migration.

Using Google Analytics, you can identify these high converting URLs by running the report on the landing page, sorting them by conversion rate, and refining them based on your internal search URLs.

Identify search URLs that have a high CTR

While search URLs with a high click-through rate don’t have a direct impact on conversion, a high CTR demonstrates that these search URLs help customers and visitors find what they’re looking for, making easier the purchase. It is important to ensure that this level of “findability” remains intact after migration.

You can get an idea of ​​the CTR using Google Analytics and although the data is not entirely conclusive it is indicative and helps you identify which URLs still have the highest CTRs.

To get your hands on all of the data in GA, you will first need to build a new custom segment. In the advanced section, you have to click on “sequences”.

You will then need to configure two steps. It is also important to select “immediately followed by” as shown below:

For the first step, you will need to set the match type to “contains” and in the field, enter the URL pattern that indicates an internal search URL (for example, /search/)

For the second step, you will again need the match type “contains” and you will also need to enter the URL pattern that defines the URL as a product (eg /product/)

Name and save the segment and go to the “All pages” report filtering the results to find URLs only. You will then get a rough list of all search URLs that have a high CTR, as shown in the example below:

This list of URLs can then be used to ensure that search results (and user experience) are consistent after migration and that customers can find the products they are looking for as easily as before.

Now that I have my search URLs pre-selected, what should I do with all the others?

Depending on the size of your website and the integration of search URLs into your site, you might have a list of tens of thousands of pre-selected search URLs. However, this is only a small part of the migration.

If your internal search URL structure uses parameters, you may have millions of additional URL combinations to consider in addition to your preselected search URLs.

The good news is that there are strong rules and logic to support them without affecting UX, customer experience, and conversion.

Define your rules to redirect the rest of internal search URLs in bulk

To ensure that your search URLs have been migrated efficiently, 3 steps are necessary:

Keep the search query

It may be obvious but the search query in the original URL must be reflected exactly in the destination/migrated version of the URL. Whether the search term is passed to the URL as a parameter, subfolder, or whatever.

Failure to keep the search query exactly will significantly compromise the migration of search URLs and their relative performance. Pay special attention to spaces, special characters, and accents (if applicable).

Remove all parameters except the first (not including the search term)

It may sound dramatic, but trust me. Parameters overlaid on search URLs complicate the original query and greatly increase the chances that the search URL will return zero results or “no items found”.

Also, each additional parameter added to the URL increases the page load time and the demand for resources.

Some parameters add little or no value to the initial search query, such as pagination, sort order, and view (grid or row layout for example).

Preserving the first parameter of the URL is often enough to maintain the relevance of the results without slowing down the page load and increasing the risk of no results.

Preselected redirects should always override automated rules

Preselected URLs are often handled and treated differently from the set of global rules that you define. It is therefore essential that any manually managed redirect is respective and overrides any global rule.

This ensures that your priority, key, and powerful search URLs are redirected as expected.

I’m ready! Can I do something to monitor the performance?

Absolutely! Here’s the second major benefit of having a definitive list of priority internal search URLs to migrate. You can use the KPIs of these pre-migration URLs to compare them to their newer equivalents using Google Analytics.

  • How well has the old URL been converted to a home page?
  • How many organic visits did the old equivalent URL get each month and how does it compare to the new one?

Monitor the number of redirected URLs that return “no results found”.

It’s a great way to keep an overview of UX and conversion performance after migration.

With a little help from web development, you can pass an event to Google Analytics using the data layer that fires whenever a requested search URL contains no results.

dataLayer.push ({“event”: “GAE”,

GAE ‘: {

“category”: “site search”,

action “:” no results found “,

“label”: “search term”}


Triggering this dataLayer.push event would store all search queries and specific search URLs that generated zero results, along with their frequency.

This data can then be used to rectify the search results so that relevant products are returned or to modify the search URL redirection to provide better UX to your visitors.

Want to know more about dataLayer? This article by Simo Ahava is a great place to start!

In summary

Don’t ignore your search URLs, they are the lifeblood of sales and conversions

As explained and detailed above, ignoring your search URLs is at your own risk! Search URLs are often among the top performers when it comes to what matters to eCommerce: delivering strong UX, high conversion, and capturing sales.

Define a strong set of redirect rules with your web dev team to ensure the best fit destination is defined at scale

Manually setting 1: 1 redirects for every search URL on your site can be time-consuming and hundreds of hours. Not possible for many and extremely inefficient.

By concentrating the time and effort on your essential and preselected search URLs, the vast majority of the remaining URLs can be managed using a set of predefined rules; balancing both effectiveness and impact.

Test by crawling your list of preselected search URLs to the bare minimum

Preselected URLs are the ones your website can’t afford to ignore. Use list mode in the crawler of your choice to check, on the one hand, that the URLs redirect via a 301 and, on the other hand, that the destination is correct.

It is the absolute minimum that must be checked and covered. Ideally, you should go through all the URLs in your pre-migration search (if that is not possible, a significant sample).

For additional data to verify, export the maximum number of pre-migration search URLs from your Google Analytics account. You can use list mode to cycle through them as well and make sure the redirect logic is triggered as it should.

This way you can be sure that your redirect rules are strong or, if they aren’t quite correct, you can find out what is causing the logic to fail.

Finally, take the opportunity to test some of the more unusual and marginal parameters and queries. You will be surprised how quickly redirects can fail when presented with abnormal requests or parameters.

Identifying your key URLs and sealing the rules and redirect logic is essential for a successful migration. If you do it right, your migration will be both technically sound and customer-focused.

Good luck!

Categories: Blogging, Seo, Uncategorized

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