Lee Odden

The Cost of No SEO Migration Plan

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, SEO, SEO Tips

A long time client of ours is re-doing their web site after 5 years and we’ve been in discussion with them about the need for a SEO migration plan. The developer wants to use a new platform for the site, meaning urls are going to be different. This is an ecommerce site with thousands of product and category URLs so the move to the new platform needs to be executed correctly or it could go very badly as far as search engine visibility.

Shortly after explaining this to our client I was reading a prominent PR web site that listed various resources to “digital PR” articles. I clicked on one and came upon this from Entrepreneur.com:


The text is small, so I’ll put it here:

“We’ve recently made significant changes to our web site. This means some of the pages you might have bookmarked now have a different URL. To find the page you’re looking for, try these methods:”

Then it shows Google search as a way to find the “lost” page. Ouch!

I don’t know about you, but if I was FedEx, I wouldn’t be too happy about my ads running on pages with that kind of message.

This is the kind of thing that happens when web site owners rely on web development teams to transition sites to new content management systems, development platforms and designs without taking into consideration that search engines are an audience for the site as well.

Whoever worked on the Entrepreneur site would have done well to read Thomas’ “10 things to keep in mind when changing a site design“, especially tip #1: “Consider keeping the same file naming structure so that it will be easier for spiders to re-crawl the new site and peoples bookmarks don’t return 404 error pages” and the last tip, “Tell your SEO before you make the new site live so they can help prevent any issues.”

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. making sure people find the pages is primary, but making sure the spiders do is a close second. When doing this kind of move I think using Webmaster Central is a killer tool. Google comes right out and tells you what it’s looking for and can’t find. I’ve had more than one “hey how did you know about those pages” or “wow we haven’t had that page in 3 years” discussion as a result of webmaster central.

  2. I agree with you. Keeping URL structures the same is important. Not just for search engine visibility, but for keeping readers. If I go to a blog or even a site, and I can’t find what I am looking for, I won’t bother using that site any longer, I will go to Google or Wikipedia for the information.

    Also, how unprofessional was the designer to use a Google search box? I would write my own thing, personally…

  3. Amazingly, I had not read of the topix.net to topix.com situation or Danny’s detailed observations at Search Engine Land until this morning.

    I agree Michael, that Google Webmaster Central is an exceptionally useful tool for such situations.

    Jack, it’s amazing so many web developers ignore the dual audiences for web sites. You’d think the usability people would chime in in these types of situations.

  4. Great Point Lee. Just wanted to point something out. FedEx is clearly running a run-of-site campaign. They get lower pricing by taking the risk of having their ads appear across the entire site, whether that be a popular article, category, irrelevent article, or 404 page. An impression is an impression. You saw their ad, you discussed it. That’s valuable PR. We all thought about FedEx just now. I wouldn’t stop from shipping with FedEx because I see their ad on an error page. But I also wouldn’t click the ad either, it’s boring and provides no incentive – Creating compelling creative should be an area of greater concern.

  5. So let me get this straight: You clicked a link on a “prominent PR web site” that lead you to a 404 error on entrepreneur.com.

    From this you somehow concluded: That the people running entrepreneur don’t know what their doing, their SEO people don’t know what their doing, and they should read some SEO book that gives obvious advice about maintaining/re

    Where is the extreamly popular and well maintained site, with tens of thousands of pages, that you maintain with no 404s at all?

    You are making mountains out of mole hills here, at the very least. And at the most, possibly flat out attacking a popular website for personal gain…

  6. Ha, clearly Steve, you’re not “advanced”. What SEO book are you talking about? Oh, right. You’re not. You’re just ranting about some personal issue with SEO.

    Broken links from a site update equals lost revenue. Period. That’s broken despite all the good things about the site and a prominent site SEO and web admin team should know better. But they obviously don’t.

    I’m tired of web developers justifying lazy, sloppy work with ignorant statements.

  7. I was referring to the book “10 things to keep in mind when changing a site design” that is promoted above. Or have you even read this page?

  8. it’s not a book Steveo, it’s a blog post, which you would know if you clicked through.

  9. What a bunch of whingers really reading the comments to this post is somewhat reminiscent of a school playground spat. Grow up.

    Do you not think that FedEx would experience a greater ROI on this page beccause the number of frustrated users would be looking for an “out” from the site that doesnt give them what they want…? remember that most internet users, even the “advanced” ones, dont spend more than couple seconds on a page before decide where they are going from there… this page is even prime example of this and the rot of the aforementioned spat.

  10. Klaus, speculation is free and anyone can do it.

    A user clicking on a link to find an article about a specific topic and hitting a 404 not found page is no more likely to click on a FedEx ad than they are to click the back button.


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