Migration Guide Part 7 - Launch Management
The moment of truth has arrived and you're ready to launch your new store. Read the final part of our migration guide for recommended checks and post-launch monitoring so it all goes to plan - and so you're equipped to fix any issues that appear after you've gone live.
Congratulations! You've made it all the way through the platform migration guide, and now you should be ready to launch your new Shopify site. It's not over when you go live though - there are some checks that need to be carried out straight away to ensure success. In the days and weeks to come you'll need to continue monitoring performance to make sure that everything has gone to plan. If there are any issues, you'll be in a position to identify them and put them right before any long-term ranking or traffic problems occur.
As soon as the site launches we run through a launch process to make sure everything has gone to plan.
First we check critical factors that could affect SEO performance, as follows:
- Ensure there are no ‘noindex’ tags. (The noindex directive is a value in a meta tag that can be added to the HTML source code of a webpage, to suggest to search engines not to include that particular page in its list of search results.)
- Make sure that the same www/non-www format as the old site has been used.
- We test a sample of core pages in Search Console’s ‘Fetch & Render’ tool. (Search Console’s ‘Fetch and Render’ tests how Google crawls and renders a page on your site. This can help you understand how Google sees a page, tell you about elements that might be hidden within the page, or help debug crawl issues.) Fetch returns the page’s code (how Google sees the page), and Fetch and Render will return the page’s code along with two side-by-side images — one version that users see, and one version that Google ‘sees’.
- We crawl the top 100 URLs and confirm that they redirect correctly.
- Put through a test order to make sure products can be purchased and the checkout works.
- Make sure Google Analytics is tracking correctly.
- Check that Search Console is still verified.
- Confirm that canonical tags reference the correct URLs.
Once we’re satisfied that there are no critical SEO issues, we start a full Screaming Frog crawl on the old site URLs.
This lets us check the following:
- All old URLs 301 redirect to the correct page on the new site.
- There are no missed URLs that are broken and now end on a 404 redirect error page.
- All old pages 301 redirect to a working page on the new site (directly to a working page, without any redirect chains).
(That final point is the most important. You need to make sure that you configure Screaming Frog to ‘follow redirects’. Just because all your old pages return a 301, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they redirect to a working page. Every page must 301 redirect to a page that returns a 200 status code.)
Once we’re satisfied that the launch has gone to plan and that all the redirects work, we submit the XML sitemap to Google Search Console. This instructs Google to crawl all the new pages.
Post Launch Monitoring
Some people think that just because your traffic hasn’t immediately dropped following a migration, then it’s been a success. But this isn’t true.
It can take many weeks (or even months) for Google to fully crawl and index your entire new site. These steps need to happen:
- Google discovers and crawls your new URLs
- Google indexes your new URLs
- Google ranks your new URLs in place of your old URLs
Search Console Monitoring
In the weeks following a migration, we carefully monitor how Google reacts to the new site. The best place to do this is Search Console.
In the Coverage report, you can see how your indexation changes daily. In the days following a migration you should expect to see the number of indexed pages rise as Google indexes your new pages. Then as old pages are gradually removed from Google’s index, your total indexed pages should return to normal. Depending on the size of the site, this process can take weeks. It’s not uncommon to find legacy pages from your old site still indexed months after the migration.
You should also keep an eye on the ‘Excluded’ section in the Coverage report. This will report on the number of redirects and 404 pages Google finds on your site. Obviously there will be a significant increase in the amount of redirects listed in this report, but pay close attention to the 404s too. Make sure that the pages Google reports as new 404s are what you’d expect to 404.
Also review the other sections in the ‘Excluded’ section such as ‘Alternate page with canonical tag’. Does everything look correct in here? Look for instances where Google is doing something unexpected.
In the days right after your migration, it’s most likely going to be your old pages that appear in the search results. We want to see Google replace your old pages with your new pages in the search results. This can also be monitored in Search Console by using the Performance Report.
Within the Performance Report, you should apply a URL filter pattern that you know is unique to Shopify such as “/collections/”. When you can see your new Shopify URLs generating impressions and clicks, then you know Google is displaying your new site to visitors.
In the ‘Enhancements’ section, Google will report on the schema found on your site. As an ecommerce website, you should pay close attention to the Product schema. Has Google reported warnings or errors in your product schema?
In the weeks before your migration, you should have rank tracking in place that records the daily rankings for your primary keywords. You can use this as a baseline to measure against after you’ve migrated.
Carefully monitor your rankings in the days and week after you launch. Don’t worry if you see some instability in your rankings. This is entirely normally as Google processes all the changes on your website.
Google Analytics and Search Console will report on organic traffic to your site. Like your rankings, you may experience some fluctuations in traffic as Google adjusts to your new site. Again, this is normal and should settle down after a few weeks.
At this point, the migration process is complete. If all the steps have been followed as per our guide, it should have been a smooth process moving from your previous platform to Shopify. We realise there’s a lot of information to take in, so if you’ve read the guide but need third party support to migrate your store, contact us - we migrate ecommerce stores every month and we can help if needed.