Migration Guide Part 3 - Redirect Mapping

In part 3 of our migration guide, we look at the importance of redirects and why getting them wrong is the number one reason for a migration failing. Find out what redirects are and how you go about making sure they're dealt with correctly, as you move your site to Shopify.

Let's start by looking at what we mean by redirects, before moving on to why managing them is so important.

What Is a Redirect?

Simply put, this is when someone searching for one URL on your site is redirected to a different URL.

Searchers may be redirected because the original page no longer exists (perhaps it was promoting an event that has now taken place, or it was a page for a product that is no longer sold, or in the case of migrations, because you need to point people from your old site to pages on your new site.) 

This refers to a server-side redirect from one page to another.

There are two types:

301 = permanent

302 = temporary

When a user or a bot visits a redirected page, the server redirects them to the new page.

Why Redirects Are So Important For Migrations

  • All URLs will change when you migrate to Shopify
  • Redirects ensure bots and users are sent to your new URLs
  • Link equity from the old site is passed to new site through the redirects
  • Poor redirects are the reason most migrations fail

Redirect Document

  • You’ll store all your redirect mapping in a spreadsheet
  • Create a spreadsheet called ‘Redirect mapping’
  • We should already have a list of pages from the ‘site structure’ stage
  • Paste all unique URLs into column A
  • Each of these needs to be mapped to the correct page on the new site
  • Redirect mappings should go in column B

Building Redirect Mappings

This is much easier if all your new pages are uploaded to Shopify (the sooner you do this, the easier it will be).

This is because you need to know what your destination URLs will be

Collection Redirects

We do collection redirects separately because they’re normally the most challenging.

You’ll map your old site PLP URLs to Shopify collection URLs.

To do this you need two things:

  • All PLP URLs from your old site
  • All collection URLs from the new Shopify site

You should have a list of Shopify collection URLs from when you built your site structure in part 2

There are Shopify apps like Excelify which can be used to export Shopify collection URLs 

Product Redirects

The old site product URLs should be redirected directly to the new Shopify site URLs

There are different ways to access the old site product URLs. We use the following:

  • The site crawl we did in section two should have labelled product URLs
  • Alternatively you can run a product export from your old site’s CMS. The export should contain the URL and SKU for each product
  • Look for patterns in the URLs to find products. For example, if all your products exist in a subfolder called /shop/ then you can easily separate these from your list of URLs
  • Your new product URLs can be exported from Shopify
  • Once you have a list of old product URLs and a list of new Shopify URLs, you need to map them together

Automating Redirects

  • Mapping redirects manually can be highly time-consuming for large sites
  • It’s a near impossible for giant enterprise sites with hundreds of thousands of URLs
  • It carries with it a high risk of human error
  • Where possible, automation should be used to speed up the process and reduce the potential for mistakes
  • A lot of this can be done using Excel/Google Sheets
  • You need to be comfortable using VLOOKUPS

Automating Product Redirects

If you have hundreds or thousands of product URLs, you can imagine how difficult mapping product URLs could become. It could take days or weeks to manually map each product redirect.

Fortunately we have a method that lets you prepare your product redirect mappings in less than 10 minutes. To do this you'll need a CSV export of all the products URLs from your old site. The export needs to include your existing product URLs and SKUs.

You then need to generate the same product export from your Shopify store. This can be done by logging into Shopify and going to Products > Product Export > Export All Products.

You'll now have two exports; one from your old platform and one from Shopify. Open a new Google Sheet and paste each export into its own tab. 

We’ll now use a VLOOKUP to map the new product URLs against the old URLs by matching the SKU.

Adding your Redirects

Your redirects need to take effect as soon as your site launches. The easiest way to do this on Shopify is using an app called Easy Redirects. This is an app we created and is used by thousands of Shopify stores all round the world. There is a free version and it makes managing Shopify redirects a breeze.

Simply upload your redirect mappings as a CSV into Easy Redirects, and the app will take care of the rest for you.

Redirect Best Practices

  • Use 301 redirects, never 302 redirects
  • Make sure you use server-side redirects - not js redirects
  • Avoid redirect chains (where a page redirects to a page which itself redirects)
  • Traffic-driving pages and pages with established link equity are the priority - don’t let these 404
  • Redirecting pages should be as similar to each other as possible
  • Don’t redirect everything to the homepage




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