12
 min read

Why a Site Overhaul is Worth the Risk

You've heard that changing your site might cause a loss of traffic. You've worked hard on your SEO and you don't want to lose any of your success. Let's talk about why it's worth the risk.

We are in the business of full site overhauls. So we are the first to tell you that it can be risky. Let’s talk about the risks associated with site overhauls and then we’ll talk about why it’s worth the risk. 

What is a site overhaul? 

Anytime you are changing something dramatically about a site, it’s a site overhaul. It could be updating your content, design, switching from http to https protocol, moving to another domain, switching platforms or any combination of the above. 

Making random little tweaks on your site is typically fine. But once you start touching the main navigation or anything to do with your urls and you risk a drop in traffic. Why? Your SERPs are based on a variety of factors. And while you might be aware of some of them, there’s no way you know all of them. And if you were to think of each SERPs result as having a score, you have no idea how close the sites behind you are to you. You might have just the slightest edge because of page loading or avg time on site. If you add a picture or change your content you could lose your spot. 

Site Migrations

Technically, a site overhaul can happen without a migration but normally the two things are interchangeable. We offer site migrations both onto and off our platform and hosting for free. Which sounds pretty crazy because migrations are often very labor intensive. Especially for websites that have been around for a few years, have any kind of traffic and lots of pages or blog posts. 

The reason we offer this service for free is because we do it often enough that we have our own internal checklist to get through. Labor intensive? Yes. But completely doable. Especially when you do them regularly. 

It’s exceedingly rare for site migrations to see zero impact on SEO traffic. It’s just inevitable that there will be some drop in traffic. Even if you do everything right, it takes a couple weeks for the site crawlers to find new paths, acknowledge your site, etc. But the difference between a good and bad migration is day and night. 

Worst Case Scenario

If someone does a site migration with zero planning or experience they might just literally point the hosting from one domain to another. If the urls aren’t the same, there’s no way site crawlers will find your new content. Your old content will no longer be live and now all the backlinks and urls are sending the search crawlers down a dead end road. This will result in abrupt and cataclysmic drop in search traffic. And even if this is fixed later on, the damage will take months to fix. 

Best Case Scenario

If your migration is planned properly, all the old urls will have a new home. Now, there might be situations where you send them to a custom 404, but there won’t be any dead ends. This way you harness all of the traffic juice from the old domain (or old platform) and build from there. It might take a couple weeks for the traffic to get back to baseline, but it shouldn’t take longer than a month. 

Benefits of Site Overhauls/Migrations

While there is only 1 major con to overhauls, the benefits are numerous. Imagine trying to conduct business in 2021 with a http site? Without using a secure site, you are missing out on lots of traffic. Even if you aren’t accepting credit cards, people need to feel safe on your website. Loads of malware products won’t even allow their users to visit sites with http. And for those that are willing to visit your site, what do you think it says about their product or service that they aren’t willing to invest in a SSL certificate? Not good.

But something as simple as switching from http to https qualifies as a migration. And if you do it poorly, it can result in a drop of traffic. 

The point I’m trying to get at is eventually every site needs to have some sort of migration. If you are in business for more than 5 years, you will need to do a major site overhaul of one kind or another. Whether that is improving your security, updating your design (for example, optimizing for mobile…), or just streamlining your content for U/X. 

So now that we understand that site overhauls or migrations are inevitable if you want to stay competitive, let’s talk about the other benefits, like more traffic. 

Migrations Lead to Better Traffic

This is going to sound a little random but our most common migration is from Yahoo! Small Business to Webflow. For whatever reason, early on, we had a load of clients that were going to lose access to their Yahoo! Small Business site. Yahoo! stopped allowing modifications in March 2021 right around the time we started offering services. So people were coming out of the woodwork needing a brand new site. It was kismet. 

Yahoo! Small Business sites were practically free and the owners often did their own site design (through templates) and blogging. So our service was a major increase in their budget. They went from spending under $40 a quarter to $950 each month. We knew we had to impress their socks off to keep them happy. We didn’t disappoint. 

By carefully migrating each of their blog posts to our Webflow platform we were able to capture any existing traffic. Generally there was a single or 2 week dig before we were back to baseline. Then, across the board the traffic increased as their already existing content improved in the SERPs. Why? Because once the search crawlers found the old copy in the new location, other indicators like site speed were better. User Experience was better. Rarely did we mess with the content itself unless there was a branding issue. 

As we added new content, and social media engagement, new pages were indexing faster and traffic grew overtime. It’s common knowledge that it takes about 6 months for SEO to really take effect. And then the 6 months after that dwarf the initial 6 months. By implementing migrations properly, we were able to harness the longevity of these domains and their historical SEO benefit. 

That’s why we offer migrations for free, because we know how to do it correctly. And when it is done correctly, it can be a true game changer. 

TL;DR 

Site migrations are inevitable if you want to stay competitive. Having them performed by an experienced team can be the difference between losing all your traffic or having your existing traffic as the platform for new heights. They are absolutely worth the risk of losing temporary traffic. 


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