CMS Migrations for Marketing Managers

Are you a marketing manager who has been tasked with overseeing a website migration from one CMS to another? Let us point you in the right direction.

Website migrations can be a daunting prospect. SEO migrations (redirect mapping etc) are part of the overall migration plan, but there’s a lot of design and development work which also needs to be done.

When you change your CMS (Content Management System), there are likely to be a number of architectural changes which will necessitate redirect mapping and other SEO website migration tasks.

First, we’ll take you through the standard (decision-making / design and dev) steps in terms of migrating from one CMS to another. After that, we’ll outline the SEO-specific steps which need to be taken as your migration proceeds. The SEO-specific tasks are CMS-independent.

Moving your Website to WordPress

Moving your site to WordPress can be a large and complex task, depending upon which CMS you are moving from.

Moving your Website to WordPress from Magento

Moving your site from Magento to WordPress is tricky and there is no simple ‘fire and forget’ method. For example, WordPress and Magento both use different themes, so you can’t migrate your theme at all without the help of a designer and a web developer.

If your Magento site is an ecommerce site, you can’t move to WordPress unless you also install WooCommerce (for WordPress) on the new site. You’ll also need to purchase the WooCommerce import suite.

Some plugins can help you with your move, for example FG Magento to WooCommerce. Such plugins will migrate products, product categories, category images, product images / thumbnails and more. CMS pages will also be translated across.

Keep in mind though, that if some areas of your site are generated via plugins or use deeply complex custom architecture, a plugin may not capture everything.

Moving your Website to WordPress from Shopify

This is a desirable move for many, as WordPress is open-source with a lot of potential for advanced customisation. Again, it’s relevant to note that Shopify and WordPress use entirely different themes. To re-build your Shopify theme on WordPress, you’ll need a designer and a seasoned web developer.

If you use Shopify for its ecommerce functionality, then WordPress won’t be able to receive the ecommerce facets of your site without WooCommerce and WooCommerce import suite. Simply export the relevant data from Shopify and then import back into WordPress / WooCommerce.

Some plugins like S2W (‘Shopify 2 WooCommerce’) could help you with your move. Products, product images and categories will be migrated. Note that if your Shopify site uses plugins or highly customised architecture, there may be some content which fails to migrate.

In such a situation, you’ll have to evaluate the worth of the missing content and decide whether some of it needs to be manually imported / re-created. It’s not a bad idea to benchmark the URLs on your old site in terms of performance, so that you don’t end up cutting valuable content.

S2W has a pro version which includes some additional features, namely different product methods which you may wish to experiment with.

Choosing between WooCommerce & BigCommerce

When moving your website to WooCommerce, or moving your website to BigCommerce – there’s a lot to consider. WooCommerce and BigCommerce are ecommerce engines specifically designed for WordPress.

In order to move to WordPress from another CMS, you will likely need either WooCommerce or BigCommerce installed. Without one of these ecommerce engines, you won’t be able to migrate the ecommerce areas of your old site to WordPress (no products, product categories, SKUs etc).

If you’re wondering which to install on your new WordPress site, that depends on the maturity of your web-store. If you have a small web-store with only a few products and you are also new (to the web), WooCommerce will likely suit you just fine. It’s very user-friendly, the pricing is really great and it has a large community. In-fact you only really need to pay, if there are certain WooCommerce plugins you plan to use.

BigCommerce is really for more mature ecommerce sites with tens of thousands of variable products. Much deeper ecommerce structure is possible with BigCommerce (great for SEO). BigCommerce is generally thought to be more secure and its database handling efficiency is higher. You won’t be able to make the most of BigCommerce without someone technical to help you.

Moving your Website to Magento / Adobe Commerce

Migrating to Magento (now known as Adobe Commerce) from other platforms is quite difficult. Whilst Magento offers (or used to offer) an open-source version, it has historically been seen as a paid-for CMS. Because of this, the community is much smaller and the number of plugins at your disposal are fewer.

You may find that you end up buying plugins to assist with your migration, then they don’t work properly and you have to try another. There are very few people who will be able to tell you exactly what you need in advance, with no chance of misspent money.

Moving your Website to Adobe Commerce from WordPress / WooCommerce

Moving a site from WooCommerce to Adobe Commerce can be tricky. Since Adobe Commerce and WordPress / WooCommerce have separate theme libraries, you’ll need a designer and developer to assist you. You can pick a similar theme, or try to re-build your theme from scratch.

You may find the “Migrate from WooCommerce” plugin to be of some assistance. The plugin unfortunately has zero reviews, a common issue with Adobe Commerce plugins. Since the Adobe Commerce developer community is quite small, there isn’t much information in terms of which plugins do / do not work. This has been the same story for over 10 years, stretching back to the time when Adobe Commerce was called Magento.

The specified plugin boasts a number of items which can be migrated, including products, product categories, customers, orders and more. It seems like it should be very helpful, though there isn’t much in the way of feedback from real users.

Due to the fact that Adobe Commerce has a very small developer community, the platform is slow to adapt to the latest advanced architecture demands from SEO. As such we wouldn’t recommend moving from WooCommerce to Adobe Commerce.

Moving your website to Adobe Commerce from BigCommerce is an equally fraught affair. There are some plugins available to assist, however they have very few reviews and ratings. Your migration experience may be vastly different, if only one or two users have tried a plugin.

Moving your Website to Adobe Commerce from Shopify

Moving a site from Shopify to Adobe Commerce could be quite difficult. As per our guidance for moving to Adobe Commerce from WordPress, the same issues apply.

Yes, there does seem to be a Migrate to Shopify plugin available. Although that’s true, the plugin has no reviews or ratings (at the time of writing). Due to having a really small developer community, Adobe Commerce can be tricky to work with. It’s entirely possible that you could try out one of these migration plugins, they wouldn’t work – and then you might have to spend the same money again.

There are precious few individuals who can guide you in terms of a 100% effective, no-errors encountered migration method.

Shopify and Adobe Commerce do not use the same themes, so you are likely to need the help of a developer and a designer. It’s likely that you will have to re-build your theme in a new format from scratch. If you’re thinking about moving away from Shopify, it’s probably better to migrate to BigCommerce instead of Adobe Commerce.

If you’ve been told that you must migrate to Adobe Commerce due to Adobe’s high focus on security, you may encounter rough waters.

Moving your Website to Shopify

Migrating to Shopify from WordPress / WooCommerce isn’t something which we’d recommend. That being said; if you’re determined, the steps aren’t too tricky.

Moving your Website to Shopify from WordPress / WooCommerce

Moving your website to Shopify from WooCommerce isn’t too tricky. In-fact, Shopify have a whole page of guidance for you here:

Shopify has a free “Store Importer” app. This app is capable of receiving WooCommerce’s “All content XML” file. If you don’t have that file, you can instead opt to import data into Shopify via CSV. The CSV import option will be most useful when importing WooCommerce product data.

Shopify and WooCommerce / WordPress use different themes. That means you’ll need a designer and developer on-hand to re-build your theme. Of course, you could just browse Shopify’s themes and select a similar one (as a starting point).

Shopify also has guidance in terms of migrating from BigCommerce to Shopify:

The process is largely similar. If you have already invested significant sums in terms of BigCommerce integration, we wouldn’t recommend migrating to Shopify from BigCommerce.

BigCommerce is a strong and efficient ecommerce platform. If your BigCommerce site is struggling, it is likely that your deployment of BigCommerce is poor. You will likely encounter similar issues with Shopify, if you can’t handle BigCommerce properly.

Moving your Website to Shopify from Adobe Commerce

Unfortunately, there’s precious little information for this type of migration. That’s probably because Magento changed to Adobe Commerce on April 21st 2021. Due to this recent change, there isn’t much information specifically surrounding the new Adobe Commerce (and associated migration techniques).

The well-known “Cart2Cart” 3rd party app can handle such a migration, but still lists the supported CMS as Magento (rather than Adobe Commerce). These guys have been helping to achieve site-to-site migrations for a long time and their site has a live-chat facility, so you could easily get in touch and enquire (as per your needs).

Cart2Cart can also help with other types of site migrations. In fact, most of the CMS-to-CMS migrations which we have covered thus-far, are also covered by Cart2Cart. It may well be easier to use such an automated service, rather than trying to do the whole lot yourself.

Whatever your needs, our helpful team are always on-hand to help advise. Why not get in touch today?

SEO-Specific Migration Actions

Now we come to examine some of the tasks which should be undertaken from the SEO end. These are mostly CMS / platform-independent.

URL Benchmarking

URL benchmarking the art of generating a list of URLs on your own site, working out which of those would be the unique ranking URLs, and then setting metrics against the URLs (so that you know how valuable they are).

This is something which should be done before the design of the new site commences, so that you know which pieces of critical content must be migrated.

A common misconception is that if you 301 redirect all of your old pages to new pages, you’ll keep 100% of your site’s SEO authority (ranking power). That’s because a lot of people say, that the 301 redirect is the only way to transfer SEO authority from one place on the web to another.

That is true, but it’s conditional. If the page receiving the redirect has ‘significantly different’ content than the old page (sending the redirect), then Google will assume that the content needs to be re-proven. Only if the content at both ends of the redirect is highly similar, will the authority transfer across. Otherwise, Google will nullify part or all of the SEO-equity transfer.

Due to this, over-streamlining deployed content is sure to hurt you. As such, you need a way to demonstrate which pages on your old site, hold high SEO value, so that they may be transferred across. If you are barred from transferring high-value content, you can then manage expectations against your findings.

First you want a list of URLs on your site which you can fetch using a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Once you have that list, you will need to narrow it down to just the ‘core’ URLs. Core URLs are those which represent the unique pages on a site which Google might want to rank.

Core URLs exclude types of content like:

  • Uploaded Zip archives
  • Uploaded documents (except for PDF which can rank)
  • JavaScript Modules
  • CSS Style Sheets
  • Deep-link image URLs (individual images)
  • Web font files
  • Parameter URLs
  • Pagination URLs

Basically, all the fragments of your site which have an address, yet which are not ‘main’ independent pages, can be excluded. Only unique pages (homepage, blog feed, blog posts, about us, contact us page, product pages, category pages etc) should be included. Do you have a list of core site addresses? Great! Now you need to fetch metrics against them.

You can export data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console, you could also use a tool like URL Profiler (assuming that you also have API subscriptions for connected tools like Ahrefs) to fetch backlink-related metrics. If you do this, you want URL-level metrics (not domain-level metrics).

Once your done, use an Excel function like VLOOKUP or INDEXMATCH to stitch all the data back together. The you should have a list of core URLs from your old website with various metrics set against them:

  • Sessions (from Google Analytics)
  • Bounce Rate (from Google Analytics)
  • Clicks (from Google Search Console)
  • Impressions (from Google Search Console)
  • Backlinks to page (from URL Profiler / Ahrefs)
  • Referring domains (from URL Profiler / Ahrefs)
  • URL Rating (from URL Profiler / Ahrefs)

With these metrics against each URL, it should be relatively easy to determine which URLs are high in terms of value. Fail to migrate any addresses which are high value, and you could lose SEO authority.

Remember that redirecting the old address isn’t enough on its own. If the receiving page on the new site has significantly different content, the equity won’t flow through. This is why content shedding is a bad idea.

Redirect Mapping

Only part of this task is truly attributed to marketing / SEO. Once you have your URL benchmarking document, you can easily pick URLs from the new site to receive redirects (from individual addresses on the old site).

Keep in mind that only similar addresses will receive the full SEO benefit. Even then, if you are also rebranding there may be problems.

If you’re in the mood and have the time, you could scrape the content from the old and new mapped pages (using a query-language like XPath). You could put that data into Excel against each old / new URL, and then run Boolean string similarity (likely to need a custom Excel plugin) to see the percentage similarity between the old and new content. At that point you could get a very strong idea of how effective the redirect mapping was likely to be.

Once you have your complete redirect mapping document, it needs to be handed to a web developer to implement the redirects. If you have thousands of individual redirects, placing them all inside of the .htaccess / web.config file, is likely to cause a lot of bloat. As such it would be better to process redirects via Nginx.

Remember that you probably can’t cancel the old site’s hosting plan, SSL certificate or domain for quite some time. If you are migrating domain-internally (you are not changing domain) then part of this won’t be an issue.

If the old site is on a separate domain, the hosting will be required to host the redirects which you have created. The SSL certificate will still be needed, otherwise you will only be able to redirect ‘from’ HTTP (insecure) URLs rather than HTTPS URLs. That could sink your entire redirect mapping project, in one forgetful motion.

Remember that your SEO-oriented A-to-B redirects aren’t the full picture. Other redirects are needed, not for SEO but instead for usability. For example, if someone requests a URL with parameters from the old site, should that parameter be appended to the redirect and passed across to the new site? How will pagination redirects be handled?

Those are more complex (flexible) redirect rules which your web developer needs to create, and spend a lot of time thinking about. Only a developer has the knowledge to properly handle the generic dev / UX redirects properly, this cannot be done from the SEO end (as most SEOs are analysts who think in a tabular way, rather than developers who think in a dynamic application way).

Post-Implementation Checks

You can’t fire-and-forget the project and expect everything to go well. Once the new site is launched, someone needs to crawl all of the old URLs again to see whether the implemented redirects, match the planed redirects (from your redirect mapping document).

Screaming Frog can help to achieve this, in the hands of a knowledgeable SEO professional.

Don’t Leave Migration Work to Amateurs

If as a marketing manager, you feel that you can do most of this yourself – think again! These large and complex projects are hours of work, if you don’t want to lose all of your valuable performance (which you are accountable for).

You need seasoned web developers to handle the core CMS migration, from one platform to another. You need SEO analysts to feed into the new site build via URL benchmarking, and to handle the SEO redirect mapping.

Most of these tasks require a lot of industry knowledge and technical know-how. You can’t just pick up XPath, Nginx, Screaming Frog or Boolean string similarity overnight. It takes years of experience.

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