SEO and the impact of site migrations and redesigns: A Stanley PMI case study

In October 2015, Digital River Inc. launched a redesigned version of the Stanley PMI store and consolidated two separate web properties of the Stanley brand into one site. Not only was Stanley migrating and redesigning, but they were also reducing the number of products they offered by removing replacement parts from the store. Understanding the potential impact of a site consolidation, redesign and product/category removal, the Stanley and Digital River teams created a process to address concerns and risks through this transitional phase. This process was designed with thorough consideration of the potential impact on Search Engine Optimization. The process attempted to mitigate any negative impact and ensure a successful transition that allowed the organic channel to remain a viable and sustainable traffic and revenue source.

The Plan

Digital River and Stanley agreed to take down the Web Property that ran commerce for Stanley at ShopStanley-pmi.com, and to add commerce functionality and redesign the merchandising site at Stanley-pmi.com.

Roughly three months prior to the launch of the new site, a migration team was established at Digital River to help create a smooth transition from the two Stanley sites to one site. For this to be successful, it would require a detailed and specific procedure moving forward.

A large focus of the migration was on limiting any negative impact to the organic channel: reductions in organic traffic, organic revenue, total keyword presence in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) or total pages indexed by the Search Engines (SEs). There was an understanding that removing a product category from the site would most likely lead to a decrease in all categories, but that through careful planning this decrease could be minimized. With this focus in mind, both teams established a weekly cadence of meetings and outlined a step-by-step process on how to proceed.

The Process

During these weekly meetings, the SEO program manager was able to guide Stanley through creating a detailed map of both old sites and the new site. After creating this map, Digital River then taught Stanley basic best practices of SEO migration and how to create 1:1 redirect maps. These maps outlined where and how to redirect each page on the older two sites to the newly created site.

On the website launch date, the redirects were turned on, sitemaps were submitted, analytics accounts and console accounts verified traffic and a comprehensive site audit was run. A couple of weeks post launch, the total migration was complete, with minimal impact to the organic channel. Within one month, there was an increase in overall traffic, revenue and keywords indexed and within three months, results outperformed expectations, in some areas by double digit percentage points.

The Results

Multiple data points were used to track the progression of the Stanley site over time to ensure goals and expectations were met. All of this was achieved through the detailed process of mapping, planning, auditing and information sharing at regular intervals over the months prior to launch, and now exists as an outline for how a typical migration and redesign can benefit from a focus on the organic channel during such a time.

In September, roughly 50% of all keywords for the ShopStanley commerce site were crossovers from the Stanley Merchandising site. Out of all of the keywords unique to ShopStanley, less than 25 ranked on the first page. This meant that the additional keywords the new Stanley store ranked for on the first page of Google were new terms and not just reclaimed terms from the ShopStanley site.

Those first page term increases totaled a 77% lift in just the first month, and by the end of December, a 156% total keyword increase was achieved since October.

# of Keywords Ranked on Page 1

# of Keywords Ranked on Page 1

(Courtesy of Bright Edge)
The total keyword increase between September (pre-launch) and December (3 months post launch) was a lift of 114%. In fact, the total number of first page keywords in December was more than 96% of the total number of keywords on the first 10 pages in September. This was evidence of a smooth transition, retention, and even growth in overall site rankings.

Total Organic Keywords

Total Organic Keywords

(Courtesy of Bright Edge)
Not only were the rankings increasing, but the percentage of keywords at #1 and the percentage of keywords on the first page were doing well by December. Nearly 40% of all the keywords Stanley ranked for were on the first page and over 7.5% of the total number of keywords Stanley ranked for sat in the #1 position. The only significant decrease we saw was the percentage of keywords on the first page at the #1 position in the SERP. However, this was somewhat expected, as we were ranking for a larger number of keywords, so it would be hard to maintain a high percentage at #1.

In response to all the upward momentum in the SERPs, Stanley immediately started seeing a rise in their organic traffic and revenue. We saw daily revenue numbers from the organic channel in the middle of January at nearly twice the levels they were prior to the store launch:

Revenue

From a traffic perspective, the impact was almost immediate. The organic channel began to see sessions at nearly 200% what they were on the same domain prior to the changes. This overall impact increased even more during the holidays and began to level off in January and February.

Session

Graph of sessions

Finally, the revenue per session (revenue divided by sessions) for organic traffic has remained the same if not increased slightly, which would imply that the new keywords are quite applicable to the store and the traffic is qualified. This also shows that Stanley has not increased their rankings on a large number of non-applicable terms that do not pertain to the website or its products. If that were the case, we would see the RPV begin to drop, rather than remain steady or slightly increase.

RPV

RPV graph

Through a very organized effort, Stanley and Digital River were not only able to mitigate the negative effects of consolidating web properties, going through a complete redesign and reducing product categories, the teams were able to actually increase overall rankings, first page presence, total organic sessions and total organic revenue in roughly 3 months. January data also shows that this trend is ongoing, with no signs of relenting anytime soon. It is through the coordinated efforts of Stanley and Digital River, as well as the knowledge and expertise of the Digital River SEO team, that Stanley was able to capitalize on an endeavor that many sites view as a liability to their overall commerce goals.

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