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Site Migration Development and Implementation

Episode Overview: The development and testing phase of site migrations are a critical time to pay attention to the details. Ensuring key benchmarks are met like testing internal linking is critical for the success of the site migration process. Join host Ben as he continues Site Migration Week with Searchmetrics CMO Doug Bell to discuss how to best navigate the development and testing phase of site migration and share what tasks should be completed to guarantee the success of your site migration.


  • Your team of designers should set content implementation and design rules as the slightest changes could alter the overall site infrastructure, consuming a designer’s valuable time.
  • Practice patience throughout the staging phase as it’s a vital time to ensure everything about your site is in working order.
  • Take time to fix errors the minute you spot them as saving them for later could result in being quickly forgotten.
  • Testing internal linking infrastructure is commonly overlooked in the testing phase and can pose a significant challenge for the rest of your migration process if left incomplete.


Ben:                  Welcome to Site Migration Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering a case study that walks you through the steps of an enterprise grid site migration. Joining us for Site Migration Week is Doug Bell, who is the chief marketing officer at Searchmetrics, which is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions. So far this week we’ve talked about Searchmetrics as a reason for running a site migration and all of the effort that went into the site migration before any development had actually started. And today we’re going to talk more about that actual development and testing phase and how Searchmetrics boosted their site speed through a site migration. Okay, here’s the third installment of Site Migration Week with Doug Bell from Searchmetrics. Doug, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.

Doug:                Thanks Ben. Good to be back.

Ben:                   Happy hump day. We’re halfway through the week and we’re talking about your site migration. We’re actually to the point now where we’ve talked about why you’re doing a site migration, all the work that you did, all the inventory that you took, getting ready to start development and here we are where the rubber meets the road, where the fingers hit the keyboard. You’re actually in development. Talk to me about what development looks like for a site migration like yours.

Doug:                So, this is the point where you’re moving away from concepts and wire frames to actually building in WordPress and so the user experience piece tends to be very important. I mentioned yesterday on Monday, Ben, we were iterating on that user experience with our SEO team. Each time it comes out, big tip as well, keep them involved the entire way along when it comes to user experience, that was the first thing.

Doug:                Then you’re actually beginning to load those pages with content. And so, you’re going from in our case, our messaging stack and our new messaging that came out to translating that onto the page level, right? So, the product section, homepage, all of these areas, and then you’re starting to get to the point where, as you’re building and launching that, there’s a huge difference between the perception of how your user experience will play out, in other words the design of the page, and what ends up happening when you’re loading that content in there. And so, there were, gosh, at least four or five iterations, Ben, where we were going back and forth with that content. And you’re also spending a lot of time on the graphic design. So, it’s not just about the written content itself. And if you go and visit, and I highly encourage you to do so, the homepage or any of the product pages, you’re going to see a lot of visual elements that are meant to represent how the product performs.

Doug:                 Separate podcast, Ben, potentially on some of the design elements we were considering that were rather complex, using iFrames in the product section, we ultimately decided to go with the lighter version. Again, speaking to Agile, where we actually were able to show how the product works without actually punching into the product itself. There’s a huge amount of internal leaking going on, especially even if you’re just doing a small adaptation of the website architecture, but you’re constantly looking at improving gut linking and then of course you’re building your site migration plan. In our case, we had 18,000 links to migrate and I think that took the bulk of my team’s time ultimately to make sure that those links were valid and the mapping was correct and we weren’t doing multiple redirects and causing ourselves even more pain with Google.

Ben:                    So, you mentioned that there’s a couple of different components that are being developed all at once. You’re doing copy, you’re doing creative, you’re doing the underlying website build. It seems like there is a chicken or the egg or a dance here. Does one really take precedent where the design team comes in and says, “Here’s our logo, here is the shape and the size it should be, we need to write our copy and build our website around it.” Is the website team coming up and saying, “This is the space you have to put your images, here’s how much text you can include.” Or is everything just led by the SEO team and it’s all about content optimization?

Doug:                 The user experience was our primary priority, Ben. I think it’s a really good question.

Ben:                    The designers win.

Doug:                 The designers win and the funny thing is our SEO team had no problem with that at all whatsoever. In fact, they were encouraging it and this is the thing. Again, we have to be on the cutting edge for Searchmetrics. We constantly have to be on the cutting edge, so we’re not dealing with the STOs talking about keyword density on the page, right? So, they understand and recognize the importance of user experience and I’ll call it again, user empathy on the site. So, they would lean towards that. In fact, we had a couple instances where they actually were pushing us on the user experience side.

Ben:                    You’re making this sound like it is smooth sailing the entire way. I don’t believe you. Who threw the first punch? What was the fist fight that happened when we’re dealing with design, engineering, content optimization, copywriting, all at the same time? What were some of the stumbling blocks or where did you run into some adversity and how did you manage that when you’re developing multiple different pieces of a website all at once?

Doug:               So, it wasn’t perfect, Ben. Then we had challenges in the dev ops side. Nothing to do with our dev ops team, but just a lot of complexity when we were setting up our own instance, that wasn’t easy. We actually had a huge hiccup when it came to the brand identity. Our chosen logo incidentally ended up being used by another company in markets three weeks before we were supposed to launch. We were so focused on user experience and SEO really feels like that’s the theme of my recommendations here, but we are amazing. One of our team leads from the content team at Searchmetrics who’s an amazing copywriter, really great at narratives, the person that created the brand manifesto that started all this for us, got to the end of the editing process and said, “This is a nightmare. Your content is all over the place.” Right? So, user experience and the design and the SEO team were deeply satisfied and at the end of the day we had too many cooks in the kitchen and really had to scramble the last couple of days. We had a hiccup with our Marketo instance where we had code that was not firing properly. You know what, Ben? At the end of the day, they still got to drive the Ferrari to the corner store and yeah, it was pretty amazing.

Ben:                  You might need new brakes and a new clutch, but the paint still looks nice. No, the site looks beautiful. As much as I want to make a Ferrari joke, I can’t say that you actually wrecked it before you got to pick up your gallon of milk.

Doug:               Maybe the analogy here, Ben, is a little bit heavy handed and maybe let’s go back to it because we did have to get in a Ferrari and I don’t know if anybody here has been in a Ferrari before, but it’s got eight pedals. Have you seen this?

Ben:                  No, Doug. I drive a 1994 Ford Explorer. I have no idea what the inside of a Ferrari actually looks like.

Doug:               Okay. All right. I have to say I don’t either. I’ve never driven one, but I’ve peered inside and there’s this incredible array of brakes and clutches and pedals and that’s a little bit what it was like for us. We really had to understand just how to work with that Ferrari initially, and I have to say there were some misfires happening for us, but at the end of the day, really it came down to my core team. My marketing team and its ability to click great content on the page and cheers to Steven, he did a wonderful job making sure that narrative held together, but boy, there were some stressful faces on those phone calls as we were looking for launch. But yes, it was not perfect, Ben.

Ben:                  So, as you get closer to the launch phase and you’ve done the dance between the multiple constituents that are working hard to make your website look and feel and operate like a cohesive unit, talk to me about the testing phase before you actually press the big red start button, the ignition? How do you make sure that everything’s going to work smoothly?

Doug:               Staging environment, you don’t short your staging environment. Do not short your stage environment. In other words, you’re trying to create as close to have a pristine representation of what you’re going to launch. Don’t wait, “Hey, we’ll fix this later. Hey, we’re going to launch this later.” Don’t do that. So, that was really a big thing and that came down to our product manager’s experience making these things happen. Look for cloaking problems, I think it’s called Google Standard and Google Mobile. This can be a real nightmare if you’re not careful. And of course, make sure your site speed is what you think it’s going to be. And then, we even had the chance to talk about all the work that went in there, but those were just a few of the things I would speak to from a prelaunch testing standpoint.

Ben:                  So, you have to have your dev environment set up, your testing environment so you can actually get an accurate representation of how the site’s going to perform. So, tell me what you’re actually looking for once you get your testing environment set up?

Doug:              So, I think that this is the point where, and I can’t emphasize this piece enough as well, if you are not paying attention to internal linking, that’s going to be a challenge for you. And I think that really we talked again and again about how to involve your SEO team. You’re going to do the best practices here, you’re going to check in your site map, the old and the new site map with Google search console. But before you do that, you’re going to take your SEO team, you’re going to sit them down and you’re going to make sure you’re publishing this correctly. And again, I’ve got this expert team but also a lot of my marketing team members are STOs themselves. So, this is something we could handle. And then you’re asking Google to crawl the new map. In other words, to demand the new map you crawled in. So, it understands, it gets that strong signal that you’ve migrated the site. That was huge for us, Ben, in terms of post-launch success.

Ben:                 So, one of the things that we mentioned in the title of this episode was talking about how you use the site migration that did this development to boost site speed. This was one of the biggest wins for Searchmetrics from a performance perspective. Going through the development phase, how did you manage to tackle some of the key problems you had with site speed?

Doug:              So, like I said, we split the workload between two developers. Our current site developer, in other words rolled site, and at that time I knew site developer. One of the reasons I would recommend this, and I understand there’s plenty of organizations out there that either have just a propensity of resources that they’re going, “Duh,” or super small organizations going, “Geez, I’m barely able to afford a developer for this.” But if you have that luxury, I would say support them. And what we were able to do is to have our web developer focused almost exclusively on site speed and a lot of the things that we got right through that process, Ben, and I’m going to mention one thing we got wrong that we still need to catch up with, but we used things like lazy loading and we used cache validation and inline small CSS and we used minify JavaScript really well. We still have big sites, so one of the things penalizing us currently that we really can’t tackle until future releases of the site, and we’ve got three more coming up, were the redirects. And we just unfortunately we have a ton of content, so some of those redirects are going to have to wait. So, we went from seven and a half seconds to 4.1 seconds as a part of the migration. Do you care to guess what it is that’s holding us off from meeting the world-class standard of 1.2 for site load speed? Take a wild guess.

Ben:               The podcast. It’s all my fault.

Doug:            Google Tag Manager set up.

Ben:               My other problem.

Doug:            With amazing help from people like you are over the years, we really made that structure and hierarchy a lot better, but it wasn’t optimized for site speed. Som ironically enough, all the great work we did together, getting ready for all the performance projects we had was the thing that slowed us down. One thing that we aren’t doing well is being able to really leverage scaled images in the way that we need to. And one day, Facebook and Google are going to let me crack their server so I can deal with some browser caching. That’s going to happen, Ben, I promise you. It’s going to happen, they’re going to give me the power.

Ben:              Good luck with that. Okay, so Doug, we’re up to the point now where we’ve got through ideation, you’ve got your team in place, you’ve got your development pretty much wrapped up and now we’re ready to talk a little bit about how the site’s actually performed. So, we’re going to get into that tomorrow and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics. We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Doug, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, where his handle is MarketAdvocate, or you can visit his company’s website, which is

Ben:             Just one more link in our show notes that I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions, or you can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our show’s handle is Voices of Search, or you can reach out to me personally, my handle is BenJShap. And if you haven’t subscribed yet and you want a daily stream of marketing and technology knowledge in your podcast feed, in addition to part four of our conversation with Doug Bell, CMO of Searchmetrics, where we talk about the performance of Searchmetrics’ site migration, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.

Tyson Stockton

Tyson Stockton

Tyson has over 10 years' experience in the digital marketing industry. As Vice President of Client and Account Management, Tyson manages the Enterprise Client Success team and SEO Consulting efforts at Searchmetrics. Tyson has worked with some of world’s largest enterprise websites including Fortune 500 and global eCommerce leaders. Prior to Searchmetrics, Tyson worked on the in-house side managing the SEO and SEM efforts of a collection of 14 sports specialty eCommerce companies in the US, Europe and Australia.

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