How To Manage Your Paid Search Strategy During a Website Migration

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Jade Coleman and Zoe Bates take a look at how to integrate your site migration plan with your PPC account, including insight on using tracking codes, aligning your AdWords account to your new site, and when to pause and resume your paid search advertising campaigns. 

This post is adapted from our FREE eBook: Best Practice Guide to Planning & Managing a Site Migration. Download your copy now.

Perhaps one of the most important times to bring your SEO and PPC strategies together is for a site migration. Moving your website from one platform to another, or creating a totally new site, is an arduous task dreaded by many marketing managers. However, by combining PPC and SEO activities you should be able to seamlessly migrate across with few glitches.

Integration is key. Co-ordinate with the SEO team to identify a quiet time to implement your migration, pause your PPC campaigns while you move across content assets and then work together to identify key SEO and PPC considerations after the migration.

Audit Your Tracking Codes

When planning a site migration it is important to plan for changes in landing pages, URL structures and tracking codes from both an SEO and PPC perspective.

It’s advised to complete an audit of all the tracking you have in place. The most common tracking includes:

  • Google Tag Manager
  • Google Analytics
  • Universal Analytics
  • AdWords, Bid management (Kenshoo, Marin)
  • Remarketing (GDN, Adroll, Criteo and other platforms)
  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Call Tracking (AdWords, Response Tap, Infinity)

Think about every element. It’s worthwhile keeping a spreadsheet with all tracking codes in place on the current site. Then, when the new site is launched, it can be checked to ensure it has been migrated over and tested.

Use Your URL Mapping Document For The AdWords Account Structure

A new site could bring new categories of products or a change in category navigation. Products could also be removed or change category.

Main revenue drivers should take pride of place on your navigation. When you have determined key pages to migrate, what pages to lose, what URLs can be promoted to the navigation and what URLs should have less strength going to them. Use your URL mapping document to map the new URLS to your AdWords/Bing accounts. Look out for URLs that can’t be mapped or potentially new products to expand out on.

As ever, with Google the best practice for your AdWords text ads campaign is to follow the site navigation.

If you are changing domain name at the same time as a migration to a new platform your Quality Score is going to reset to 6, so this is a good opportunity to restructure your AdWords account at the same time.

Align Your Shopping Feed To New Site Structure

For e-commerce sites using Google or Bing Shopping, ensure your feed is in alignment with the new site structure and the new file is ready to upload. If you are working with a feed management company then they will be on hand to help and take on some of the work for this in advance, so ensure you are involving them in the process.

Check your AdWords Shopping campaign and check to see the products are still in the same AdWords structure. If they have all fallen into the ‘All Products’ ad group you will need to restructure your AdWords campaign.

Ensure your Custom Labels have been carried over from your old feed (e.g. high margin, seasonal, ROI/COS, promotions).

Also, check your Robot.txt file to make sure the feed is not blocked from Google.

Ensure you have also changed all the URLs on site links, Bing, remarketing platforms and social campaigns.

Pause Your PPC Campaigns During Site Migration

At the point that the site migration begins, pause all paid search activity. Take a download of your AdWords campaign so that you can measure back against CPCs, Bounce Rate and Quality Score.

The campaigns should remain paused until you and/or the technical team is confident in the success of the site migration. The time frame for pausing your PPC campaigns will all depend on how long it takes to migrate the site and test its functionality to the point that there is confidence in the usability, navigation and conversion flow of the site.

As paid search is controllable it can be used to test the load balancing of the site to ensure it can deal with the volume of visitors.

In terms of timing, it’s all about the balance of not wanting PPC to stay offline for too long and lose traffic and conversions, but also refraining from going live too soon and risking a bad user experience where there is the potential that you will not get that visitor back.

Once the campaigns are live again run a 404 error check on the URLs to make sure they are all working and monitor the impact the new site has had on:

  • Visibility
  • Ranking positions
  • Quality Score
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Bounce rates
  • Conversion rates
  • Device Performance

See how all traffic channels have been impacted. Look at the traffic comparisons year on year rather than month on month to give reflection of seasonality. If the site has had a change of domain at the same time then the Quality Score in AdWords will be reset to 6. See how this improves, as this will impact CPCs in the long term for the good or bad. If overall content, relevance and usability have been improved then you should see a higher Quality Score. But if you see a drop and it’s not steadily coming back, analyse why and work closely with your SEO and content teams to prioritise content.

It’s recommended to leave the AdWords account to settle for around two weeks. While you wait, map out where you need to be in the landscape to retain the same level of traffic and visibility you had before. This may cost you more as Quality Score will be lower and CPCs higher. However, over time, Quality Score should come back to where it was, and potentially see improvement.

If part of your site migration was to move to a responsive platform, monitor your bids and performance on each device. Ensure you have AdWords conversion tracking set up so you can monitor cross device. Also consider pushing mobile bids when reactivating your campaigns. More budget will need to be secured as budgets will go up with the CPC pushes previously down weighted.

Consider Keyword Rankings

It is important to prepare all your priority keywords and landing pages in advance of site migration into a “Priority Keywords” campaign.

Organic keyword rankings can fluctuate following migration so prepare a forecast of what it will cost for these keywords to be constantly on in your AdWords account.

You will need to secure budget in advance, as with any site change you will see ranking fluctuations and it’s important to manage the stakeholders’ understanding of what budgets will be needed to keep the traffic and conversions through Paid Search. This will then form your emergency campaign in AdWords. Set up a separate campaign with the relevant ad groups, keywords and creatives, and have this ready to put live once you understand the organic impact of the site migration.

When site migrations occur it’s important to work closely with both the SEO and PPC teams. Collectively discussing tracking code will ensure that nothing is left out. The PPC team will also find your URL mapping document useful to restructure the PPC account for launch.

ClickThrough Marketing is a fully integrated digital marketing agency. For more information visit the PPC and SEO Integration section of our website, or contact us direct.

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