Over the past year, PMG has helped several clients migrate from one ecommerce platform to another. This happens all the time: a business starts small, and, as they grow, they find themselves outpacing their platform. It’s time to move, but moving is disruptive, work intensive, and generally a pain.
A migration comes with many challenges on the SEO front, so here’s three questions to ask of your new platform choices.
1. How does the platform handle legacy URIs?
Legacy, in this case, means URIs from the old platform and site. The ideal situation is that every old URI can be mapped to its corresponding new URI through a 301 redirect.
Some questions to ask of your new platform’s handling of legacy URIs:
- Does it have a built in way to map old URIs to new?
- Does that functionality do pattern matching? Or will you have to write rules for each individual old URI?
- How does the redirect functionality work? Does it slow down the site?
Demandware, for instance, includes a full featured mapping system to handle legacy URIs. Other, self-hosted platforms (ala Magento) give you full access to the server, making URI rewriting a piece of cake.
That brings up the next point:
2. Just how much access will you have?
Platforms as a service (PaaS), like MagentoGo or Demandware, give you less access to the server level things by default. It’s a trade off: you get the stability and security of a fully managed platform, leaving you to do the real work – selling stuff. On the other hand, this means some things (like URI rewriting) have to be done through the platform itself.
If the platform is deficient in some way, you’re stuck with it. If you lack a feature in an open source platform like Magento, you can add it – either by forking the project completely or adding a plugin. In the same way, if you choose to build your own platform, you can add whateve features you desire.
So how much access will you have to the underlying software? How will that effect your ability to be agile and move forward as time goes on?
3. Can you Migrate Your Existing Data?
To get the most out of that old platform you did a lot of work: new <title>s, meta descriptions, product names & descriptions, customer reviews, customer accounts, everything!
You want to make sure your new platform has an easy way for you to migrate all that data. You’re already changing a lot of stuff, so make sure your new platform can pull in the old data easily. Sometimes this is as easy as an SQL dump, other times it means scraping the current website and feeding the data to an API on the new.
Is there way to push data into the new platform easily? How much access do you have on that front (see point 2)?
The moral here is not to fall in love with a platform too quickly. Ask the tough questions up front and weed out the bad ones.