Green Bikes and Cookies: Is Apple killing remarketing?

What’s the deal?

No doubt you will have seen Apple release the latest version of Safari when they dropped the new Mac OS and iOS a few weeks ago. But did you notice they’ve bundled into Safari a new thing called ITP or Intelligent Tracking Prevention? ITP looks to be Apple’s attempt to kill remarketing.

Here’s what they had to say about it:

Intelligent Tracking Prevention. Keep your browsing to yourself.

Remember when you looked at that green mountain bike online? And then saw annoying green mountain bike ads everywhere you browsed? Safari now uses machine learning to identify advertisers and others who track your online behaviour, and removes the cross‑site tracking data they leave behind. So your browsing stays your business.”

No matter your opinion on re-marketing or re-targeting, and how useful you may find it as a marketer and a consumer, Apple seem to have got the bit between their teeth and think it’s an invasion of privacy.

What’s ITP going to do, and why should I be worried?

ITP is going to target sites which load cookies from other domains and prevent them from using those cookies for tracking after 24 hours. After 30 days with no subsequent interaction the cookie will be purged completely.

In practice this means that retargeting which relies on a tracking cookie will be unavailable after 24 hours and cookies used for measurement will only survive for 30 days. Safari has been doing this for a while with 3rd party cookies but now they’re doing it for 1st party cookies too.

All this means that re-marketing is going to get very hard.

There is also a school of thought that this could extend to affiliate cookies and other types of online advertising in the future.

What can we do about it?

Google has offered some help and said they’ll use the google analytics cookie to identify people, so remarketing can still happen through google display network – but only if you’re using the latest version of Google analytics tracking. If you’re still on legacy GA there will be some configuration needed to make this happen and make sure you’re set up for remarketing through GA cookie. Other smaller networks are coming up with their own solutions including banner insertions and non-cookie based tracking servers which may need additional configuration and specific handling in your analytics package.

The best advice is, if you’re doing any sort of remarketing do an impact assessment. This should focus on 3 key things to see just how much of a pain in the arse this is going to be for you:

  • Get an understanding of just how much of your traffic is currently coming from those using Safari on Mac OS or iOS. This will determine how big an impact you’ll likely feel.
  • Assess how much of your marketing mix is reliant on remarketing and retargeting. The bigger the chunk the more you should be worried.
  • Review which services you’re currently using for remarketing/retargeting and how they’ve responded to ITP. If you’re seeing a drop off in traffic, it might be time to look to move to another supplier who’s better able to cope.

When Apple first announced ITP there were a lot of blog posts written and a lot of assumptions made but having worked through the issue with a number of clients it really is a mixed bag as to how badly you will be affected.

It is something we should all be concerned about but it’s not necessarily for every business to fret over. Carry out your impact assessment, get informed and then you can make the right choice for you and your brand.

Top 5 digital marketing campaigns this November

We know we promised some festive campaigns this month, but we’re not quite ready to think about Christmas just yet. So instead of fluffy monsters, actors narrating fairy tales and talking carrots, we’ve decided to focus on some of the other content from the web in November. (But there will absolutely be a festive edition coming your way in the near future…)

There’s marketing firsts from BMW, a helpful guide from Facebook, and guerrilla tactics from Cards Against Humanity. We know you’re going to love these as much as we do.

BMW and Snapchat

In a first for advertising, BMW experimented with Snapchat’s augmented trial lens to market their latest car, the BMW X2. By swiping up on a BMW ad, a 3D model of the car appears on users’ cameras, allowing them to get a 360-degree view of it.

BMW are turning their attention to the Millennial market with their creative use of the social platform. And the BMW X2 isn’t even in showrooms yet, so we’re getting a first look at it in an organic situation. Could this be the future of car sales?

Scan the Snapcode below to try it out for yourself…

Jumanji 360

With the new Jumanji film coming to cinemas in late December, promo for the film has been upping the ante lately. This 360 game immerses users in the world of Jumanji with a scavenger hunt set in a treehouse.

Once an item is found, the player learns more about the characters, and gets a sneak peak of the film with teaser clips. The 360 video was made in collaboration with Sony, and it works across a number of devices, including virtual reality headsets.

Argos Mew-Tube

If you hadn’t already noticed, the biggest retail event of the year falls in November. Black Friday has inspired plenty of content from brands and retailers. Argos played on the idea of the stressful pre-Christmas sale, and the internet’s love for kittens, to create Mew-Tube.

To keep shoppers calm as they scramble for the best deals, Argos set up a ‘live stream’ of cute kittens playing with some of their products. Cue 2 hours of much-needed retail therapy for Black Friday shoppers.

Facebook – For Every Fan

The countdown to the 2018 World Cup has officially begun. With just 7-months to go until the tournament, Facebook have published a handy guide for marketers, sharing tips on how to engage football fans online.

Facebook and Instagram combined have an audience of 2 billion people, and the World Cup will no doubt be a hot-topic on the social platforms. Facebook has identified three different types of football fans, as well as trends to watch, giving marketers plenty of inspiration for some exciting campaigns.

Cards Against humanity – Prongles

Cards Against Humanity have made a tradition of Black Friday pranks. In 2015, the company encouraged people to spend $5 and receive nothing in return (they later published a receipt of what the money was spent on).

This year, though, they decided to totally re-brand. Prongles was created as a critique of Trump, and real packs of the snack were available to buy at retailers in the USA in the lead-up to Black Friday. The Prongles site is choc-full of hilarious content, from the parody song to the genius FAQ section, and the very original slogan: ‘Once you pop, that’s great!’

It’s been wildly successful too, with over 20K social shares since it went live on Friday.

So there you have it, our favourite digital campaigns from November. Keep your eyes peeled for the Christmas edition of RHP’s content round-up coming soon!

The Slam Down I : Voice Search

Voice search is a subject that’s pretty hard to ignore right now for us digital marketers. Is it really the next big thing that’s going to revolutionise how we go to market? Or is it just a big white elephant that we’ll look back on as a fad in a few years’ time?

To get to the heart of the matter, we’ve pitted two of our experts against each other in a “Slam Down” to see what they make of it. In the red corner: Andy Rich – The SEO Slugger. And in the blue corner: Ben Lipscombe – The PPC Panther. Sparks flew, tears were shed, and people were called bad names…but enough about our last team breakfast, here’s what Andy and Ben had to say:

“It’s a sophisticated evolution of how we’ll all use tech” – Andy Rich

Voice search isn’t just the next big thing, it is already a massive deal. It’s now well beyond the fad stage of asking Siri to beatbox or getting Alexa to tell you a joke. People are using voice search for legitimate reasons and to actually ‘do’ things – organise their lives, research subjects, maintain relationships, plan trips.

It’s an evolution of how humans use tech. We’ve moved from typing texts out with a T9 keypad (like some sort of caveman), to a full keyboard, then to a virtual keyboard, and now on to voice. We’re skipping the keyboard altogether and going straight to words and speech, which humans do infinitely better. It’s just more natural and more efficient to speak and be spoken to so voice search will only continue to grow in popularity.

The sophistication of voice search is only going to increase too, as machine learning and artificial intelligence grows ever more powerful. Soon voice search and the algorithms it uses will be able to understand the context and inferences of speech – understanding not just what we say, but how we say it – to make it even more useful and embedded in how we do things.

We’re already seeing this rise in sophistication with the RankBrain algorithm and its intelligent autocomplete capabilities for text searches. So it’s only logical that this will soon extend out to voice search.

Users are also getting more sophisticated in how they voice search and are moving beyond the novelty of addressing the tech as a person. Long tail style searches are diminishing as people have got more used to using voice search, and because of how Google works – by pulling results from quick answer boxes, local results and Google shopping listings. It’s just going to get better and better for users as brands and businesses cotton on.

20% of mobile queries are now via voice search and 20% of people are using voice search on a daily basis. I can only see that exploding over the next few months and years!

Brands need to make Voice Search work for them. You need to create content that answers questions and suits mobile search, with local listings and citations that pull through details and reviews that leverage advocates that are being built up across all channels. To work properly for a brand, voice search really does need to be considered as part of a holistic approach to digital marketing.

“It’s not really the game changer some think it is” – Ben Lipscombe

Every organisation or industry needs to have a number of things to talk about at any one time to make it sound like they’re leading the way. It just so happens that voice search is currently one of those things.

It’s being used as a competitive topic and is slipping into buzzword territory as everyone feels they have to chip in, especially when it’s addressing something as obvious as the way we use devices. It’s like everyone has to mention it to sound informed. It’s this amplification effect that makes it seem like a much bigger deal than it really is.

That’s not to say it’s not going to have any impact, it’s just that the way it’s being discussed as an absolute game changer is over-exaggerated.

The difference between voice searches and typed searches is that voice searches are more long-tail and conversational which some are suggesting will change search query data. But if you look at search query data from back in the day, this started out long tail because people didn’t understand they weren’t actually having a conversation with a man called Jeeves, and over time searches have become more refined as people just focus on key words.

This is exactly what we’re seeing with voice search.

As the method of searching now sways more towards voice search, things will play out in the same way. People will start having a “quirky” conversation but will gradually refine down to just using key words meaning the data voice searches provide will be exactly the same as the data typed searches already provide. It really changes nothing as it’s still the same query just being made in a different way.

Even if people do continue to search in a more voice oriented way, i.e. speaking for longer, Google will only be looking for the key words in the voice search, with connector words nullified when the algorithm kicks in. It’s still the same searches, still the same data.

Also, using voice search is very situation dependent. If you’re in a car and can’t (or shouldn’t) use your phone then voice search is important. But if someone’s sitting on a train or walking around a shop, are they going to talk out loud to their phone and look like a weirdo? Lots of people won’t even use it.

One thing voice search does open up is a greater opportunity to interact across devices for consumers. For brands this means a further complication to what are already complex customer journeys as more and more touch points would now be included. This increases the need for, and the challenge of, proper attribution modelling and further diminishes how effective simple attribution methods like “Last Click” can be. This was always a challenge even before voice search came along, but it makes it even more necessary to consider how you use attribution properly.

So, I’m not saying it’s not going to do anything, it’s just that we shouldn’t necessarily believe the hype. I think it may drive a gradual increase in searches as it’ll open up a new way of searching. But in terms of what it means for brands, search data and what brands need to do to appear for searches will remain pretty much the same –  crawlable websites, optimised listings and question-answering content.

What do you think? Is one of these guys talking complete gibberish? Should someone become the oracle on all things voice search? We’d love to get your thoughts on the impact of voice search and how you think it’s going to change our world, or not, as the case may be…

Make Attribution Great Again: 4 Top Tips

What does it take to be a digital marketing winner? That special X factor separating the top performers from the rest can be boiled down to one word; efficiency. Those brands that can get customers to convert with the minimum fuss will always deliver maximum results.

Making that digital journey to conversion as efficient as possible can be a taxing task though. You need to understand how EVERY channel our touch point is performing (or not!) so you can budget, plan and strategise properly. But how?

Attribution is the answer. Whilst the theory makes a pretty big promise – a complete understanding of specifically which channels drive conversions – the reality falls somewhat short. It’s more like attribution sheds some light on the channels that could be given a portion of the credit for conversions.

Why is this? Why does the big promise not play out in reality? There are a handful of reasons.

You’re trampling the snow

Before you apply any sort of attribution model, your data is pure and untouched like freshly fallen snow. As soon as you start to apply any sort of attribution you’re deciding that some data is more important or should be given more credit than others. You start trampling in the snow, making snow men and chucking snow balls, essentially disturbing and ruining what was pure.

There’s also loads of potentially valuable data out there that you won’t even be tracking, and probably can’t ever track no matter which attribution model you use, so you’re always going to be making decisions based on incomplete information. Just because you get a LOT of data and information from an attribution model doesn’t mean you’re getting ALL of it or that it’s any good.

You can be spoiled with information that makes you think you know everything, but attribution still requires a certain leap of faith and an appreciation that you’ll never know it all.

There’s also a huge amount of technology out there that can help but again, it can’t ever give you everything, no matter what you use. Facebook, for example, doesn’t share its impression data with Google, so no matter what expensive piece of tech you’ve got you’ll still need to take a leap of faith when making decisions.

Customers are more than clicks

Away from the technical side of things there’s also the fact that each individual consumer has a unique experience, and trying to simplify that complex, personalised journey down to just clicks, impressions or some other metric can be myopic.

We still need to at least try and understand the shifting behaviour of customers, but in this multi-device world it can be near impossible. The big players like Apple or Amazon, who have consumers logged in with a single profile on multiple devices, can do this but for most of us it’s out of our reach and beyond our attribution prowess.

Metrics that indicate consumer behaviour are clearly still valid for all: Dwell time, page views, shares, and clicks for example, it’s just becoming more difficult to tie them together into a single customer journey – hence attribution falling short.

Doing attribution well

As we’ve not been all that positive about attribution so far, picking holes in it as an endeavour, you may think this is an anti-attribution piece. But its not. Far from it.

Despite its flaws and inaccuracies attribution done well can be an incredibly valuable exercise, and even though it can’t tell you everything it will help you build your understanding of what is or isn’t working so you can budget, plan and strategise better.

So how can you do attribution well? Here are 4 tips to help you on your way.

The first tip is to acknowledge that every attribution model and tech solution has its benefits and flaws. If they didn’t we would have one model and one piece of tech that everyone would use, so it’s more a case of picking what will work best for you and your business and doing the best you can within those parameters rather than aiming for perfection (which doesn’t even exist!).

The second tip is to define your goals and what you’re trying to measure from the outset. It’s most likely going to be conversions, but are you looking at conversions from specific channels, for certain products or from individual campaigns? And is a single conversion the right thing to focus on, why not Life Time Value or some other longer-term measure of success?

The third tip is to keep on testing and refining what you’re doing across digital channels. Attribution helps you assess the value of what you’re doing, but it doesn’t necessarily increase the value of what you’re doing. Use what your attribution modelling tells you to continually tweak and reimagine what you’re doing to increase that value as much as possible

The final, and most important tip is to approach attribution holistically. Attribution definitely shouldn’t be carried out in silos or by one team at a time as you’ll end up focusing too much on one area and leaving the others to rot. Everyone with responsibility for a digital channel within your business needs to get involved. It’ll mean what you’re doing is then transparent and working for the benefit of the organisation as a whole.

Is dark social leaving you in the dark?

We live in a world of tracking. Reach, engagement, overall performance. As marketers we want to measure the success of our social campaigns to inform us for future posts. But it’s now thought that up to 87% of content shares are made through dark social – making it more difficult for us to monitor.

Despite sounding like an annual ball at Hogwarts, dark social isn’t as ominous as it seems.

So, what is dark social?

It’s the content that’s shared in private – think Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, email etc. Dark social keeps us on our toes. People are copying and pasting content links into their own private chats, and when people click directly through the shared link, or even open it in private browsing tabs, it all appears as direct traffic on your analytics platform. This leads to traffic without attribution, which causes problems for us when planning our next campaign.

How can dark social effect you?

Identifying our best performing channels helps us refine our social strategy. Attribution also tells us which channels aren’t performing as effectively so we can switch up our approach, or limit spending waste. As much as any traffic is great, we need to know where it comes from so we can plan our ongoing strategy and future campaigns.

The Drum (2017) claim that up to 87% of content shares are now done through dark social. That’s a lot of unattributed traffic. For brands this means a huge segment of customer data is missing, so it’s hard to know which channels and whose efforts are responsible for traffic. We need to know where our customers are, so we can make it as easy as possible to reach them. Attribution is key for optimising future posts. So, is there any way of tracking dark social?

Can we measure dark social? 

In short, no. We can’t track all dark social. But we can definitely shed some light (yep) on how much dark social traffic you’re getting.

One way to get a clearer picture of your dark social traffic is using UTM tracking on all links. Given that users are sharing the full link, this lets you track the source, medium and campaign of every visitor to your site. It will help you identify which posts are driving the most traffic. But UTM tracking does present problems too.

If a link that is shared via email is then posted on Facebook, users who click through that secondary link will appear as email referrals in your analytics data, when they were actually directed through a social channel. This is still helpful data though, as you know that the original engagement and share came from your email link.

Your other option is to create a direct traffic segment in Google Analytics. To do this, you need to create a new segment that only includes direct traffic, and then exclude any pages that are simple or memorable (/blog etc.). The pages you’re left with are likely to be a result of dark social – although this isn’t completely reliable as smartphone browsers may start a new session when users re-open them and be included as direct traffic when they could have previously come from any channel.

While neither of these methods are completely reliable, they’ll certainly offer insights into how much of your traffic is through dark social sources. And with more attributed traffic you can start informing your campaigns with focussed social targeting.

The coolest marketing campaigns this October from Coke, Moonpig, and others

With Autumn in full swing, we decided to warm up by looking at some of our favourite pieces of content this October. Featuring hilarious ads, clever competitions and interactive quizzes to sink your teeth into, and even a festive offering or two…

Moonpig

Moonpig are re-branding. They’ve dropped the .com and even their mascot, but their clever marketing team have created this brilliant ad to announce the changes.

It’s a refreshingly self-aware ad that pays tribute to the brand’s gimmicky pig mascot and sets out their intentions for the future.

Coke x Adobe

Coke and Adobe teamed up this October, inviting creatives to create an image for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which the drinks company sponsor. Coke have released their assets, including their font and Coca-Cola ribbon, to get designers’ creative juices flowing.

The images are posted to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #cokexadobexyou and then added to a gallery on the website.

Famous premier league moments

Men’s clothing brand, Bad Rhino, decided to celebrate 25 years of the Premier League with this interactive quiz.

See if you can name the footballers (and one celebrity chef) involved in some of the most memorable moments from the League’s history…

25 Years of Top-Flight Footy Moments
Click image to open interactive version (via BadRhino).

Svedka retargeted ads

A Halloween-inspired campaign – Swedish spirit company, Svedka Vodka, created spooky banner ads to re-target users that have been ‘cursed’.

The only way to break the curse is by clicking through to their site and sharing a Halloween cocktail recipe with a friend. It plays on the fact that advertising can follow you around the internet, and we love this creative use of targeted ads.

Smyths Toys

It’s never too early for a Christmas ad, right? That’s what we thought, so we just had to share this one from Smyths Toys. Narrated by David Walliams, it follows ‘Snot’, the toy that nobody wanted to take home.

The campaign is jokingly called ‘Pick Snot’ and has its very own micro-site where you can buy a cuddly snot toy, and play an interactive game.

 

Tune in next month to see more creative campaigns, which will inevitably be very festive.

 

Unravelling Awesome PPC Campaigns

Our Head of Marketing, Russ Powell recently presented at the Figaro Digital Summit with a session titled “Aggression, Efficiency and Budgets: Unravelling awesome PPC”. If you’re involved in any sort of PPC activity for your organisation this really is a must watch as it completely dismantles the traditional approaches to PPC and shows the fatal flaws that are probably holding back how effective PPC can be.

Russ laid out the case for removing budgets from PPC activity completely, based on a central (and very important theme). PPC is actually a delicate balancing act between Aggression (how many leads you want) and Efficiency (how you want to obtain those leads) and having any sort of pre-determined budget associated with PPC activity AT ALL will inhibit how effective that balancing act can be and the results that you can deliver.

Russ then went on to demonstrate how this works in the real world, the key considerations you’ll need to take when looking at making your PPC as awesome as it can be, and where we have used this approach with both Lipsy and Megabus to drive significant improvements and returns.

Take a look at Russ’ presentation and if you have any questions contact Russ on russ.powell@redhotpenny.com

PR is dead. Long live PR.

Traditional PR tactics are struggling. Building positive perceptions of a brand in a digital world can no longer be done with the same approach, where decision makers are digital natives and brands need to be thinking ahead with markets moving at a lightning pace.

Firing out press releases is finished. Waiting for print runs is passé.  Traditional media is treading water as digital zooms by in a speedboat.

The Sun may have one of the largest readerships in the UK estimated at 3,000,000+ but its own digital monthly readership is in excess of 80,000,000!

So, what killed this traditional PR approach? The inability to prove who you were actually speaking to.

Traditional PR measures like column inches, reach, share of voice, and all that jazz are often based on guess work and have little relevance to a digital approach. Viewer figures and circulation numbers that media companies and publishers use to tempt your precious PR budgets from you are the same.

Some would call these vanity metrics. They may look good on paper but none of them actually prove any impact on brand perception – the whole point of PR.

Some more modern metrics have stuck their hand in the air for consideration, but they still fall short.

AVE – Advertising Value Equivalent – has become a popular measure but it’s still based on those approximate viewer figures or circulation numbers and an amount of money someone else is willing to spend for ad space.

Any seemingly impressive “ROI” figure is at best loosely accurate based on estimates of readership and no real reflection of the value of your brand and PR activity.

It’s these assumptions that have hampered traditional PR in proving its value and paved the way for digital PR to take its place.

With digital PR comes a mass of more responsive, more targeted and more agile channels and approaches that have significantly increased the opportunity for PR to have real impact and shape brand perception. But with every new opportunity comes challenge.

PR now can’t be a standalone activity. It needs to be completely integrated, working in sync with all your other digital marketing activity across SEO, Content and Social to build a consistent picture of a brand and develop valuable conversations with digitally savvy customers.

That synchronization across multiple digital channels means we’re awash with stats for visits, dwell times, clicks, likes, follows, shares and an untold number of others, and that’s no bad thing.

These stats all have much more value than those traditional PR measures as they help to understand the value of activity across your digital channels but the challenge of proving any favourable change in brand perception is still there.

These metrics measure the opportunity to communicate your brand’s message but they don’t measure the effectiveness of communicating your brand’s message.

To measure this effectiveness of communication there is still the need to find a repeatable metric that can be used to measure the penetration of your brand message over time.

Taking inspiration from Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Net Value Score (NVS) Red Hot Penny have created a trackable metric to measure brand perception called Brand Value Score (BVS).

Brand Value Score determines exactly how people perceive a brand and helps our clients directly assess the impact of all their integrated digital marketing activity.

Scores are calculated through direct engagement with customers and can be aggregated over time, across any market segments or demographic, to understand exactly how a variety of factors – including your PR activity – directly influence brand perception.

To find out how you can discover your own BVS and be able to link PR to a directly relevant and measurable metric just get in touch.

For more of our thoughts on the future of PR take a look at our blog post here, or to see how we’ve helped some of our PR clients take a look at the case studies for Vector Watch and Crabtree & Evelyn.

ITV, Marmite and more… our favourite digital campaigns this September

We’ve found the perfect end of Summer pick-me-up in a few of the coolest digital marketing campaigns from September. Offerings from ITV, 360-drawing.com, IKEA and Marmite have been helping to relieve our blues, with their clever use of video, inspired use of VR and fully integrated campaigns.

ITV

ITV’s new drama ‘Liar’ started earlier this month. It’s a gripping story that centres around two characters – one of whom is lying.

To build anticipation for their latest programme, ITV’s Facebook page was littered with short videos advertising the show. One in particular caught our attention. The video asks viewers to remove one headphone at a time to hear two different sides to the story.

This clever use of video gets across the programme’s dramatic theme, and has so far racked up over 1 million views.

360-drawing.com

360-drawing.com provides online training in how to draw 360° panoramas. Illustrator Kevin Hohler used the tool to create a stunning Where’s Waldo (aka Wally) panorama, taking the classic children’s book into the digital age.

The content can be viewed with a virtual reality headset or on your desktop. Look out for Wally plus characters like Homer Simpson, ET and a Minion!

IKEA

Ever heard of autonomous sensory meridian response? Well, ASMR  is that tingling feeling at the back of your neck triggered by visual or acoustic stimuli.

It’s a bit scientific, but makes a great basis for a marketing campaign which is exactly what IKEA have done. Their Oddly IKEA ASMR video showcases products for Uni students, and incorporates features including a soft voiceover and satisfying product shots to trigger viewers’ ASMR.

It’s a 25-minute video and is super-relaxing. We don’t know why, but we feel the need for an IKEA trip…

Marmite

Last but not least, we LOVE this new Marmite campaign. Playing on their ‘love it or hate it’ narrative, Marmite has come up with a totally integrated campaign to determine whether you like marmite – based on your genetic make-up.

The TV ad is a must-watch, and it’s backed up by some pretty cool digital content. Videos and mock-scientific reports explain the science behind the ‘Marmite gene project’.

There’s an interactive feature too. Users go to the microsite, https://tasteface.marmite.co.uk/, to take the test themselves. It involves making some Marmite on toast before using your front-facing camera to film yourself eating it. The results will tell you if you were born loving Marmite, or hating it.

Are you ready for Magento 2.0? – 5 tips for website migration

In November 2018, Magento 1.x will reach the end of its lifespan. There’ll be no more technical support, bug fixes or updates for the numerous e-commerce sites hosted on the 1.x versions of Magento. Now is the time to look at your site hosting platform and what you can do to future-proof your business – but don’t worry! You’re not alone.

Magento is an open-source platform and a popular choice for e-commerce sites. Building your website with Magento requires extensions and plug-ins, plus bespoke settings. The process of building a site is a complicated one and, it requires specialised web developers to get your site running like a well-oiled machine.

So, with Magento’s switch to focus on its 2.0 versions, retailers who do not upgrade risk falling behind the competition when it comes to site functionality, security and performance.

What are my options?

With this in mind, what can you do when Magento 1.x is no longer supported? Well, users have 3 options:

  1. Stay on Magento 1.x

Staying on Magento 1.x presents some issues. While it is an inexpensive solution to continue running an established site, without continuing updates from Magento, your site is at risk from emerging security threats. There’ll be no more bug fixes either meaning those niggling issues that you were assured ‘would be fixed in a future release’ simply won’t be resolved. In the long run, the cost of paying developers to create bespoke solutions for you will cancel out any initial savings from not migrating.

  1. Migrate to Magento 2.0

Magento 2.0 offers improved features including: increased payment security, 50% faster page loading and unique flexibility. What’s more, you’ll be able to transfer data such as customer information directly from Magento 1.x versions.

However, migration is expensive. The extensions and bespoke settings applied to your site on Magento 1.x can’t be carried across to the latest version. As a result, demand for developers with the expertise in Magento 2.0 will be high, and so will their cost.

  1. Migrate to another e-commerce platform

Similar to migrating to Magento 2.0, migrating to another platform could help future-proof your business. But, the longer your site has been trading, the more complex it is and this will make migration more costly. Additionally, there may be a steep learning curve on the new platform and there are a number of SEO variables to consider before packing up and moving.

Actions to take

If you’ve decided to migrate, bring on board the right developers to build the new site. It’s not a DIY job, especially considering the newness of Magento 2.0. While popular extension developers such as Mageworx are building a portfolio of extensions for the new version, it will take time for the 3rd party market to catch up to those available for Magento 1.x.

To overcome these hurdles, site developers will be your first port of call. There’s a reduced risk when working with experienced developers and it’s essential to partner with the right team for your needs. That doesn’t mean it’s a straightforward task though, migration will always consume a lot of resources.

There’s also SEO to think about. Your current site will have built up search engine authority that you don’t want to lose with a site migration. To protect this authority, there are certain SEO best practices that need to be carried out. This too is a complicated process and after investing heavily in a new site, it needs to be done well.

Check out our 5 steps below to make the tricky process run smoothly and importantly, retain your site traffic and authority.

Crawl your site

First thing’s first. You must understand the structure of your current site and which URLs you’re going to take with you. This step gives you the chance to make sure all your existing pages will be carried over and helps to spot any issues that could cause post-migration headaches.

Check for things like low-traffic pages, error messages and internal linking before planning the structure of your new site. This way, you can determine the content that’s migrating to your new site and what needs to be improved on. It’ll save you time when it comes to redirects.

Don’t lose inbound links

Speaking of redirects, that leads us to the next step for a smooth website migration: 301 redirects. These let search engines know to divert any traffic coming to old URLs, to its new corresponding one.

It’s best to keep new URLs as similar as possible to the old ones but this is not always possible. In this case, 301 redirects must be put in place or it could cost you rankings, traffic and conversions.

These are also especially important for inbound links coming from external sites. The domain authority and SERPs you worked so hard to build could all go to waste if you don’t properly programme URLs to follow through to its new counterpart. Your established site authority is automatically passed on through redirects but, in the long-term, it’s best to run an outreach campaign to get links updated to keep things uncomplicated.

Google recommend you keep a copy of your old sitemap in place for 6 months following a migration. This allows time for the new URLs to be indexed and ranked so you should be able to remove any 301s after this.

Test the new site with ‘noindex’ tags

Once your content has been uploaded and 301 redirects programmed, it’s crucial to test your new site. However, you don’t want this site to be found on search engines because it’s not quite ready yet and it could cause duplication issues when you do launch the new site. Apply ‘noindex’ tags, or block the site from the robots.txt file, to tell search engines not to list that site.

Check the new site for things like UX, mobile UX and loading speed – these are all things that affect your rankings. A great tool for checking how mobile friendly your site is, is Google’s test tool.

Check your analytics pull through

Once your new site launches, the last thing you want is to have incorrect or no data to compare its performance. Luckily, you can check that your analytics is properly set up and populated with data, before going live.

Start by creating a test property in your existing analytics account, once you’ve got this set up correctly, you can mimic it with the new site to keep an eye on its performance.

It is almost certain that initially, you will experience a drop in traffic, but expect to retrieve 90% of your monthly traffic within 90 days of the migration date. This is enough time for Google to crawl, index and understand the new site. Keep an eye on this though, by pulling through your analytics.

Record benchmark data

You’re going to want to be able to report on the success of your site migration and to do so, you’ll need benchmark data. If you’re using Google Analytics, add an annotation to distinguish the launch date when looking at graphs.

Benchmark data makes it easier to compare the performance of your new site against the old one and check that it’s not losing traffic. If you’re not regaining traffic after 3 months, spotting where the issue started is vital, and those comparisons will come in handy.

Ready for relaunch

Finally, after all those crucial SEO checks, your site is ready for relaunch. There’s still work to be done though. We recommend that all the SEO checks you carried out before going live are repeated after launch so that no stone has been left unturned.

Our last piece of advice would be to remain vigilant; take the time to run checks and diagnose problems quickly. It’s a complicated process and unless you’re an SEO expert, it’s important to get help. SEO professionals will give you the knowledge and attention that increase your chances of a successful migration.

Download our handy checklist to walk you through migration!