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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.