Even for the most experienced engineers, designers and marketers, a website migration can be a major undertaking. It costs time and resources, and is a major stressor to teams without proper guidance.
While many guides exist with varying degrees of quality and detail, many seem to avoid the topic of tracking and templates.
Although considered nuance to some, having a good template and knowing what metrics to track is paramount to a streamlined website migration, or project/process in general.
To bring this more full circle, Rowe Digital put together a list of some of the most commonly overlooked benchmarking metrics. In addition, we’ve also provided a free template. Note – Skip to the bottom of the article for a glimpse at our free tracking template.
The first among many metrics is Moz’s famous domain and page authority. Likely due to resource constraints and lack of understanding, Authority scores can be one of the most often overlooked metrics when tracking against a migration. Moz authority in particular serves as a great complement and contrast against other KPIs.
For example, a loss in total organic traffic is sometimes indistinguishable without knowing page level metrics. This is where PA might come in. If a page or set of pages has lost authority following transition, it could be, at least in part, attributed to the total loss.
Note – jump to ‘Backlinks’ to learn how these two metrics connect.
Rankings & Visibility
The second and maybe more surprising is rankings and visibility.
Because most medium to larger sites have hundreds or thousands of ranking keywords, the thought of tracking can become so overwhelming it sometimes dropped entirely due to stress and frustration.
While it’d be nice to have a log of all keywords (mapped to key pages) prior to any major structural changes, it’s not really necessary, and therefore not as formidable a task as some might have thought.
Key metrics for rankings and visibility should focus mostly on categorical totals, notably in high level branded and non-branded segments. This can be achieved easily via tools like SEMRush, STAT and/or AWR. Note – GSC is typically not recommended as it only provides samples.
Since they have direct access and intimate working knowledge of website systems (e.g. CMS & FTP), It’s sometimes assumed that dev / engineering also has/have a steady pulse on page counts. As a result, it often can get lost and/or logged improperly.
But having a before and after snapshot of all website URLs is a quick and easy way to gauge post-launch success at a glance.
Two of the most efficient methods for gathering this info involve using crawlers and Google Analytics. Note – Due to system limitations and samples, it’s not generally recommended to use Google, Bing and/or a combination of Google Search Console.
By far the most frequently forgotten about metric is performance. Performance metrics can range drastically, but almost always come back to the time in which it takes a website to become interactive, or TTI. TTI measures from initial load to main sub-resource load; this is the point a given website is likely to be responding to user input rather efficiently.
Note – This metric, along with others like speed index and first meaningful paint, are also all rolled up into a higher level performance score. These performance scores that take into everything from js parsing and execution times to caching policy, compression, and more.
While it may not directly tie into and/or affect other key metrics, a dip (or gain) in TTI and/or performance scores following a migration can be indicative of misguided redirects/protocol and/or communication issues with a new server.
Last but certainly not least is backlinks. Backlinks can be identified via GSC and third party tools like Ahref. A drop in backlinks following a migration can very likely be caused by missing redirects. Any drop here would almost always align with drop in page and/or domain authority.
That said, backlink data should be noted for the domain as well as key pages.
Note – it’s possible backlinks are lost during an extensively long and drawn out migration. Use the ‘lost’ feature of ahrefs in addition to standard analysis and logging to help understand the difference.
Summary & Template
Although sometimes cumbersome, tracking can be a pretty straightforward process. Ultimately, it’s key to understanding a successful migration.
With the right template / framework in place, guides from SEJ, Moz and the like become much more valuable and powerful.
Click here to understand what a basic report might look like and how you can get started on benchmarking today.