When a website is slated to go through any type of major change, there are many digital marketing implications to consider. Website migrations typically become the focus of the Search Engine Optimization team, and therefore the paid digital marketing considerations are sometimes overlooked or underplayed.
The truth is, any source that is driving traffic to the website needs to have someone in charge who is aware of the migration plan. There are many different types of site migrations, stemming from site location changes, platform changes, content changes, structural changes, and even design and UX changes.
As a general rule of thumb, when URLs are changing, everyone who is responsible for sending traffic to the site needs to be aware.
The following ten step process outlines how to manage a paid digital marketing account through a website migration. You can also jump to any specific section in the grouping below.
- Provide Landing Page Optimization and User Experience Suggestions
- Review Development Site
- Pause Existing Campaigns Prior to Website Migration
- Select New Landing Pages
- Create New Ad Copy and Sitelinks
- Plan for Tracking Changes
- Confirm Paid Digital Marketing Campaigns are Paused Prior to Site Migration
- Confirm Site Migration Success
- Relaunch Paid Digital Marketing Accounts
- Confirm Account Relaunch Success
1. Provide Landing Page Optimization and User Experience Suggestions
One of the biggest benefits to having the paid digital marketing team actively involved in website migration planning is that it allows them to provide insight on how landing page changes can affect the user experience for paid traffic. The earlier the paid digital marketing team is included in the process, the more insights can be shared while the website migration is being planned.
Even if the website migration does not involve any URL changes, it can still be beneficial to involve the paid digital marketing team as the site changes will likely have an effect on the performance of paid digital marketing campaigns.
Paid digital marketing teams often have a wealth of knowledge on landing page design and user experience best practices. They may have also gathered knowledge about the effectiveness of different landing pages, widgets, call-to-actions, etc. through extended exposure and analysis.
The paid digital marketing team should be happy to get involved, because the ability to make these content and functionality recommendations is mutually beneficial to both the client and the paid digital marketing campaign performance.
2. Review Development Site
The paid digital marketing team should request access to the development site in order to have the most accurate and up-to-date depiction of the coming site changes. Getting this access early will allow them point out any potential functionality or content issues ahead of time. It also allows them to explore the changes that are coming to the landing pages in order to inform ad copy updates that will promote message match between the ads and the landing pages.
3. Pause Existing Campaigns Prior to Website Migration
The biggest hurdle for a smooth website migration across paid digital marketing efforts is making sure that the new URLs are rolled out in a way that prevents ad disapprovals, redirect issues, or wasted spend. For example, if ads with the new URLs are uploaded to the AdWords account (even as paused) before the new site goes live, they could be disapproved due to the destination not working. Similarly, ads will be disapproved in AdWords if there are multiple domains within the ad group, even if only the ads for one of the domains are active.
In order to prevent these types of issues during a website migration, we typically recommend setting the existing campaigns to pause before the planned site relaunch. This goes for all paid search and paid social platforms on which ads are being run. The paid digital marketing accounts can be relaunched once it is confirmed that the site migration was completed successfully. Paid digital marketing teams should inform their client’s of this plan ahead of time and be prepared to have the account paused for the minimal possible amount of time.
4. Select New Landing Pages
The paid digital marketing team should work with the client and/or the search engine optimization team to document what the new URLs will be once the website migration is complete. They can ask the client and/or search engine optimization team for a redirect map which will show where all existing URLs will be redirected once the site migrates. This is a great place to start because it shows which new pages are the equivalent of the landing pages that were previously in use. Even though the existing URLs should redirect to the new URLs, the paid digital marketing team will want to update the URLs as redirects can cause tracking and attribution issues.
The team should also keep in mind the new site structure and any other major functionality or content changes. It is possible that there may be a new landing page that comes out of the website relaunch that makes a more optimal paid digital marketing landing page than the equivalent of the previous landing page. If the paid digital marketing team has access to the development site, they can also use a tool such as Screaming Frog to crawl the development site and find all of the URLs that will go live at relaunch. The paid digital marketing team should consider all of these elements when selecting new final URLs for the ad copy, as well as for the sitelinks.
5. Create New Ad Copy and Sitelinks
Paid digital marketing teams need to make sure that the ad copy and sitelinks accommodate the new look and feel of the site post-migration. This is where having access to the development site comes in handy. It allows the paid digital marketing team to review what is to come and create ad copy and sitelinks that reflect the changes ahead of time. The new ad and sitelink copy is then paired with the new URLs that were selected. After running these through the approval process, they are ready to be uploaded to the account once the migration is complete.
For Paid Search platform such as AdWords and Bing, the new ad copy and sitelinks can be created in an Excel file so that it can be easily uploaded to the account. The ad copy could also be created within AdWords or Bing Editor ahead of time so that the changes can be pushed through once the site is live.
**Do not create the ad copy within the account itself until after the migration is complete to avoid ad disapproval issues.**
For social platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., you may not be able to upload your ad copy via an Excel spreadsheet, but you can still create it outside of the platform and get it approved ahead of time. Hold off on actually building the ads in the platform until the day of the account relaunch to avoid any approval issues here as well.
6. Plan for Tracking Changes
When the site migration takes place, will there be a new tracking code for Google Analytics, Google TAG Manager, Adobe Analytics, etc.? If so, the paid digital marketing team will need access to these new accounts. Additionally, whoever is responsible for setting up the websites goal tracking needs to be kept up to speed. Even if the tracking codes aren’t changing, if the URLs and/or on-site elements are changing the goal setups will need to be revisited. Access to the development site can help the responsible party plan for the changes that will need to be made to the tracking setup before the website migration in order to prevent any downtime in goal tracking.
7. Confirm Paid Digital Marketing Campaigns are Paused Prior to Site Migration
This step is pretty straight forward. The paid digital marketing team should confirm internally and with the client that all campaigns are paused prior to the site migration in order to prevent ad approval issues or potential wasted spend. Depending on the client’s preference and the degree of complexity of the migration, this could be done the night before, or even just the hour before the site migration.
8. Confirm Site Migration Success
The paid digital marketing team should confirm with the client, the developer, and/or the SEO team that the website migration was successfully completed before relaunch the paid digital marketing campaigns. They should make sure that all of the URLs to which they are directing traffic are in working order and that all redirects are in place. This is also the time to confirm that the tracking is working correctly on the new website. If a team is going to be using test lead submissions for quality assurance, the client should be informed that these test submissions will be coming through ahead of time.
9. Relaunch Paid Digital Marketing Accounts
This is the moment that all of the preparation on the paid digital marketing team has lead up to. Smoothly relaunching the paid digital marketing accounts once the site migration is complete. This process is a little more involved when the domain is changing on a search platform than it is otherwise.
Relaunching When The Domain Is Changing
Relaunching paid digital marketing accounts after a site migration where the domain has changed requires some extra consideration. AdWords and Bing both have policies in place that require all ads in an ad group to lead to the same website. This means that any ad copy that contains the new domain would be disapproved upon being uploaded to the existing ad groups, even if the existing ad copy was paused.
For this reason, in order to continue using the existing campaigns and ad groups after a domain-change site migration, all of the existing ads will need to be removed before uploading the new ads. If this is not a viable option, new campaigns or ad groups will need to be created at the time of the account relaunch to house the new ad copy and domain. Below are these 3 options explained in more detail:
- Continue Using The Existing Campaigns and Ad Groups - Before relaunching the account, all of the existing ad copy and sitelinks will need to be removed (not paused) from the the existing campaigns and ad groups. Once these have been removed, the new ad and sitelink file can be uploaded to the existing campaign and ad group structure and the account can be relaunched. This method will allow the account to continue to benefit from historic performance while not splitting up your data.
- Create New Ad Groups Within the Existing Campaigns - Before relaunching the account, the paid digital marketing team would duplicate the active ad groups within the existing campaigns. The original ad groups should stay paused and unaltered. After fixing the ad group naming structure, the paid digital marketing team would then remove the existing ad copy and sitelinks from the new ad groups. They are now ready to upload the new ad copy and sitelinks to the new ad groups and relaunch the account. This method will create brand new ad groups to house the post-site-migration data, but it keeps these ad groups within the existing campaigns so as to not split up the campaign data.
- Create New Campaigns and Ad Groups - Before relaunching the account, the paid digital marketing team would duplicate the active campaigns. The original campaigns should stay paused and unaltered. After fixing the campaign naming structure, the paid digital marketing team would then remove the existing ad copy and sitelinks from the new campaigns. They are now ready to upload the new ad copy and sitelinks to the new ad groups and campaigns and relaunch the account. This method will create brand new ad groups and campaigns to house the post-site-migration data, creating a clean break.
Relaunching When The Domain Is Not Changing
When the domain is not changing as a result of the website migration, the paid digital marketing account relaunch process becomes simpler. It is still a good idea to pause the accounts and wait to upload the new ad copy until the migration is a confirmed success to avoid ad approval issues if the URL is not working or not crawlable, but you don’t have to worry about the copy being disapproved when you relaunch the account due to having multiple domains in the same ad group. When relaunching a paid social account, or a paid search account after a site-migration when the domain is not changing, you should be able to simply make sure the existing ad and sitelinks are paused and create or upload the new ads within the existing account structure. New campaigns or ad groups can be created if the paid digital marketing analyst or client prefers.
10. Confirm Account Relaunch Success
Once the paid digital marketing accounts are relaunched, there are a few quality assurance checks that should be considered. For example, the paid digital marketing team will want to make sure that the new ad copy is approved and that the new URLs are working correctly. On AdWords, the team can implement a script ahead of time to check the account for any broken URLs so that these issues are immediately brought to your attention if they occur.
If you are planning a site migration and you want to make sure that it is executed properly, please reach out to our teams. Our Paid Digital Marketing team is experienced in managing accounts through website migrations, and our Search Engine Optimization team can walk you through the entire process from an organic ranking and technical website considerations perspective.