Checking in to a King-Sized Disaster
Six hundred thousand rooms. Eight thousand hotels. Sixty-six countries. Fifteen brands. When one of the largest hotel groups in the world decides to conduct a site migration it’s nothing to take lightly.
Migrating 14 sites into the architecture of the main brand website was the task. A major digital agency was selected to take on the job. The goal? Provide a better customer experience, improve brand recognition and reduce overhead and maintenance costs.
The agency did what they were asked — but they didn’t have the SEO expertise to avoid costly mistakes in the migration. The hotel group experienced a dramatic loss of organic traffic, bookings and revenue — for each of the fifteen brands.
After months of spiraling numbers, the group reached out to Digital Current for help. Our deep technical website and SEO experience proved we were the right partner to fix what was broken. We had four goals:
- Reclaim search engine visibility. Find and correct the technical errors preventing webpages from being included in Google and other search engines.
- Recover valuable content. Identify and recover content that was abandoned during the migration.
- Reclaim website authority. Recover lost website links, both internally and externally, to support strong search engine rankings for revenue-driving search terms.
- Grow beyond the recovery. Regain the momentum lost during the migration while also setting a foundation that accelerates market share and revenue growth.
Ah, We’re Gonna Need Housekeeping ….
So what was the problem? How had the previous agency bungled such a massive project? And it was massive: The 14 websites included in the migration (each with their own content, SEO and structural issues) contributed more than 200,000 pages — each — to the overall project. Not to mention the corresponding mobile sites spanning 35 international domains.
Before we could go about fixing anything, we had to diagnose the major issues:
- Vastly reduced website visibility. The migration drastically reduced the number of overall pages by more than 550,000. Since webpages are designed to drive visitors to a site, this severely decreased the flow of visitors to the hotel group’s family of sites.
- Orphaned pages. Nearly 600,000 webpages were not redirected to pages in the new website structure. They remained orphaned and available to Google. This caused two problems:
- Google couldn’t determine which webpages were preferred. Some had been established for a long time; others were new, but associated with the stronger main site. The result was diluted traffic and rankings.
- Entire mobile sites were left intact, making it impossible for Google to switch its priority to the new webpages. Even worse, these sites weren’t being maintained, with much of the core functionality removed.
- International SEO. The coding for international versions of content was incorrect. This led to further indexation and duplicate content issues.
- Authority loss. Links are an integral part of Google’s ranking methodology. They provide critical trust signals about a website’s content value, user experience and importance related to search phrases. The errors in the migration removed 89% of the links for all the brand’s websites, wiping out a huge chunk of their trust signals.
Your Digital Marketing Concierge, at Your Service
Yes, it was a mess. But we could fix it. And we did. Here’s how:
- First things first: Setting up a four-month campaign
There was a lot of clean-up needed, right from the start. Creating a four-month campaign of weekly, agile sprints allowed us to outline actionable, prioritized, clear tasks for the client’s internal teams. To keep things moving, Digital Current assisted with implementation and validated changes as they happened.
- Getting a lay of the land: Content strategy and audit
Establishing a clear content strategy and using that information to conduct a thorough content audit gave us a complete picture of the content landscape. We were then able to prioritize our content recovery efforts and create more strategic content mapping recommendations. Using a geo-targeted content plan, we were also able to drive exponentially more traffic than before.
- Digging in: Site audit and consulting
With a clear content map and prioritized recommendations, we had what we needed to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the daunting technical fixes:
- Implementing SEO corrections for more than 1.5 million webpages.
- Correcting URL structures and page hierarchies.
- Improving page template structures for SEO and customer experience.
- Creating six site templates.
- Updating site templates to improve SEO and customer experience.
- Correcting and implementing more than 350,000 301 redirects.
- Implementing proper HREF language to correct international issues.
- Re-establishing trust: Backlink audit and authority development strategy
But it was more than technical fixes — we had to recover hundreds of thousands of trusted links and decades of authority building relationships. After identifying and recovering the valuable external backlinks, it was time to identify and remove the harmful backlinks. From there, it was a matter of improving the internal linking structure and fixing internal links that were broken during the initial mismanaged migration.
- Maintaining momentum: Ongoing consulting
Unlike the client’s previous agency, we stuck around to make sure things were working properly. We partnered closely with the client’s internal teams, teaching them implementation techniques, validating updates and changes, and monitoring our progress in the search engines. We also paired our search analysis with customer experience best practices to improve overall conversions, even looking at competitor sites to identify and improve upon areas of opportunity.
Thanks for Staying With Us, Please Come Again!
After all this work, what were the results? We’re glad you asked:
- Orphaned pages in Google were reduced by 94% in three months.
- We restored 553,319 pages of orphaned content.
- We recovered more than 282,000 desirable backlinks.
- We corrected and optimized more than 100,000 internal backlinks.
And the traffic paints an even better picture:
Migrations can be a tricky thing, and if done incorrectly, can cause massive damage to your online presence and your digital reputation (not to mention your bottom line). Digital Current has the skills and insights needed to manage site migrations (both big and small) so you don’t have to worry about loss of authority, organic traffic or customer satisfaction.