Sex, Speed And The SEO Migration of Romantic Depot to WordPress

Romantic Depot operates six, soon to be seven adult stores offering sex toys and lingerie, in the New York City area.  Their flagship stores are in Manhattan and the Bronx.  They’ve been around for sometime and over the years their website aged along with other businesses seeking to help drive local foot traffic.

They’ve been around for some time and over the years their website aged along with other businesses sites. The goal of their site was to help drive local foot traffic, but a growing mobile population made their desktop site seem antiquated.

With the move to mobile devices in full demonstration the old RomanticDepot.com site was not responsive. It was an HTML static site that required manual editing and didn’t display well on a mobile phone.

This lead the owner of the chain to build a new site that was mobile friendly and it lead to my involvement overseeing the process of migrating to this new mobile site without hurting the site’s strong local SEO presence.

Keywords: Branded And Unbranded

Romantic Depot does have an impressive keyword positioning presence in the New York City area. Even nationally they are on page 2 of results for “sex shop“.

The goal was to ensure a smooth transition to the mobile site while maintaining the SEO that had been built over the years.

The site’s keywords did present opportunities for overall improvement. While the store name, a branded keyword, was well associated with the site, the product names were not.

So someone searching for the store name found it easily but searching for unbranded keywords were not necessarily productive. The problem this presented was that customers had to already know about the store to find the site.

301 Redirects

The new site was largely a 1 to 1 ratio. The HTML static page manhattan.HTML went now to /manhattan/ on the WordPress site. We placed in any one off redirects, a redirect that took any URL that ended in.HTML and would return it without the HTML and a redirect for the index.HTML homepage to come back with the WordPress homepage at /.

Backlinks Preserved

Backlinks are the lifeblood of a site’s ranking and it was important to ensure that those would be maintained with relevant content as well.

Using SEMRush.com we collected all of the backlinks and their existing targets and ensured those had rules as well. While the site’s backlinks were in the tens of thousands it quickly came down to a few hundred target urls that needed to be accounted for to maintain SEO.

Page Views Improve As Multidomain Strategy is ended

Site Speed

Most of the work involved in preparing for the migration was speed performance in nature. The new site when tested on GTMetrix.com was loading in 12.6 seconds with over 400 http requests.

We targeted a 3 second load and through Cloudflare.com we were able to utilize a CDN that brought the site closer to users as well as offered other benefits. Cloudflare alone brought the site load time to about 7 seconds.

We further limited content that could be on the other pages for those other pages such as Google maps to the location homepages. Instituting lazy load ended up being the primary aspect of speeding up the site. Image optimization was also completed and a move to PHP7.3 from 5.6. PHP 7.6 has been shown 200% faster than 5.6 in studies for rendering a site.

Merging CSS and JS files also worked to reduce the requests. Overall https://gtmetrix.com showed a decline in requests from 400 to 40.

The last speed check showed the site loading in 1.8 seconds and it received an A. Other speed tests such as https://thinkwithgoogle.com showed a page load of 3.1 seconds on a 4G network. This is right at the 3 second mark thats the goal for any top ranking site.

An important thing to point out to site owners regarding speed, 3 seconds might sound exceptional but so is ranking number one against your competition. If an average site loads in 7 seconds and thats where you aim for then your expectations should be to rank “averagey” for keywords. Just as much as that isn’t a word, it is also not exceptional for ranking.

Multi Domain Strategy Consolidation

During the migration I also mentioned the value of building one brand. RomanticDepotSuperStore.com was the site used as the online store for the chain.

The problem that arises from multiple domain strategies is the segmentation of resources and confusion it can cause to Google Analytics. An easy example of this is the bounce rate and pageviews metrics are actually hurt on the primary domain.

Consider this… a person searches romantic depot on Google. The first result is their site, likely the person is going to want to know what items might be at the store. Once the page loads they find the link to the store, maybe even before the page loads. Clicking that link they are now taken to a new domain.

That visitors actions would have counted as a bounced visitor. See when someone goes to your site and immediately leaves for another site that signals to Google that what was on that original site wasn’t what the searcher wanted.

To prevent future searchers from going to a site that people leave directly after going to it they might increase the position of other sites to try and correct for this in the future. That ultimately means the top spot position for the keyword is being hampered by the site’s structure.

Further Google sees that a person wasn’t even interested enough in the site to look at a second page, they just left. In reality the second site is part of the same overall topic or brand its just that Google doesn’t necessarily understand that.

An artificially inflated bounce rate and lower page views are all that the first site is getting and the second site is losing out as well as most of the marketing is surrounding the first site’s address… backlinks, social mentions and such.

Lower Bounce Rate

The illustration above shows our page views of the main root domain. Guess when on the graph the romanticdepotsuperstore.com site was rolled into the main domains… late July.

The thing is, the traffic isn’t any greater its just not split up anymore after consolidation. The homepage link to the store is now going to a subfolder of the same domain, its helping by acting as another page view rather than hurting the site as a bounce.

The keywords and authority of this additional site were better utilized under the main domain https://romanticdepot.com and this site was migrated to a subfolder /store as a separate WordPress site.

That’s important the site was migrated as a separate site under the original. This was done for multiple reasons and it creates its own set of unique challenges but we’ll discuss that later in a future post.

Consolidated Backlinks

The consolidation of the sites further helps with SEO because after we migrated we put into place redirects from the store’s domain to its new home within the subfolder. That means all the backlinks now combine to help one site. Let’s consider the following illustration…

  • Domain A: DA 30 Backlinks: 10,000 Referring Domains: 1,000
  • Domain B: DA 30 Backlinks: 9,000 Referring Domains: 900
  • Competitor: DA 35 Backlinks: 13,000 Referring Domains: 1,300

Let’s assume everything else is the same… we’d expect then that Competitor will rank higher on Google Search. But if we combine Domain A ad Domain B.

  • Domain AB: DA 40 Backlinks: 19,000 Referring Domains: 1,900

Everything else still the same… Domain AB will now rank higher than the Competitor.

The immediate conclusion after migrating to WordPress and a responsive design, along with the consolidation of a high traffic subdomain into the root showed very positive results.

It was time to make the move to mobile the site’s traffic composition has grown to over 80% mobile users. Consolidation of the subdomain rolled 50% more visitors into the site’s root domain.

With these changes overall user traffic is up 18% in the last 90 days compared with the previous 90. One word of caution is to monitor the bounce rate and session duration closely to determine how users are responding to the new layout. Expect shorter session times for mobile users.

The growth or transition of traffic into mobile from desktop may begin to show lower session duration overall, just watch out for a session duration that wouldn’t account for users finding what they wanted.

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Matthew Leffler

https://ultimateseo.org

Matthew Leffler is a freelance SEO on Upwork.com and SEOClerks.com with 20 years of technical experience and a technical education background. In those years of experience he's worked in several technical roles in informtation technology and software training. Matt has worked at Hewlett-Packard and Gateway Computers. Matthew earned his BSIT, MBA in Technology Management and MEd in Instructional Design. He holds over a dozen active technical certifications including A+, Netowrk+, Security+, Project+, is a Certified Webmaster Professional, and a HDI Help Desk Analyst.