We’ve re-platformed the Co-op Legal Services website

We’ve moved Co-op Legal Services website from a content management system (CMS) managed by a third-party supplier to a new CMS – managed and controlled by our internal Digital team. 

The reason for the change wasn’t because we wanted to re-design the site – it was because the old CMS was costly to maintain and would soon be ‘out of support’ which meant it would no longer receive security updates.  

Screen shot of the Co-op Legal Services homepage

The new website is part of a shared platform used by Co-op Food and Co-op Funeralcare making it cost effective and easier to maintain because we are sharing best practice and development across all our business areas.  

Balancing our 2 competing priorities 

The biggest risk to the project was losing traffic because of a dip in our Google rankings (our ‘SEO’). There was a very reasonable assumption that any loss of traffic would result in loss of sales. 

At the same time if we didn’t change the design and code to match Co-op’s design system it would make the site costly to build and maintain.  

This meant we had 2 competing priorities: 

  1. Maintaining SEO. 
  2. Reducing cost.

By changing the design and content, we’d risk SEO, however if we didn’t change the design we wouldn’t reduce the costs.  

Maintaining SEO was the main tool we used to decide any technical or design decisions. The compromise for the project was to ensure we migrated all the pages with the same URL structure, meta description, links and content but presented that content in a different way using the standard Co-op shared components which are used on our other major websites across the Co-op business areas. 

Testing the UX 

Changing the visual design of any site means it may affect important goal completions for the website. The key metrics for the Legal website are the number of: 

  • calls 
  • callback requests  
  • services started online, for example creating a will 

To ensure we were comfortable with the visual changes we A / B tested some of the smaller visual changes on the old site. 

For the larger design changes we sent 50% of organic users to our beta site and 50% of users stayed on the live website. We then measured how the KPIs compared.  

This test is slightly different to other tests we might usually do. Normally we are trying to make improvements to UX but the goal was to ensure the changes we were about to make to the site didn’t adversely affect our KPIs. It wasn’t necessarily about making improvements but maintaining the status quo. 

Testing SEO  

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell what Google will do when you make a change to a website.  

However, we prepared as best as we could by: 

  • removing over 1,300 critical SEO errors  
  • ensuring no 404 errors (missing pages) encountered after the switch   

What we’ve seen 

The new co-oplegalservices.co.uk went live 30 September. 

Website re-indexation in search engines including Google often takes time when changes to websites are made – sometimes it can take weeks for the full effect to become apparent. Enough time has passed now that we can confidently say the site replatform was a success at maintaining SEO.  

Here’s what we’ve seen so far: 

  1. The year-on-year comparison returns an 8 to 14% uplift on most days since migration.  
  1. There are individual keywords fluctuations. The number of featured snippets (the top result that appears in a box below the adverts in a Google search) is higher than pre-migration (from 80 to 96 today).  
  1. The total visibility of our tracked ranking keywords have dropped by 3% since the migration.  However, the impact on core business areas is negligible.  
  1. Enquiries coming through the website are comparable to before the website go-live, all show favourable figures in terms of overall enquiry volume and conversion rates.  

We are still at the stabilising phase but so far the results are looking good.  

We can now say with a high degree of certainty the re-platform has improved the website’s conversion rates and number of enquiries it generates from existing traffic sources. This provides a strong platform to start future optimisation and testing to further improve the site. 

So not only have we reduced the sites running costs and made considerable savings, we’ve maintained SEO and improved our conversion rates.  

What we might do  

Throughout the project there was a massive temptation to make improvements to the content and structure of the site. We didn’t want to change too much at the same time – that wouldn’t  have been a good way to observe the impact on our Google ranking. However, now the site is live and we are happy the replatform has been a success we can start making changes to the content and layout. We’ve already started conducting a number of A / B tests on the new site to start iterating on what we’ve already created. 

We’ll keep you posted. 

Peter Brumby

Product manager

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