Your website is your most important digital asset, serving as an online portal for your business.
But the value of your site is also the reason Site migrations It can be very daunting.
Whether moving your site to a new domain, hosting platform, or… Content Management System (CMS)you’ll need to follow a migration strategy that minimizes the risk of data loss, decreased performance, and website downtime.
That’s why we created this post. Here we’ll explain the nine essential steps you should follow to help make your website migration a success.
But first, let’s briefly discuss what we mean by website migration.
What is site migration?
Typical examples include:
There are several reasons you might want to engage in website migration. For example, your goal might be to enhance the security of your website, update your brand image, or improve your user experience.
Whatever the reason, you’ll need to follow a strict migration process to successfully update your site without jeopardizing your SEO rankings, traffic, and revenue.
So let’s get to that now.
Website Migration Process (9 Step Checklist)
1. Plan carefully
As with any multi-dimensional project, thorough planning is essential to achieving a smooth website transition.
Before you start developing, be sure to clarify the following:
- Project Scope: What are your goals for the migration, and what impact will this have on the site?
- Immigration team and its responsibilities: Who will lead the project? An internal SEO team or an external SEO agency? If you’re managing the project internally, make sure you set up a project management framework so everyone can stay on top of their tasks.
- Managing stakeholder expectations: What other departments will the project affect? Outline what you need from them and explain how and why performance is likely to be temporarily affected.
- Define your own schedules and launch date: Ideally, your new site should go live when site traffic is at its lowest, and your team has the bandwidth to respond to any unexpected hiccups quickly.
2. Consult your SEO team
Your developers will need to understand basic SEO requirements to minimize the impact of migration on SEO performance.
Your SEO team must address issues such as:
- URL structure.
- Internal linking.
- Canonical signs.
- Site maps.
- Mobile responsiveness.
- Structured data.
- Page speed.
3. Define standards and set up traceability
The next step is to create a detailed picture of your site’s current performance so you have something to compare your new site to.
At this point, it’s a good idea to back up your current site in case you need to restore it at some point in the future.
You’ll need to pull in the benchmark data for the following:
- Organic traffic.
- Keyword rankings.
- Site speed.
- Pages viewed.
- Crawl errors.
- Indexed pages.
- Indexing rates.
In addition to measuring performance, this is a good time to double-check that you are tracking all of your target keywords in your ranking tracker.
4. Set up the test environment
It is best to develop your site in a closed manner Test environment To verify that the new website is working properly before launching it.
Of course, you will need to block public access to the test environment and prevent search engines from indexing your new pages too early.
You can do this by creating a robot.txt file to block search engines like Google, adding a noindex tax to new URLs, and setting up password protection.
5. Take a content inventory
Now it’s time to create a complete overview of your existing content and pages.
a Content inventory Allows you to determine if anything is missing during the migration. Furthermore, creating a list of URLs will draw your attention to any existing errors (such as broken links or bad redirects) that you need to address before migrating.
You can use a variety of methods to create a comprehensive list of your pages and content assets, such as:
- Pull all your URLs using a site crawler.
- Download page data from your content management system.
- Export URLs from Google Search Console.
Also make sure to identify your most valuable pages when compiling your list of URLs.
High value pages are those with important content, high levels of traffic, good conversion rates, good rankings, and quality backlinks. Collecting this data lets you know which pages to prioritize during migration.
Finally, if you’re planning to add additional pages and categories to your new site, now’s the time to make sure they can fit with your existing architecture. If not, you may need to Reconsider the structure of your website.
6. Create a redirection map
The next step is to use your list of URLs to decide which pages should be moved to the new site, which pages you can merge, and which pages you can delete altogether.
Start with the most important pages you identified in the previous step.
You will need to perform a 301 redirect For each page that you move to the new location. Your URLs should point to the most relevant page of the new site.
Avoid redirecting old URLs to your new homepage. This can lead to 404 soft errors, which will weaken your overall link rights and hurt your rankings.
Alternatively, if you cannot locate a suitable new page to point to, create a new page or simply remove the old URL.
When you’ve finished your redirect map, share the list of new URLs with your wider marketing team so they can update their campaign links once the new site launches.
7. Carry out pre-launch checks
Before launching your new site, you will need to run multiple checks in your test environment to ensure that the new site works as expected.
Work with your SEO team to ensure that items such as the following meet the required criteria:
- XML sitemap.
- txt file
- URL structure.
- canonical URLs.
- structured data.
- Status icons.
- internal linking.
- Title tags, header tags, and meta descriptions.
- body content.
8. Launch and promote your new website
Once you’ve thoroughly tested your new site, it’s finally time to implement the migration!
When your site is published, you will need to lift any user and search engine restrictions that you set up during the development phase.
Remember, the faster you implement the migration, the better. Your site will be temporarily offline during the migration process, so less downtime will reduce the impact on traffic and revenue.
It’s also a good idea to plan PPC campaigns to coincide with your website launch. Not only will this get the word out about your new site, but it can also help offset short-term dips in organic traffic that you may experience.
9. Monitor your new site and make any necessary improvements
After your new site is up and running, you’ll need to a screen closely to check that everything is in order.
Again, you should work closely with your SEO team to perform checks on key aspects of the site, including the new robot.txt file, XML sitemap, redirects, usability, and analytics.
You should also closely monitor your website’s performance against the benchmarks you measured for your old site. It’s normal to see a decline in performance for a while, but as the weeks go by, your rankings and traffic should start to return to their original levels.
If your KPIs are not improving as expected, you will need to troubleshoot the causes. These can include things like:
- Pages on your old site are still being indexed.
- Load times are slow.
- Bad redirects.
- Internal links are missing.
Google Search Console will alert you to any errors and warnings, helping you diagnose and fix critical issues.
Website migration can be a complex task.
Following the above steps will set you up for success, allowing you to prepare, implement, and monitor your migration while minimizing the associated risks.
Featured Image: Miha Creative/Shutterstock