What is website migration?
In a broad sense, website migrations can include any significant change you make to your site, for example: changing URLs, switching platforms or moving your site from one domain to another. Simply put, a website migration is the process of redirecting old web pages to your new site. This way, there will not be substantial damage to your rankings caused by the site change over – which is important for tech SEO.
However, as Google has to ‘relearn’ your site, there can be dips in visibility, which will affect rankings ever so slightly. As an SEO agency, we know how important it is to ensure that your website migration is a success. That’s why we’ve put together a complete checklist just for you.
Why are website migrations important?
Without a proper site migration, your rankings and traffic will most likely plummet as soon as your new site is live. Creating a swanky new website is all well and good – but make sure to redirect everything properly so customers can find your new site.
The advantages of website migrations
Website migrations can be extremely beneficial if done correctly. Switching from your old website to a new one – with the help of a site migration – means old links will still work and no content or traffic will be lost. Customers will arrive at your new site as if the old one never existed – that is how seamless your website migration should be. Luckily, the authority from your old site passes over to the new one, as well as keyword relevance – that way, you’re not starting all over again.
The disadvantages of website migrations
If done incorrectly, website migrations can be detrimental to all of the hard work spent on your old site. It is possible that you could lose all relevance and rankings if you do a site migration wrong – so make sure that you read through our checklist and leave no stone left unturned.
Website migration checklist: Pre-launch
Putting together a checklist of exactly what needs to be done before migrating a site is extremely important. Realising that you’ve missed something after your new site has gone live is not an experience we want you to go through, so be thorough and complete a successful site migration.
A good project plan is vital when starting any new venture – but especially for a site migration. Assigning tasks to staff as well as setting some objectives is important. Put together a timeline of when certain tasks need to be completed – this way you can get that site migrated as efficiently as possible.
Usually the move of the site would be completed by a web developer, whilst the redirects and crawls may be completed by a tech SEO. It is also important to allocate the content transfer from the old to new site. So, keep this in mind as you set out tasks for your team.
2. Collect your data
If you are changing your domain name, in order to check how well your new site is performing, you’ll need to compare it to your previous site’s data. Gather Search Console data of all of the pages on your site, as once your new site is live, this will be lost and it’ll make it difficult to gauge just how well your new site is doing. If you are keeping the same domain, then the data will remain in Google Search Console. Also, make a note of your old Google Analytics tracking code as this will be needed later on too.
3. Make improvements
Are there any pages on your site that could do with a content refresh? Do these before the site migration so that all of your pages are improved and ready to be crawled. From an SEO standpoint, is there any way to improve existing URLs to ensure they’re structured better on the new site? Adding new URLs and more or improved internal links is also a good idea. Any changes such as these should be planned out pre-launch.
4. Map URLs
Following on from the last point, you will need to put together a list of all your previous URLs. URLs are an essential part of any site migration, so creating a list will ensure a clean redirect when creating new URLs for the next site.
5. Make a site copy
A site copy is a great test run to see how your new site would perform before it officially goes live. By uploading a test site to the server, you can run tests and make any essential changes.
6. Prevent early indexing
Having Google index your new site before you’ve completed the migration is going to be disastrous. A robots.txt file will block any search engines from crawling your new site before you’re completely finished. Or, you could password protect your site so that access is blocked and indexing is prevented. No index tags are also a possibility, but make sure these are deleted before you complete the site migration.
7. Content backup
In case anything goes wrong, it’s always useful to have a backup of everything, and that includes all of the content on your site. Title tags, meta description and blocks of content should all be stored safely to prevent wasted time and effort.
8. 301 redirects
A 301 redirect passes all of the link equity from an old URL to a new one. Users will be instantly sent to the new page despite using an old URL. It is important to plan these out prior.
Website migration checklist: Post-launch
Now that your site is live and you have completed your site migration, it is time to keep an eye on how your site is performing and to undertake some site maintenance tasks.
1. Remove site blocks
Ensure that any site blocks are removed from your new site. Blocks such as robots.txt, noindex tags and site passwords should be taken off in order to allow your site to be indexed. If you miss out this step then your site will not perform and users will not be able to access it.
2. Update links
Do all of your internal links within your new site have the new URLs? If not, change these to ensure a successful site migration. At this point you might also want to check your old site’s backlinks and make a list of these sites.
3. Track and check the new site
Keep tabs on how your new site is performing, and check to see if any new issues arise after the site migration. How fast is the page load speed? Have your new URLs been properly indexed? How are your rankings?
Make sure that you are receiving data from across the whole of your website, and then compare all of this new data to your logged old data to see how your site is doing. If your new website is performing worse than the previous site, there may be some internal indexing issues which can be checked through Search Console. Make sure to transfer your old Google Analytics data over to your new site, and remember to use the old tracking code for the new site to check the performance.
Are you looking to build the perfect new website? Our SEO and web development teams create high-performing, visually stunning websites for clients. If you’re interested in what we have to offer, get in touch to secure the website you’ve always dreamed of.
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