Moving an existing website from one place to another is a complex procedure called website migration.
A well-planned migration strategy is essential to ensure a seamless transfer and minimise any harmful effects on your SEO efforts, whether switching hosting providers, changing your domain name, moving to a new CMS or rebuilding your website design.
We will discuss the crucial elements of planning and carrying out a successful website migration, along with recommended practices for streamlining the procedure and addressing potential SEO issues.
How do I Plan a Website Migration?
A website migration involves considerable thought and attention to every aspect. The crucial actions that we recommend to guarantee a successful migration are listed below:
1. Conduct an in-depth website audit
Start by analysing every aspect of your current website’s structure, content, technical ability and functionality. You need to identify any technical problems, out-of-date information, or potential improvement areas. Knowing these ahead of time will help you manage and address them later on.
2. Set clear migration objectives
Set goals for the move and know why the migration is happening, such as rebranding, changing brand name after a takeover, or improving content management by moving to a new platform. This will assist you in setting priorities and planning out the necessary timelines and accountabilities.
3. Make a thorough migration plan
Create a step-by-step strategy that details the tasks, deadlines, and costs associated with each migration stage.
We usually do this in a spreadsheet set out in a Gantt chart so everyone has full visibility over what is happening and when it is due. Consider technological needs that may require additional time, and ensure you take the time to carefully plan any URL mapping and get signoff on these from stakeholders before they are implemented.
4. Data backup
Before beginning the migration process, make a copy of all the website files, database information, and other essential data. By doing this, you can be confident that your website is safe if anything goes wrong with the migration. In worst-case scenarios, you can roll back to this working version of the website. This is also a good time to benchmark your performance before the migration begins.
5. Inform all necessary parties
Inform necessary parties about the impending migration, including your staff members, clients, and frequent visitors. Give them specifics about the timing, anticipated downtime, and any modifications they need to be aware of. If you will need them to complete a specific task during the migration project, make sure you let them know way ahead of time so they can plan accordingly, and this will eliminate the risk of errors or delays.
How can I Improve my Website Migration?
Based on our experience, you should take into account the following best practices to improve the migration process and ensure it runs smoothly and efficiently:
Create channels for clear and regular communication.
Clear and regular communication during a website migration is paramount for a smooth and successful transition.
Migrations involve multiple stakeholders, including developers, designers, content creators, project managers, marketers, SEOs, and stakeholders from various departments. Establishing dedicated communication channels ensures everyone involved is on the same page, facilitating coordination and collaboration throughout the migration process. It also provides everyone with a platform to discuss any concerns or challenges.
Review and update both internal and external links.
You may need to update your internal links to ensure they reflect the new URL format (if it is changing). While they should be managed by redirects and take users and search engines to the new URL, updating your links will eliminate the need for this extra step.
You can also ask your PR teams to contact websites you work with regularly and any particularly influential websites to let them know your URL has changed and ask them to update the link.
Test, test, and test some more
Before launching your new website, ensure all its components, including the design, forms, and mobile responsiveness, have been extensively tested. You can do all this on your staging website and check that your redirects are working as planned.
Finding and fixing any problems or broken links that can harm the user experience or SEO is important. It can reduce any drops in performance that could occur if the new website was to go live with these problems in place.
Don't change too many things at once
During a website migration, it is crucial to avoid changing too many things at once because making multiple changes simultaneously increases the complexity and potential risks associated with the migration. If something goes wrong, it becomes challenging to identify the root cause of the issue, so isolating changes and implementing them one at a time allows for better risk mitigation and easier troubleshooting.
What is the Best Practice for a Website Migration?
The following best practices should be kept in mind when undertaking a website migration:
1. Maintain consistency
Throughout the move, aim to keep as much consistency in branding, design, and overall user experience as possible. For your audience’s benefit and the trustworthiness of your website, sudden and extreme changes need to be clarified.
2. Update your website's XML sitemaps
Creating an XML sitemap and submitting it to search engines like Google and Bing improves the speed at which search engines find and index your new pages. It will also help them pick up the new URLs quicker and follow the redirects to eventually remove the old URLs from their index.
3. Check for crawl issues
Regularly use tools like Google Search Console. If there are any 404 errors or other crawl problems, these tools will pick them up for you so you can fix them before they become a major problem that affects your organic performance.
4. Update local listings and directories
If your website has a physical presence, be sure to update the information about your company on local listings and directories. Ensure that your business name, address, phone number (NAP), and website URL are consistent with the new website across all locations.
Does Migrating a Website Affect SEO?
Making any change to a website can affect your SEO in both good and bad ways. However, you can reduce potential adverse effects and enhance your SEO performance with careful preparation and best practices. What you need to know is as follows:
1. Ranking fluctuations
Following a website move, it’s typical to see brief variations in rankings. This is because it takes time for search engines to crawl and reindex your new website, so keeping an eye on your rankings will allow you to edit your content quickly if you spot issues.
2. Keyword and content optimisation
Take advantage of the website relocation opportunity to enhance your content and keyword targeting. Conduct keyword research to find essential and high-ranking keywords, then adjust your content as necessary. This may have a favourable effect on your SEO results.
3. A technical perspective
When migrating, pay close attention to technical details like canonicalisation, structured data formatting, and metadata optimisation. These technical improvements help your website’s overall SEO performance.
4. Watch for problems and take fast action
Watch out for potential post-migration problems, such as broken links, missing pages, or indexing mistakes. Take fast action to reduce any adverse effects on your SEO.
The Best Strategy for an SEO Migration
It takes careful preparation and execution to migrate a website successfully.
By adhering to a clearly defined migration strategy, you can ensure a seamless transfer while minimising any harmful effects on your SEO.
Always put the user experience first, maintain consistency, and respond quickly to any problems that develop during and after migration.