Website Migrations Overview
Website migration is one of the biggest online challenges a business can face.
Having to transfer tens, hundreds, or even thousands of pages, as well as figuring out how to configure them using a new CMS can be a lengthy and difficult process, which is why a lot of companies delay the project for as long as possible.
Even though it may be unpleasant, it’s still absolutely essential.
As technology changes and new website platforms become available, having to update and catch up with the times is unavoidable if you don’t want to fall behind the competition and have your site become a relic that your customers avoid.
If you map out your website migration project into actionable steps, it doesn’t have to be all that arduous, either.
But before we jump into the specifics of website migration, we must understand what is website migration in the first place.
What is a Site Migration?
Website migration is the process of making significant changes to your website that can have an impact on the site’s visibility on the search engines and the user experience.
Changes like transferring to a new hosting provider, changing the domain name or the platform that’s used, tweaking with design or UX, revamping the structure, or even shuffling around the content can all be considered website migrations, as they impact the very essence of what the site is all about.
The most devastating effect of a site migration is the potential loss of rankings and traffic – although Google doesn’t document migrations as having an impact, many businesses have reported losing their traffic and, in turn, their revenue, after migrating their site.
That doesn’t always have to be the case.
Website Migration Examples
Even though companies avoid site migrations because of the fear that they’ll lose their revenue streams via organic traffic, there are many examples which show that successful and relatively painless migrations are possible.
In fact, many of the horror stories that you hear about migrations stem from mistakes that could be avoided quite easily.
For example, many site owners are shocked when they discover their rankings positions plummet because they forgot to add 301 redirects from their old URLs on their domain migration checklist.
And you’d be surprised how many website migrations take place without significant consequences. If you take the time to put together a comprehensive website migration checklist, you can get away with a minimal initial drop in traffic, and even start gaining traffic in a relatively short amount of time because of better UX, performance and overall site structure.
– Launched brand new website
– Victorious provided an SEO audit for staging site
– Minimal SEO implementation of provided recommendations
– Rebuilt site on JS, created 1000’s of new thin pages
– Implemented prerender.io and removed thin pages
– Restructured content based on Featured Snippet Analysis
Site Migration Types
As we briefly mentioned before, there are many types of site changes that are considered site migrations, and all of them can have ramifications on your rankings.
Most of them can be boiled down to these six:
- Design Changes
- Content Changes
- Site Location Changes
- Structure Changes
- Platform Changes
- Domain/Hosting Changes
In terms of SEO, the biggest distinction is in whether you are changing your domain or not.
Changing your domain will cause you to lose most, if not all of the link equity and general authority you have created over the life of that domain. Even with redirects in place, you would still be starting from scratch creating an entirely new backlink profile for your new domain, losing SEO boost from quality & authoritative backlinks you acquired.
Common Site Migration Disasters
One of the main reasons why website migrations are dreaded by business owners is that there are so many ways that something can go wrong, especially when you don’t have experience with the process.
Let’s explore some of the biggest causes of disasters when migrating a website so that you can avoid them.
The most common culprit to poor results when migrating is lack of preparation. If you don’t have a website migration plan, it will be almost impossible to catch all of the things that could go wrong, and once you make a mistake, there will be no way to restore the rankings that you lost.
Another common mistake is not having a realistic understanding of the resources that it will take to execute – you need to be prepared financially, in terms of time, and in the number of people that you can assign to the migration to ensure that it goes as quickly and as smoothly as possible.
Finally, since the migration can be very resource-intensive, it is typically in your best interest to engage outside help or at least consult professionals who have been through the process multiple times.
Site Migration Process
In order to execute a successful site migration, you must take steps to prepare and map out the entire process.
First, you must set clear objectives and reasons for why you want to do the migration, and consider the risks, as well as the potential rewards of going through with it.
Then, you should map out a plan of action where you figure out the best way to execute the migration and layout all of the tasks that will need to be completed before, during, and after the migration.
That way, when you perform the actual launch, you will have a much better understanding of the entire process and will be able to make timely adjustments should they be necessary.
Site Migration Best Practices Checklist
We’ve gone through all of the main aspects that must be a part of a successful website migration that goes smoothly and doesn’t cause a significant dip in traffic or loss of Google rankings.
Now, let’s recap with a quick checklist that outlines the entire process.
- Determine the goals of the migration and layout a strategy
- Identify the biggest risks, as well as potential rewards
- Map out the entire process – who is responsible for what?
- Review your entire site and backlink profile
Map out URL changes – if pages are moving, where are they going?
- Make sure all of the redirects are working
Benchmark your analytics in Google Analytics and Google Search Console
- Execute the migration plan
- Relaunch your new site
- Review site performance – site speed especially!
- Check your search engine rankings frequently
- Monitor traffic
By following this process, you should be able to avoid missing crucial aspects of the migration and minimize the impact that it could have on your rankings.
If you want to make sure that your website migration goes well and that you minimize the damage to your keyword rankings and traffic, you can always consult with professionals who have executed several site migrations before.
Leveraging an SEO company to help migrate your site safely and effectively, can provide significant peace of mind, let alone get the job done for you. Get a free SEO consultation to learn how we ensure your site migration achieves the goals that you set out.