Website migrations can seem like a daunting task. Fortunately, with the help of our SEO experts and our migration guide, you will have a better understanding of how to plan website migrations and the impact that they can have on SEO.
What is a website migration?
In short, a website migration is the process of making any changes to your website which causes a URL restructure on a large scale. Below, we have compiled a list of some of the common migrations and what they mean:
Changing your domain name – changing your URL from www.olddomain.co.uk to www.newdomain.co.uk.
Protocol – moving from HTTP to HTTPS.
CMS upgrade – moving from one CMS to another or upgrading the CMS version (moving from Magento 1 to 2 or moving from Shopify to Magento).
Content moves – moving your content to a new site or within the same site.
Site redesign – changing the look of a website and the site’s architecture.
Why website migrations are so important to SEO
Website migrations are extremely important to get right the first time. Otherwise, you may see a drop in organic rankings, site traffic and conversions. When performing a website migration, you should never see a sudden drop in traffic.
The example below shows the negative impact that a migration, if not executed correctly, can have on organic traffic. In this case, the website traffic significantly dropped by 67% as a result of the migration.
How to do a website migration
We have simplified the migration process into 3 simple stages – pre-migration, migration and post-migration. We will explain each stage in more detail below.
Download this guide as part of your website migration checklist to ensure that every stage is followed correctly.
Stage 1: Pre-migration planning
When planning a website migration, a lot of thought goes into aspects of planning the setup, process, budget etc. Failure to effectively prepare for the migration can lead to poor execution and issues further down the road – specifically big losses in traffic and revenue!
Set out budget, teams and timelines
Much like any large project, you will need to know a few key elements before starting the project, such as:
Who is responsible for different stages?
When do we want to complete the project?
How much does a migration cost?
By planning out these elements early, your team will have a clear understanding of what needs to be done and by when.
Benchmark current performance
Before executing a website migration, we perform a website audit to benchmark your current SEO performance. Analysing aspects of performance, such as rankings, top content and top landing pages for revenue and traffic, allows us to monitor whether the migration has impacted on your site’s performance.
Gather URLs and tracking mapping
The final important stage when preparing for a migration is to gather a list of URLs that you want to redirect. Using various sources (Semrush, Google Analytics, Google Search Console etc), you will have your list of URLs to start mapping out.
There will be some duplicate URLs, so we will deduplicate and begin mapping out your URLs. To help to track your URLs, we will create a spreadsheet that follows these headings:
Old URL–Old URL status code–New URL
Stage 2: Day-of migration tasks
Once we have planned and prepared for your migration, it is now time to execute all of our planning efforts. To do this, we will simply send your list of URLs to your developer for them to bulk upload. For a successful migration, we will ensure that we:
Test redirects – ensure that all pages return a 301 and not a 404 status code. Using a crawling tool, such as Screaming Frog, we will crawl the original list from your previous site. Then, we will extract and cross-reference each one against the original mapping, under the ‘old URL status code’ column.
Update robots.txt file.
Submit XML sitemap & top URLs to Google Search Console if necessary. This will need to be done if there was a URL structure change and the new URL’s aren’t yet indexed. This is also the case when there are significant changes in content, but not necessarily the URL structure.
Ensuring that the redirect map is executed correctly is the most important part of the migration process. Although it can take time to map out your redirects, when executed correctly, it is an essential step to avoid any negative impact on organic rankings and ultimately, traffic and revenue.
Stage 3: Post-migration tasks
Now that we have successfully migrated your website, the process doesn’t end there. Once your website is live, we will monitor your website and do the following:
Check rankings against pre-migration benchmarks.
Monitor organic performance & site indexation.
Audit & validate website tracking including eCommerce & events.
Identify and investigate any issues – you have to be prepared for some with any migration.
As previously mentioned, not monitoring or fixing issues that may arise can significantly affect your SEO performance and it could take months or even years to recover. That’s why we always recommend that you have a robust post-migration process in place to monitor and measure the after-effects. If you’ve followed our advice above, you should see an upward trend in the coming months.
Get in touch
Now that you know the importance of doing a website migration right for your organic performance, drop us a line if you have an upcoming migration and we can help.