In the past 12 months we have overseen a number of client website migrations. Whether this was a switch to https, a URL restructure or a rebrand, they all involved a great deal of planning and careful execution in order to avoid any potentially devastating SEO impacts.
A migration that is done incorrectly can result in the new website not ranking as well (or in the worst case, not at all) so we do advise a complete website analysis to avoid any unexpected pitfalls.
A website migration can be a very nervy time for those involved, so in order to make the process a little less stressful, we have put together a 5 step guide to help you through the process.
Establishing business objectives, targets and timings
Preparation and planning is a key stage of the process because if unrealistic targets are set, problems can quickly arise in later stages which may need further resources to fix. A migration plan should be created with your developers and key stakeholders, with realistic timings set throughout. This is a chance to identify and include any new features the new site has and the technical specifications that are involved.
Getting an understanding of how the current site is performing and which are the top performing pages is crucial. Tools such as Screaming Frog, Deepcrawl and Search Console allow you to crawl, analyse and audit your site providing details on your key onsite elements such as the canonical tags. Link intelligence tools Ahrefs and Majestic will help you determine which pages are popular and receive the most inbound links.
The preparation stage is also a good time to identify new opportunities by revisiting or updating keyword research and get agreement on KPI reporting.
Technical and content review
The first task is to ensure the dev. site is not accessible to any search engine crawlers. Once this is complete a technical and content review can take place. You will need to review and understand:
Optimise content and correct technical snags in your new site
This is the chance to correct any technical snags found in the audits and ensure the website is ready for the migration process. These steps will include:
URL redirect mapping will also be required during this phase. This will involve redirecting all pages from the old URL to the most relevant page on the new one. Common mistakes at this stage include:
Testing, testing, 123
The new website should now be ready for migration, but it’s important to test everything to ensure all goes to plan. Crawling the dev. site again before launch will identify any last minute changes that need to be made, whilst getting several people to look over the site will reduce any human errors that can occur.
Ready to launch
Once the new site is live, Google may take some time to update the new pages in the search results, there are however important steps to take to monitor the migration.
Manual checks should include:
And that is all there is to it!
A lot of mistakes can be made during a website migration, however with careful planning execution and monitoring, all of them can be avoided so that your new site leaves you in a better, rather than worse place, after migration.