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6 Key Steps to Migrate your Website Without Harming SEO

If your website is outdated, then it won’t represent your brand well. So you have to ensure that you give your website a revamp or a redesign every 2-3 years to keep up with web standards and design trends. It is easily accomplished through a simple facelift or re-skin.

Though website migrations are common, they’re certainly not easy. And if you are planning on it, you surely need a website migration checklist SEO. If you are thinking of migrating to a new server, domain, or host, even that would require significant planning, time, and resources. 

Small mistakes can also mess up a website migration. And this, in turn, could destroy your company’s traffic and revenue overnight. A poorly implemented site migration can wreak havoc on the years of handwork you had put in. So, though changing your domain name or implementing HTTPS would mean a good business move, you have to consider how search engines will react to this move. There is a bit of risk of hitting organic search traffic.

This helpful guide will give you a gist into everything you need to know about migrating websites. It will ensure that you cover all the SEO bases to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Site migration is not a digital marketing trend; instead, it is migrating a website from one domain to a completely different one. Migration of sites can go deeper than just changing the environment. It means switching servers, CMS platforms, and the creation or consolidation of branded subdomains. It may also refer to switching over of site domains. 

But in most cases, migrating refers to shifting from the HTTP domain to the more secure HTTPS. However, it is regarded as one of the most “basic” types of migration. However, without the website migration checklist SEO, it does come with a series of threats, especially if you don’t have the right SEO platform and operational support.

Why is it Needed?

Website migration is needed if you wish to:

  • Shift & upgrade your site structure, navigation/design
  • Switch or go for a new content management system (CMS)
  • Transition the existing website from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Shift to a new server
  • Move to a different domain name

Pitfalls to Consider

When migrating from one domain to another, there are critical aspects that you should take into consideration.

No Planning

Most businesses opt for site migration with zero intentions to create a website migration plan. All they want to do is get a new CMS. They move to a new CMS without researching best practices for the move.

Bad Strategy

 It would help if you created a website migration plan. If not, you will fail to invest enough time developing their strategy. The lackluster strategy can put your site migration at risk.

Not Paying Attention to SEO

When undergoing website migration, you have to pay attention to SEO. For this, you should connect with an SEO consultant, agency, or in-house SEO team. Getting their suggestion when it comes to a site migration helps create a website migration checklist SEO. As a result, you won’t lose traffic, leads, or revenue long-term.

Incomplete Resources

Ensure that you set the necessary resources to plan a successful website migration. It could take care of the funding for hiring an SEO consultant or web design agency specializing in SEO.

Not Testing Enough 

Not having a good website migration plan usually means forgetting to test and follow-up on their work. If you don’t find bugs within new navigation or site design, it implies havoc for your website.

You can counteract the above problems by:

  • Setting up a timeline
  • Estimating the resources needed
  • Brainstorming strategies
  • Noting potential challenges
  • Establishing a budget

URL redirection during website migration is done to ensure that all the links work on your new domain. This particularly holds for your website’s main pages because they have inbound links (referral traffic coming from another website). Not changing these pages based on content can make things stagnant and boring. Experts are suggesting trying the 301 redirects, which is also called the permanent redirect. It simply lets the search engines like Google know that your page has moved permanently. Do consider the link equity too because it may be a big chunk.

People often migrate if two organizations are amalgamating. In such cases, it is best to retain the higher ranking of the two domains, considering more users. Also, it is easier to redirect links from the lesser performing domain. To maximize SEO, ensure that URLs are redirected only to highly relevant pages.

Here is a gist of six steps to help you successfully migrate your website:

Step One: Develop a Migration Plan

Create a concrete website migration plan, along with a website migration checklist SEO. This will help you in establishing the scope and timeline of your migration. It additionally helps to determine who will lead and support the migration. Try and have a checklist for each task.

Setting up a budget comes next. Your migration plan won’t happen in a day. In the same way, you should work out a budget to communicate with numerous team members.

Step Two: Coordinate with the Design & Development Team 

Make sure you don’t miss coordinating because you have to move forward with your website updates. In terms of redesigning, it can include reviewing wireframes, providing feedback, etc. If more than design is needed, then the development team can work independently too. The developers could work on improving the overall speed of your sites.

Step Three: Prepping Technical SEO for the Migration

Post finalizing the website’s designs or development, a dedicated SEO specialist will outline and prepare the technical SEO specifications. Some of these include:

  • HTML sitemap
  • XML sitemap
  • URL structure
  • Redirects
  • Internal linking

You should also:

  • Crawl your existing website
  • Benchmark your existing website’s performance
  • Export your existing website’s Google Search Console
  • Have a document outlining planned redirects

Step Four: Launch and Test 

As per the digital marketing trends, you should launch & test your website. The process of testing your site commences once your development team starts building it. Ensure that during the test, it’s not accessible to search engines. Else they will crawl and index this website when you haven’t migrated your old site and content to it. This can be done by limiting its access to specific IP addresses.

  • Test & review site architecture
  • Check site’s usability
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Check site’s internal linking
  • Read your site’s title tags, meta descriptions, etc.
  • Ensure your site functions
  • Go over your text file, XML sitemap, etc

Step Five: Migrating your Website

Before the business reaches the website migration plan, it can take a few weeks or months. But do remember that speed is essential. In some cases, the migration does require the website to go offline. For instance, it may be possible that you want to avoid extensive downtime. On completing the initial migration, complete the following:

  • Check & confirm robots.txt file is not blocking search engines
  • Check if the redirects work for your pages
  • Upload your XML sitemap to your Google Search Console account

All of the above actions will help your business spot critical errors fast. They will additionally boost your SEO and help your migration process become seamless.

Step Six: Following Up

Though you may have completed your website migration checklist, there is still a need to monitor your site. Make sure that your site migration is monitored to watch your rankings and traffic. Doing so can help alert your business to issues with your website migration. You can use Google Analytics to monitor your traffic and Google Search Console to track your rankings. Of course, there are paid tools too like Ahrefs or SEMrush that you can use.

Also, ensure that you check for duplication once the multiple versions of a URL are published. This will result in duplicate content. You have the option of self-canonicalization to take care of the issue. Additionally do check that links are consistent to avoid redirects from internal links. All the IP addresses should further redirect to URLs.

  • Watch out for folders that take you to content, especially “default” folders.
  • Verify that only HTTPS or HTTP is used
  • Ensure www or non-www version of the site is accessible
  • Everything else should be redirected to the site

If your site has a search function, the search result pages should be non-indexed.

This should be in a place to avoid duplicate content created by URL query strings.

Conclusion:

There is no doubt that the website migration process can be lengthy. However, with the right preparation, you can successfully migrate, optimizing your existing SEO efforts. 

You should get a website migration plan because that is more critical than building a checklist. If you successfully follow through on that checklist, the entire ordeal can help in seamless integration. As a business owner, it is relatively easy to get caught up in daily challenges and new projects but ensure these simple measures for successful website migration!