As the business grows, technology gets better, user/customer behaviors change and strategies adjust. The website owners and marketers alike will eventually experience the challenges. Website migration helps them to walk along with the technology change. Updating your e-commerce platform can do a lot of positive things for your brand website. But if you aren’t careful, it can also wreak havoc on your site’s authority with search engines.
Before jumping into the SEO checkpoints lets get some basic idea about website migration & its types.
What is Website Migration?
Site migration is a broad term used by SEO professionals and developers. In this, the website undergoes many changes in areas that will affect search engine visibility. These changes may include things like structure, content, coding, performance, or UX.
A website migration takes place when a website moves from one environment to another.
In the SEO world, website migrations can be a stressful component but when you have a clear roadmap with deadlines and task ownership, everything runs a whole lot smoother.Migrations can eventually lead to bigger benefits for organic search, technical and design implementations, and user experience. If performed well, what defines a site migration, the negative impacts when done incorrectly, and some key considerations for websites before taking the dive.
Types of Website Migration?
Website migrations fall into several general types. There are a few types of site migrations out there.
We can’t say which type of migration is the most common but you will often hear about website location changes. These are:
- Migration from HTTP to HTTPS
- Moving to a new server
- Subdomain or subfolder change
- Domain name change
https://www.example.com —> https://www.template.biz
- Other URL changes. Every change that affects internal linking or the site’s architecture.
Other types of migrations account for:
- Platform changes. For example, migration from WordPress to Magento, upgrading platform’s features or integrating different platforms
- Content Changes. Some common examples are adding or removing pages, content consolidation, or implementing new languages.
- Design and user interactivity and experience changes. The most common these days is the need to add a mobile version of a website.
Use the following SEO checklist or some general points that you must ensure while migrating your website.
1. Crawl all your old websites before the migration
Crawl your old website with SEO tools like Screaming Frog or ask your client to give you the complete website crawl file. Make sure you have a complete list of the URLs on your old site so that nothing ends up getting lost because of the transition.
- Remove or replace any links that point to 404 pages during the migration process.
- Site crawlers do not crawl every single page on your site. therefore, you can use your own records and databases to find these pages, of course, but if this isn’t possible, you can find these pages in your Google Analytics data, as well as through a link explorer-like Ahrefs.
- While crawling the website if you find any orphan pages, make sure to update the site, and link to these during the migration.
2. Map all changed URLs from old to new
You should have a spreadsheet that lists every old URL and every new URL.
During a site migration, all of the old pages exist on the new site. Removing a page removes its ability to capture search engine traffic. On top of that, dropping too many pages during the migration may lead to lose of your search engine rankings and traffic.
It helps you to identify the URL architecture and allows you to use regex in yours. Htaccess file to easily redirect from your old pages to new ones.
3. Implement On-page & Technical SEO work on a new website
Take a close look at your existing website and make a note of all the resources present on the website like – images, PDFs, videos, sub landing pages, active redirects, etc. Take note of all those resources, what to include or what to remove on the new website. If not done properly it results in loss of organic traffic.
On page: Complete page-wise meta title & meta description mapping for Homepage, PLP, PDP, and CMS pages.
Technical SEO: Try to fix all the technical SEO checkpoints before go-live.
Schema markup, and Heading tags, Update all internal links, Self-canonicalize all-new pages, Resolve duplicate content issues.
4. Make sure that a custom 404 page is in situ
A custom 404 page permits users to simply navigate your web site and notice one thing helpful if they land on a page that does not exist.
5. Manage and submit sitemaps & Robots TXT file
Do update the new sitemap & robots file for the new site. Requesting Google to crawl the old sitemap and discover the redirects is a good way to accelerate the process.
6. Keep analytics & all tracking codes in place at all times
Install Google Analytics tracking code & Pixels on the new domain and get it up and running well before you launch the site to the public. Monitor the traffic on the website during migration.
7. Redirect Properly and Avoid 404 Errors
Test your redirects on a test server and verify that this doesn’t produce any 404 errors. I recommend doing this before the redirects go live test them on the test server (staging website)
Keep in mind that once the redirects go live, your site has effectively been migrated. The new site should be in pristine condition before setting up the redirects.
8. Keep control of the old domain
Many professionals suggest that we should not keep control of the old domain. But I would advise against giving up control of the old domain. Ideally, the old domain should redirect to the new one, on a page-by-page basis, indefinitely. If those redirects are lost, all of the inbound links earned by the old site will also be lost. We can check and resolve the issues by pointing the website to the old domain.
9. Setup Google Search Console & Perform Technical spot check
Make sure the new and old versions of your site are registered in Google Search Console. Verify that it is set up accounting for HTTP vs. HTTPS and www vs. non-www. Submit both the old and new sitemaps to solidify the message that the old site has been redirected to the new one.
Also, perform quick technical spots check –
- The robots.txt file to make sure search engines are not blocked from crawling
- Noindex/nofollow directives.
- Check top pages redirects.
- Check top pages canonical tags.
- Check the top pages of server responses.
10. Monitor traffic, performance, and rankings post-migration
Keep a close eye on your search and referral traffic, Linked pages, and the top-performing pages of your website checking it daily for at least a week after the migration. If there are any shifts in traffic, dive down to the page level, and compare traffic on the old site to traffic on the new site to identify which pages have lost traffic. Check those pages, in particular, should be inspected for crawl errors and linking issues.
If a site migration is carried out without taking SEO into account, you can almost bet on losing search engine traffic in the process. Keep all of the above in mind if you are planning to migrate your site, and it should go off without a hitch. It is not recommended, but rather necessary to have an in-house team of professionals and experts, if not it would be wise to seek external assistance. Shoptimize is just the kind of agency that can make sure even the most complex migration goes smoothly. From our experience, every good migration has ended with a rise in traffic volumes. You don’t have to be afraid of migrating a website, you just need to properly plan ahead, while using an experienced team of web experts to execute the website migration successfully.