You are planning to migrate your website. Sounds scary, doesn't it?
Website migration is a nightmare for many. The effort and hard work which go into designing a website that ranks well is put at risk. If you are underprepared for the migration, it can hurt your SEO. But, a website migration checklist might just save your day.
This checklist can help you navigate the process of migration keeping in check all the things that can go wrong and how you can prevent this digital disaster.
Website Migration refers to the process of redesigning a website’s structure or visuals and changing its location for high visibility and performance. It impacts the SEO of your website majorly. It is done to improve it, but if executed poorly, can damage it further.
Acknowledge the fact that your SEO will get affected. Organic traffic takes a hit due to website migration even though you are doing it to improve the same in the first place. However, remember that in the long run, you will get the benefits.
Why does this happen? Well, because that is how Google works. Faster and more user-friendly websites rank better on Google. And when you have migrated yours, it can take some time to process and re-index it in its memory. So a short-term downfall in SEO is expected. But, a SEO website migration checklist will prepare you for anything that can go wrong.
When you migrate, it can either increase or decrease your website’s speed. Speed is the most critical factor in determining the ranking, traffic, and conversion rate of your website. Hence, if you are planning to migrate, you must choose a reliable and well-known hosting company. In addition, you should also make sure the migration process goes smoothly. For example, you need to double-check that all the new URLs are working properly.
Experts suggest that you should conduct a sire redesign every 2 to 3 years to keep up with design trends and web standards. This can simply be achieved with some redesign or small changes. However, sometimes you have to do a complete overhaul or a website migration.
This is one of the most major kinds of sitewide changes. Switching domains could be an example of it, which involves shifts in hosting providers and server locations.
Adapting a different framework and changing URL paths are considered top-level site changes.
When you decide to make some changes in the foundational structure of your site, website migration is done. Like changing the URL structure or merging several domains into one. You will need to redirect to new URLs to avoid losing your SEO ranking.
Even if you are not planning to touch your site or its URL structure, certain changes can still be considered as website migration. Rebranding or redesigning the website can be one of these scenarios as they might affect the on-page SEO elements.
This process is challenging and involves plenty of risks. Your decision to proceed with this should be evaluated seriously.
A website migration checklist will take you through all the steps clearly and make sure to make this transition as smooth as possible.
If you are looking for ways in which you can make your checklist as accurate as possible, we have made it easier for you by doing the work.
A pre-launch checklist is crucial to evaluate your launch plans, data collection, plan, risk prediction, planning backups, and testing your new website. All the steps of this website migration checklist must get ticked off before moving ahead.
Lack of planning before migrating can be one of the biggest mistakes that one makes. You need a proper plan that you desire to execute to make this transition nearly seamless.
The planning involves noting the reasons why the migration is being made. Sometimes websites are migrated for reasons not related to SEO, for example, rebranding. Whether related or unrelated, make sure you list down all the reasons, so you can evaluate their outcomes before you decide or begin your website migration.
Gather all the stakeholders needed for the migration and discuss the plan with them thoroughly.
A launch date can determine the impact your migration creates on your traffic to a great extent. Go through your data and based on the statistics, pick a date when you will get ample time to deal with any issues that occur.
Make sure you do not migrate your website during the peak of your business. It is better to delay the migration than to go through it during a profitable period.
Now that you have decided to migrate your website, it is better to look into any and every issue that needs to be fixed. You would not want to go through the entire process just to rectify a silly mistake.
Crawl and audit your entire website to go through everything at once to find any issues. This way you will also know the health of your website and how it has been performing so far.
This crawling will even help you identify your top-performing pages, which you can prioritize during the migration process to try and keep their performance intact for your business.
Before you launch the website, you need to set up a staging environment where you can test it. This gives you space to understand if the changes that you have made are fine or not and how your new site looks in comparison to the old one.
If your migration involves domain shifts, you will need to launch your new domain before migrating the website. Your digital team could curate a launching soon page.
Plan and execute your redirects properly according to your website migration checklist. When it involves one of your top-level domains, it becomes more important
If you want to save all the traffic and ranking your website has gained, you must set up 301 redirects for the new pages or domains to prevent them from hitting your visibility.
This step will ensure your web pages are indexed by Google faster and your user experience is not affected.
404 error pages are always likely to occur despite your best efforts. So, to save your users from frustration, create a custom 404 page representing your brand and keep the SEO intact.
Your URL structure is crucial to migration and therefore it's important to review its components before the launch.
You need to be sure that your website uses absolute URLs. A relative URL just uses a portion of the URL, whereas an absolute URL provides all the information required to find a resource on your website.
Absolute URLs assist in avoiding difficulties with duplicate content and can enhance internal linking.
Upon migration, you can end up with duplicate pages if you are shifting to a new domain name. This can be a buzzkill for the search engine as your pages compete against each other for visibility.
You can prevent this by cleaning up your content and removing any potential duplicate pages alongside implementing the much-needed 301 redirects.
Also know how does Google handle duplicate content?
Speed plays a huge role in terms of determining how your website performs in search. It's best to make sure your new website is at least at par with the speed of your old website.
The comparison between the two before the launch will help spot any major issues and resolve them before the launch date.
After following all the necessary steps from the pre-website migration checklist, you are ready to go live with your new website!
Keep the following pointers in mind while doing so on the launch day.
Storing your content will help you recover any content that has been lost during the migration process. This will help you resolve the issue faster before any major damage is done. Backups will save time and your website's performance.
Needless to say, your website goes temporarily down when you are migrating it. Checking that your website is responding with a 503- service unavailable response so users know that it's maintenance and they can come back soon.
If your new URLs do not match the previous version or you have moved your domain, you need to enable and put your redirects to the test. This will help you get rid of any 4xx errors. Also, go through the 301 redirects list to make sure all pages properly match the correct links.
You need to check properly that each and every internal link that has been updated to your new website is correct.
Likewise, make sure you have updated the canonical tags as per the new version.
You do not want to miss the tracking of your new website’s traffic. Hence, configuring your web analytics is crucial. Plus, it also helps in adding an annotation to your web analytics platform.
You need to refresh the settings of the robot.txt file with the relevant modifications.
You need to update your Google Search Console’s property by uploading the new XML sitemap to ensure there are no errors.
If you managed to follow all the points mentioned above, chances are that you have eliminated most of the obstacles already. Protecting your SEO is the most important task during the entire process.
Your website is live now! But does it end the website migration checklist? No. There are still certain things you need to check in with even after the launch to make sure it’s performing well.
Your team should be on their toes to check for any errors as soon as the site is launched! Make sure the URLs are accessible without any errors. The sooner these errors are noticed, the better your search engine rankings will be.
Even though you made sure to compare the speed of your old and testing website, it's still necessary to check again. Google needs to access all the new URLs of your website to improve your visibility.
Verify to determine whether the 301 you implemented is properly running or not. Once the website has been relaunched, keep an eye out for your status codes like 301, 404, 500, etc.
If you have changed your URLs or domains, you need to inform everyone in the organization to change the external links they are using to drive traffic to the website.
Make sure to do this before the website is launched, and also check in after it has been done. Also, make all the necessary changes in the ads you are running for your website.
You must have set certain milestones you want to achieve, before migrating your website. So make sure you continuously analyze your progress once you have launched your website.
If you're noticing a major downfall in your traffic, you need to run an audit again to see if it's because of the entire website or just a few specific pages.
You can also browse through your website as a regular user to experience its functioning and evaluate how smooth it is running.
If you are planning to migrate your website, and don’t want to lose traffic, there are a few steps you can take to avoid any negative impact. They are:
Once you have migrated your website, you need to measure the impact keeping SEO in mind. To do so, these are the key points you need to focus on:
Migrating your website is no cakewalk. Many important decisions need to be taken. The stability and visibility of your brand are put at risk. Even though the long-term aim for the migration is to improve the website's performance, the procedure is still dreaded.
Make sure you keep your website migration checklist ready with your detailed plan and activities throughout the process.