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Everything You Need to Know About Migrating a Website

Aug 25, 2023

Website migration can be the digital equivalent of packing up and moving to a whole new site. In other cases, it isn’t quite so drastic but will involve a major change to your website. This can be daunting and if done badly or haphazardly, it could lead to a crash in traffic, performance and SEO performance.

As long as it is carefully planned and done with the help of experts, however, migrating a website shouldn’t be too difficult and can help your existing website to improve, expand and handle more traffic. Find out everything you need to know about migrating a website below.

Introduction to Migrating a Website

There are many reasons for migrating a website. You might want to upgrade your website or add new features via a new content management system (CMS) or dedicated eCommerce platform. You might want to change your URL to match a rebrand. Your current website and host may be struggling to cope with traffic as you expand.

So what is website migration and how can it help? That can depend on who you ask. In some cases it can involve moving entirely from one host to another – the online equivalent of a physical store moving to another premises. Or it might involve changing your Uniform Resource Locator (URL) – essentially changing your web address.

This could be useful following a rebrand, for example, or you might want to move your website from HTTP to HTTPS. Google has been advocating switching to the encrypted HTTPS protocol for almost a decade now, primarily for reasons of security and privacy. The search engine also confirmed that HTTPS would factor into their search algorithms.

In purely SEO terms, site migration is generally used to refer to any sitewide changes that have a major impact on your site’s visibility to search engines. This could mean major structural changes or a major content redesign.

Planning Your Website Migration

It is important to plan website migrations carefully. It can be a big job, especially if you have a large website with lots of content and pages, and it’s important to get it right, which is why it is important to ensure you have everything you need to know about website migration before starting.

Google itself suggests that you consider splitting any major migration involving a URL change into smaller steps and carry them out one at a time – where this is technically possible. If, for example, your website migration involved moving to a new domain, switching to a new CMS and updating your layout, you could carry out each of those tasks (all of which will have their own steps and sub-tasks) separately.

When thinking about website migration it can be useful to define your goals and set up a website migration checklist. Your goals could include trackable metrics such as achieving a 10% increase in organic traffic, or they could be more general.

Your website migration checklist can cover migration steps such as:

Involve the relevant people

For a large or major website, migration can involve a number of stakeholders and experts including web developers, SEO specialists, designers, data analysts, UX specialists, content writers and more. It generally pays to get everyone onboard as early as possible to flag up potential issues ahead of time. For a smaller website, you might want to bring in a team of independent experts like Maxweb Solutions.

Benchmark your current site

This will help you to track changes and gauge the success of your website migration. You can use a site audit on a tool like Semrush or Moz for example, or invest in specialist digital marketers who can complete a site audit for you. This can help you to track key metrics including:

  • Organic traffic and page rankings – how many people visit your site and pages via search engines. How do individual pages perform for targeted keywords and where do they rank in search engine results pages (SERPS)?
  • Pages crawled and URLs indexed – How many pages are crawled and URLs indexed by search engine bots going through your site?
  • Site structure and performance – Can you easily reach remote pages in just a few clicks? How is your page loading speed and performance?

Set a timeline

You will want to have a firm timeline in place with a deadline for when the move is complete. It is almost guaranteed that unexpected issues crop up during the process so it can help to build a buffer zone. Timelines can also be adapted as you go but the deadline will give your website migration, which can be a multi-faceted project, a definite structure.

Create a content map

Ensure you don’t lose any content by building a complete picture of your website. This will show things like which URLs need to be redirected, as well as identifying missing links and errors. You can also create a 301 redirect map for when your migration goes live.

Test website migration in a closed environment

This can help you to see the changes that will be made without having to shut down your existing website, as well as avoid glaring errors when the new website does go live. Think of it as a dry run that will make the actual migration easier.

Executing Migrating a Website

You will need to take your website offline while you actually migrate, which is one reason why planning everything out in advance is so important. It can be useful to execute the migration itself at a less busy time, assuming you have marked fluctuations in traffic.

Post Migration Checklist

Once you have completed the migration there is still work to be done, monitoring your performance and checking for any potential issues.

Your post-migration checklist may include things such as:

  • Perform a full site crawl to check for errors
  • Check HTML tags for your analytics tools
  • Test and submit a new XML sitemap
  • Monitor your benchmark metrics and compare them to pre-migration performance

Thinking About Migrating a Website? Get in touch

Website migration can provide a lot of benefits. It can boost your traffic and SEO and improve the security and performance of your website. It can also provide a fresh experience for existing users following a rebrand or refresh.

It can be a complicated project to get right, however, and getting a site migration wrong can have a big hit on your SEO and performance. With the right planning and support in place you can avoid such issues and make your website migration a success.

Our team of web designers and SEO experts are highly experienced in planning and implementing migrations for websites of all shapes and sizes. Get in touch today and find out how we can help or for more information about everything you need to know about migrating a website and more.

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