When done incorrectly, website migration can become the misery of SEO activities and performance. Hence, we are here to give you a comprehensive guide on the details of website migration SEO, and the steps you should take to make the best out of it.
First and foremost, we must familiarize ourselves with the many types of website migrations in order to understand what we need to do to avoid a catastrophic loss of visitors and what can cause losses in the first place.
Start by understanding the beast: the various forms of website migration you may encounter
People have varying ideas about what constitutes website migration SEO — some need minimal effort, while others become a big undertaking — so we’ll go over the most typical types we have encountered over the past years.
Changing CMS: Have you been using an outdated CMS that has been slowing down your site for years and are now getting that slick new one? Perhaps your company has evolved and your previous system no longer provides all of the features you require, such as eCommerce capabilities. This is also referred to as website migration, which necessitates certain preparation because things will undoubtedly change.
URL changes: You may wish to shorten your URLs as they’ve become more complex over time as subcategories, tags, dates, and other elements have been added — this is considered migration because you’ll be shifting these to new URLs.
Redesign: You and your UX team looked over your current website and concluded that it would be a good idea to rebuild and redesign it for the benefit of everyone. This is also a web migration because some content/categories/menus/pages will undoubtedly be moved around and URLs may change.
We’ll go through additional migration types in-depth with tips and examples. For detailed information, continue reading.
Phase 1: SEO migration Pre-launch Strategy
Developing new site features: To begin, start by specifying the technical SEO migration needs for the new site for the developers’ reference, which will include some of the following.
- Including the same Google Analytics code.
- The same URL structure. In any case, be sure that no URL parameters are added to each subfolder on the site.
- Information about the information (titles, descriptions, alt tags etc. need to be on the pages and easily editable).
- Use of the same headings and body text.
- XML Sitemaps and robots.txt files that are dynamically created and formatted correctly.
- The new site must have structured data (article, breadcrumb, product, organisation, etc.)
- As a top priority, loading times must be good — or at the absolute least, better than the current one.
- URLs with self-referential canonicals and the possibility to update them.
- HTML/CSS that has been minified, packaged, and compressed.
- Essential links and business info in the footer part.
- Non-disruptive pop-ups.
Examine what worked on the previous site: The redirect from page A to page B will essentially split into two redirects: page A to page C and page B to page C.
This is necessary to avoid redirect loops and chains, as well as redirects slowing down page speed. A redirect transfers the majority of a URL’s value, but only around 90% of it, so the more redirects in a chain, the less value is allocated to the final page. Add in the fact that Google stops scanning pages after 6 redirections, and you shouldn’t take any risks. All of this is done so that you have an exact list of all of the old site’s URLs. You’ll also have a prioritized list based on the amount of traffic, the number of backlinks, and the pages that the search engines consider important.
The most significant pages that received a lot of traffic led to goals or sales, the pages with the most or greatest links going to them, pages that ranked first, triggered a featured snippet, or that a lot of people shared via social media, etc. are then prioritized.
You’ll now have two lists: one with all of your URLs and another with all of the key pages. All of the information will aid in preventing traffic loss and will also inform your 301 redirect strategy.
Website Architecture & Website Migration Seo Checklist
When remodelling or reimagining the new website’s architecture, make sure the critical pages are retained and prioritized. For example, if a vital page is part of top-level navigation, you should avoid eliminating it from the new site’s architecture because you’re effectively telling search engines that this page isn’t as important as it formerly was.
Also, keep an eye out for new page or architecture opportunities. This is a huge opportunity if you’re updating your website’s look and content.
Plan for Domain Redirect URLs
Because page URLs are likely to change, make sure you include every URL from all of those data sources, including previous redirects, in this section. Make a table with numerous columns as follows:
- Column A is the former site’s URL.
- Column B is the new site’s URL.
If there isn’t an exact page on the new site to redirect to, make sure it goes to the closest comparable.
Also, make sure your redirects go to the correct version of the page, the one with the canonical tag set.
Phase 2: Testing And Pre-launch Checks
After you’ve done all of the previous tasks, you’ll be looking for:
- The existence of key pages on the staging site, as well as the navigational priority assigned to them.
- Technical issues (make sure the new site meets all of the previous requirements), page speeds, and so on.
- All critical content in the design.
- On-page SEO (make sure all of the old site’s metadata has been transferred).
- Verification that the redirects are working (crawl the staging site to check).
- The functionality of all internal links.
- Verification that the schema markup is present and functional.
- Any pages that are broken.
- Verification that the canonical tags are correct.
- How usable, attractive, and functional the staging site on a mobile device is.
SEO Migration Plan and Post-migration Review
Update URLs in all your social accounts and add the new site and sitemap.xml to Google Search Console.
Make sure to use the fetch and render tool in Google Search Console for your most critical pages to check how Google sees them and if there are any issues you can address right away.
Check that Google Analytics is tracking site visitors and other objectives. Make sure your robots.txt file is up to date to ensure you’re not blocking important URLs or resources, and that you’re not using another directive as before.
Monitoring After the Launch
Check Google Analytics data for key sectors of the site on a frequent basis during the next weeks and months: Has traffic decreased, remained constant, or increased?
If you see a drop, go to Google Search Console to examine how your pages are doing, how many pages from your sitemap.xml have been indexed, and if any of them have any difficulties.
Be sure to track and audit the new site on a regular basis: you may use paid tools like Ahrefs site-auditor or SEMrush’s version to run audits and verify for any potential technical issues, as well as check up on Search Console data. Logfile analysis can be beneficial because it allows you to monitor how bots engage with the new site and if any of your crawl budgets is being wasted.
Website migrations can be difficult to manage and almost always result in a temporary drop in traffic, but these expert tips from our in-house team should help you avoid any significant traffic losses.
Contact and discuss with our SEO professionals if you have any additional questions or require specific assistance.