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Smooth Sailing: A Step-by-Step Process for Successful Website Migration

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Smooth Sailing: A Step-by-Step Process for Successful Website Migration

Blog / Smooth Sailing: A Step-by-Step Process for Successful Website Migration

Smooth Sailing: A Step-by-Step Process for Successful Website Migration

Are you considering website migration your website but concerned about its impact on performance and search rankings? Website migrations can be beneficial, but they do carry risks. To ensure a successful migration, it’s essential to follow a proven process.

In this blog, we will discuss the steps involved in a website migration, website migration checklists for your reference, and explain each step-in detail. While there are various types of migrations, the planning and troubleshooting steps are similar.

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Keep in mind that migrations can be complex, involving multiple parties and components. Don’t panic if things don’t go as planned; most issues can be resolved.

This blog will cover the following:

  • Preparing for a website migration
  • Performing a website migration
  • Testing and ongoing monitoring

Are You Planning to Do a Website Migration for SEO?

Before migrating your website, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what changes will take place and who will be involved in the process. This requires a well-defined plan and a system to track all the moving parts, including the people involved, their roles and deadlines.

A project manager and project management system can be helpful in this regard, as relying solely on email and messaging platforms can quickly become chaotic.

It’s also essential to have a rollback plan in place in case something goes wrong. Even if you don’t plan on using it, it’s essential to have a way to revert to the original state.

Why Website Migration Is Essential?

To understand the impact of the migration, it’s recommended to have access to both Google Search Console and Analytics on both the old and new sites, ideally combined into a single view.

While some changes may take a few weeks or even months to reflect, others may not have any impact at all. For instance, if you’re migrating a mid-size site to a new domain, you might expect some traffic fluctuations for a few weeks.

What To Do?

Preparatory work for website migration is also crucial. Here is what you should do:

  • Crawl your website and create a baseline for future comparison
  • Create a set of test pages, such as those from the Top Pages report in Site Explorer
  • Restrict access to your staging or dev site to prevent it from being indexed
  • Create a backup of your site as a precautionary measure.

Relevance Of Website Migration Process

A website migration is a significant change to your website that can impact its structure, performance and traffic. The common form of migration is moving from one domain to another, transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS or changing your URL structure.

While website migration can offer significant benefits for your business, it also carries potential risks including:

  • Site crashes
  • Traffic loss
  • Revenue decline

However, these risks can be mitigated by following a tried and tested site migration strategy, which we will outline below.

Performing A Website Migration: Key Scenarios

Performing a website migration involves various tasks, depending on whether the URLs will remain the same or not. If the URLs are not changing, the move may be less complicated in terms of SEO. However, there are still infrastructure/DevOps or developer tasks to be completed.

Some of the things that may be involved in such migrations are hosting, platform and design. If you have a staging or dev site, it’s advisable to access it to check for issues before launching it live.

What To Do?

To ensure that everything is in order, you need to look for changes in various elements such as:

With JavaScript systems, you need to be particularly vigilant because new systems may not load all the content into the DOM by default, which could affect how search engines view your site.

Other factors to watch out for include:

You can use the comparison function of Site Audit to check for changes since your last crawl and keep an eye on the Best by Links report in Site Explorer, filtering for 404s to see pages with links that are now broken.

In the case of website migration where URLs are different, the process can be more complicated. However, if you’re moving from HTTP to HTTPS, the process is relatively simple. Below are some things to consider during this type of migration:

  • Domain: changing domain, merging into another site and splitting a site
  • Protocol: HTTP > HTTPS
  • Path: subdomain/subfolder, changing site architecture

For HTTP > HTTPS migration, implement a Content Security Policy of upgrade-insecure-requests to fix all mixed content issues, install a security certificate, redirect HTTP to HTTPS using a 301 redirect and add an HSTS header.

For domain changes:

  • Temporarily lower TTL (a few hours for the value)
  • Use the change of address tool in GSC
  • Check the old domain for any manual actions

Regardless of the type of migration, it’s essential to update internal links and links in various tags like canonicals, hreflang, etc. You can use a find-and-replace plugin to do this quickly for internal links. Keep a sitemap with old URLs for a short period to monitor the indexing of URLs in GSC.

Remove any crawling blocks for pages on the old and new site, make sure pages you want to be indexed aren’t marked no-index, and redirect old pages to the new versions using a 301 redirect. Don’t worry about redirecting things like JS, CSS, or Font files.

If you see a drop, it’s likely related to redirects, something not being able to be crawled, something no-indexed, changes to the content or removing content, changes to internal links or something that changed related to technical SEO.

Step-by-Step Process of Website Migration

To begin with the website migration process, it is important to establish the objectives of website migration and determine the extent of the changes.

Website migration may be necessary for various reasons, such as moving from HTTP to HTTPS, improving site design, taking the site international and increasing search traffic.

  • Start by defining the reasons for the migration, clear objectives and goals can be developed.
  • Set a budget, timeline and team responsibilities to ensure a successful migration.
  • Promote the new website before the migration to avoid confusion and loss of impact and to create a content map to have a complete picture of all the content.
  • Create a 301-redirect map starting with the most valuable pages to avoid losing traffic.
  • Conduct a thorough test of your website migration in a closed environment. This can help you identify any errors or issues that may impact your site’s user experience or traffic when the full migration goes live.
  • Check your site’s architecture, usability, mobile responsiveness, metadata, internal linking, search functionality and other site features.
  • Set up tracking to monitor the site’s traffic levels and top pages for a few weeks to establish performance benchmarks.
  • Use analytics tools to track your site’s performance and site’s rankings and changes over time.

Important Points to Remember:

Try to complete the migration as quickly as possible to avoid extensive downtime, which could negatively impact your rankings. Double-check your robots.txt file, test your redirects and upload your new XML sitemap to Google Search Console.

Track your site’s success and make improvements as needed. Keep an eye on your site’s traffic levels and rankings and benchmark them against your initial expectations.

You should also track the traffic levels and rankings of the legacy site to ensure that all pages are being properly redirected. If everything meets your expectations after a year, you can stop tracking and enjoy your new site.

How to Test and Monitor the Website Migration Process?

Ahrefs: It provides several methods to track changes during a website migration. One approach is to adjust the scope of your crawl in Site Audit and compare the results to see what has changed, paying attention to elements like:

  • Canonicals
  • Hreflang
  • Schema
  • Meta Robots.

It’s also essential to monitor your priority pages and crawl them regularly using Site Audit. The Top Pages and Organic Keywords reports in Site Explorer 2.0 can give you insights into page and keyword traffic and change history, which can be exported to Excel or Google Sheets for better analysis.

Google Search Console: (GSC) can also provide helpful data during a migration. For example, you can use the URL Inspection tool to check for canonicalization issues. You can also export GSC data and combine it with other data sources like Excel or Google Data Studio for more comprehensive analysis. The Index Coverage report in GSC can help you monitor how your pages are indexed, especially if you upload both old and new sitemap files.

The Crawl Stats report: It is another useful resource to identify crawling behaviour changes, issues with crawling, and get more information about how Google crawls your site. It’s crucial to pay attention to any flagged crawl statuses and timestamps of when pages were last crawled.

Website Migration Checklist: Important Things to Consider Before, During and After Migration

Website migration is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. Below are some important considerations before, during and after the website migration process:

Before website migration:

  • Clearly define your goals and objectives for the website migration process.
  • Select a new web host or platform that meets your needs.
  • Back up your website before starting the migration process.
  • Test the new web host or platform before transferring your website content.
  • Plan the migration process carefully and allocate enough time for it.

During website migration:

  • Carefully transfer your website content to avoid losing or corrupting data.
  • Thoroughly test your website after transferring the content.
  • Monitor your website for any issues or errors during the migration process.

After website migration:

  • Check your website thoroughly to ensure that all content has been accurately transferred.
  • Test your website again to verify that it is functioning correctly.
  • Monitor your website for any issues or errors after the migration process.

Website Migration Tips: Best Practices for a Successful Migration

To ensure a successful website migration, it’s important to:

  • Create a plan: Plan the process carefully and allocate enough time for it.
  • Create a backup: Additionally, creating a backup of your website before beginning the migration process and choosing a new web host or platform that meets your requirements are crucial steps.
  • Avoid loss of data: Migrating your website content carefully to avoid data loss or corruption and testing your website thoroughly after migrating the content are also important considerations.
  • Continuous monitoring: It’s important to monitor your website for any issues or errors during and after the migration process. If needed, working with a professional website migration service provider can help ensure a smooth and successful migration.

Common Website Migration Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

To prevent any mishaps during website migration, it is important to be aware of some common mistakes that people make.

Here are some of them and ways to avoid them:

  • Failing to create a backup of your website before starting the migration process.
  • Selecting the incorrect web host or platform.
  • Neglecting to test the new web host or platform before transferring your website content.
  • Not sufficient time for the migration process.
  • Failing to monitor your website for potential issues or errors throughout and after the migration process.

Conclusion: Key Takeaways and Final Thoughts

Migrating to a website can be a daunting task that demands attention to detail and proper execution. Nevertheless, following certain steps and using the appropriate resources can help you achieve a smooth website migration.

  • Determine your objectives and goals
  • Choose a web host or platform that suits your needs
  • Make a backup of your website before commencing the migration
  • Carry out extensive testing of the website after moving its content
  • Collaborating with a professional website migration service provider can guarantee a successful migration.

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