You’ve done all the work you can to boost your site’s SEO and realize that minor adjustments won’t get you to the level of visibility you crave. A web migration may be the key. Before you undertake the massive task of migrating your entire site, you’ll need a comprehensive SEO migration checklist to ensure you don’t miss a step and cause a mountain of difficulties.
Review what web migration is, what it can do for you, and how to create a website migration strategy that guarantees you won’t miss a step.
Fundamentals To Know Before Creating a Website Migration Checklist
You won’t hear SEO professionals discuss or recommend an SEO migration strategy often, so you may wonder, “What is website migration?” Simply put, a site migration is any significant change to your domain that can affect your site’s search engine visibility.
The involved process of a website migration plan is comparable to a brick-and-mortar grocery store that moves locations or does a major remodel. The establishment may be in an entirely different spot, and the layout of the aisles and products can change dramatically.
Types of migrations include the following adjustments:
- Changing site architecture
- Switching platforms
- Altering content
- Changing domain locations
- Redesigning the site and user experience.
Dig a little deeper to discover what each of these migrations can entail in a website migration checklist.
If you want to change the hierarchy of folders on your site, you need a website migration. You could also desire changes to the internal navigation, linking, or some other facet of the user journey. Adjusting the site architecture will be a substantial undertaking that requires a website transition plan.
You need to work through a website migration checklist if your current platforms are too slow or lacking features. Your organization may realize the need to adopt a new hosting platform to gain advanced capabilities, or you’re upgrading to a more state-of-the-art version of your current platform.
You also might need to integrate various business apps into your domain for more cohesive communication. For instance, you might consider changing your content management system to one that allows more customizability. Many small businesses see the need to move from a limited drag-and-drop website builder to an open-source CMS that allows room for future expansion.
Your company may be ready for a major shift to its content because of publishing superficial and duplicate subjects. Adding or removing pages and content or hiding the information on the site requires migration and a content migration checklist. Nearly identical posts on similar topics can harm SEO and require consolidation.
You may also be ready to expand into a new market and want to add translated material in new languages on your site, which requires a careful SEO migration strategy.
A URL migration can be one of the simplest transfers with the most significant impact on SEO. Though simple, this step still requires a website migration checklist. Rebranding or merging with another company likely means moving to a new domain that fits the company’s name. You could desire to consolidate international sites with country-code top-level domains or merge various parts of your site into fewer URLs.
Even moving other parts of your site or simplifying URLs involves migration. Previous URL naming practices might motivate you to change domains. For example, it is a good idea to amend and shorten URLs that lie too deep in numerous directories. Permalinks may be long and unwieldy, such as blog post addresses that include article titles and the dates posted.
A valid reason to change the site location is when you can finally purchase a domain that fits your company or matches your brand name. You could also now be able to move to a more popular TLD, such as converting from a .net or .biz to a .com. If you have various websites and want to merge them into one to amplify the power of your SEO, prepare to start migrating a website.
If you have an older site that you want to start using again more actively and it is not on HTTPS and HTTP/2, you need to change the scheme to the modern, more secure one, which requires — you guessed it — a website migration plan.
Design & UX
Another popular motivation is design change and the user experience. You may need a more streamlined look and feel, be coping with site performance issues, desire to upgrade your media, or need more consistency across devices. An improved site layout for mobile devices can involve straightforward or complex site migrations.
Site migrations often include a mix of these categories, so no two procedures are alike. Without a website migration checklist, site owners will encounter unnecessary challenges.
Benefits & Cautions of a Website Migration
Since a website migration project is usually not a simple task but requires months of planning, execution, and testing, you should never go into a transfer lightly. Keep in mind the comparison to a grocery store that is considering moving locations or doing a remodel.
A store can move to a more attractive or safer spot and enjoy the benefits of greater convenience to its ideal customers. New fixtures and fresh decorations can draw in new clients and keep visitors around for longer, boosting purchases. A new location could also increase visibility.
However, if a store has built up a sizable clientele who know the current location and layout well, any changes could discourage and drive away customers. Not only that, the establishment has likely invested much time in increasing visibility to the present location. Signs along the highway point to the area, fliers, and advertisements list the current location, and the owners coordinate with other local attractions and businesses to cross-promote. Vendors have an efficient and routine delivery route, as do delivery companies. Any change could have unintended adverse consequences.
When you progress through a website migration checklist to adjust your site, you deal with similar issues in the digital space. Search engines know where your current information exists and route traffic to those spots. Established addresses are how you built your current SEO rankings. A fundamental consideration must be preserving SEO when changing website locations because seemingly insignificant modifications can cause long-lasting consequences.
Even if you’re not changing your domain location, redesigns and structural adjustments can hamper search engine efforts to locate your content, harming your rankings. The changes can be comparable to a store that stays in the same spot but does a major renovation. If everyday staples are hard to find and aisles are difficult to navigate, the business will suffer. If your site design does not make it easy for search engines to crawl and assess, your web traffic will decrease. Always review the pros and cons with a comprehensive site migration SEO checklist.
Advantages of Migration
When done correctly, you can migrate your website without losing SEO. A flawless transfer can lead to the following:
- Better site performance
- Improved site security
- Excellent customer service
- Stronger SEO rankings
Changes to your hosting platform and CMS can speed up your site, which makes visitors and search engines happier. When you remove superfluous and superficial content and consolidate information into fewer pages, those locations on your site can become more noticeable and raise your SEO rankings.
Even a change in domain, which usually results in an initial dip in SEO, can mean long-term benefits. You should be on an HTTPS scheme because it builds customer trust, leads to a quicker site, and ranks higher in search engine platforms.
At some point, every company has to seriously consider moving their site to a new domain SEO or making drastic changes. Like a grocer who relocates to improve business, the work is not easy, but the process can yield enduring advantages.
Potential Migration Problems
Just as a poorly planned relocation can create indefinite problems, companies who hastily jump into a site transfer or adjustment without a well-executed website migration checklist can cause themselves worlds of pain. If you don’t properly work along with search engine methods of discovering and ranking your site, you can become practically invisible or create other issues you never dealt with before.
If your current site is functioning well and gaining consistent steam with SEO with no significant problems or need for rebranding, you may be wise to delay migrating your site. Your best option is to find reliable SEO experts who can maximize your current strategy until the day comes when migration is the right choice.
A mistake on your site migration checklist could mean losing all of your SEO rankings. Your URLs are central to SEO success, and you should opt to maintain your current addresses as long as possible. A loss of visibility results in a loss of traffic, customers, and sales. An error that compromises your information weakens your security, which also harms your brand.
You must remember that any website migration plan involves a substantial amount of time. If you rush the process, an oversight is bound to occur, and the blunder only adds to the time your website is not functioning at its peak. The work is very technical, and one forgotten command or line of misplaced code can result in substantial problems, which is easy to do if you’re not technically inclined. Correcting the situation requires investing more time and money and likely sacrificing goodwill with your customers.
All things considered, a company should never migrate sites on a whim or just use a budget surplus. Don’t take unnecessary risks by migrating without a stellar website migration SEO checklist.
Once you’ve reviewed the pros and cons and determined that migration is the best step for your enterprise, it’s time to start creating an exhaustive website migration checklist.
Your All-Inclusive Migration Checklist
A well-done website migration checklist is not for the faint of heart. Carefully consider the necessary steps to make your modifications a successful site migration.
Pre-Website Migration Checklist
Begin your project by listing your requirements, defining the scope, detailing the project plan, and outlining your expectations and KPIs. Leave no stone unturned and communicate with every stakeholder in the process. You don’t want to miss a crucial element that can create havoc for a team or department.
Be unambiguous and transparent with yourself and your team about your reasons for the migration. Identify what you require to declare the project a success. Like constructing a new building or transferring physical locations, costs can add up quickly, and time can slip away. Understand what items are necessities and which extras you can drop if necessary. Forecasting and modeling the aftereffects of the alterations can give you a better view of things.
Define the scope of your project at the start of your pre-website migration checklist. Examine subdomains and platforms for adjustments. Isolate which changes you need to make by considering what elements are successful and must stay the same on your site. For example, your meta titles and descriptions should remain identical to avoid a precipitous drop in your SEO after launch. Plugins can help you determine where problems exist and are harming traffic.
Set your KPIs and expectations based on what works and why it does. SMART goals keep you on track, so be specific with action steps and transparency on timing. Create a generous timeframe for the work and launch date. An expert in website migration SEO is invaluable in helping you determine a realistic timeframe.
Throughout the planning stage of your website migration checklist, communicate with all stakeholders, developers, and teams. Refine expectations and goals. Some may not understand the scope of the work, especially folks who are less tech-savvy and think programmers and developers resolve issues in a user-friendly, drag-and-drop format. Explain the ramifications of making adjustments and determine the effect of each change. With regular meetings, you can get ahead of challenges before they arise.
As you plan your timing, avoid scheduling a migration during busy seasons. You don’t want to sacrifice any income when you make the most money. Website alterations during slow seasons allow visitors to acclimate to the changes, and you can correct challenges for smooth transactions during a rush.
Likewise, plan a migration launch for early in the week, preferably on a Tuesday. Doing so gives you sufficient time to correct hiccups and revert to your previous site if things go awry.
The most important part of your preparation sits at the top of your website migration checklist —backing up your current site. Doing so provides a “panic button” in case problems arise after launch. If an issue goes wrong because you missed some crucial detail, you can always revert to your old, functioning site while you isolate and correct the problem.
New Site Requirements
With definite objectives in mind, determine your new website requirements, including these factors:
- Website analytics code
- Metadata and meta descriptions
- URL structures
- Hreflang for international sites
Simple changes like converting text into an image can also harm your SEO because search engines will no longer see the relevant phrases. While the adjustment may offer a pleasing design, the modification can harm your visibility. You should make as few changes as possible in the early days of your site for an apples-to-apples comparison of the new website to your old one to identify any losses of traffic.
Watch for small things that can harm your SEO. Self-referencing canonicals to the new spot for your blog posts ensure that all roads lead to your domain as the source of information you originated. Dropdowns should remain the same on your new website. If you neglect to use a similar navigation site structure, search engines denote these sections of your site as unimportant and begin to ignore them, dropping your rankings.
Put a review of crucial operational facets of your site on your website migration checklist, like load time and non-intrusive pop-ups. A poorer experience can kill your traffic.
Migration of Every Page
Every item should be a one-to-one transfer onto your new site. You might believe a page is old and unnecessary, but any traffic the link brought you will be lost if you don’t bring the information over to the new site. The action would resemble a shop no longer carrying a popular item and losing visitors.
Use a web service to check the indexing status of all URLs on your site. Review activity for at least the past year, if not longer. If you only check the previous few months, you might miss seasonal spikes for specific topics and decide to eliminate valuable information.
A site crawler helps you find pages that are not live. Use whatever tools you can to find as many pages as possible. Remember to add redirected URLs to the list. One thing that wrecks the SEO of many sites after the migration is forgetting to redirect to new locations. Addresses with backlinks must also be on the list to ensure visitors get to the correct pages.
During this step, you need to check with all of your colleagues about URLs in paid advertising. Any pages amid A/B testing or on campaign pages may have no index, so you could miss them while crawling for your pages. You also require a list of links in emails sent to clients and short URLs to ensure these redirect to the correct spots.
Even pages with comparatively little traffic should redirect. If the information becomes relevant to your target audience, you’ll miss out on the increased visibility. If you find pages with zero traffic, consider merging or even deleting them. Do not shorten content during migration. You can lose links that were vital components to building your current SEO ranking.
Stay aware of how many redirects are happening on each link. Too many redirects slow down your site. Count on a 5 to 15% drop in traffic for each redirect. If you have six redirects, search engines will ignore the information and drop your rankings. For old redirects, try consolidating the original redirect to go straight to the new page instead of a sequence of defunct addresses.
Your website migration checklist should have the impact on SEO as an essential consideration throughout the entire process. By employing website migration best practices, you can minimize drops in traffic and standings.
Testing, Testing, & More Testing
The slightest modifications can result in traffic decline, so you should keep a change log to note every adjustment on your site. Of course, the first thing you do before creating your new site is to back up your current domain in case of severe problems.
Set up a staging site to test the functionality of your new site. Disallow search engines from crawling the test site by using robots.txt blocking. You can also use password protection to block crawlers. For extra protection, allowlist specific IP addresses of the users who should have access.
Check every aspect of your domain from top to bottom, left to right. Consider the location of content and where the information sits in your site markups. Vital data that you want search engines to see should sit high in the markup, and you can correct this if it isn’t so currently.
Use a site crawler to find and resolve broken links. Check the code that vital elements remain the same as your previous site, including:
- Meta titles
- Alt text
Preserve your SEO by keeping your old sitemap active and adding in the new. Now is the time to check that those redirects are working correctly and not slowing things down with too many links. Fix broken links immediately.
Never forget to verify that everything functions well on mobile. Most coding and programming tasks occur on desktops and laptops, but most visitors likely come from mobile smartphones and tablets. A site that doesn’t work well on mobile puts a stranglehold on your traffic.
As you check technical and design issues on your website migration checklist, ensure everything is correct before you go live. If things aren’t practically perfect on your launch date, wait to deploy! You’re better off putting a functional site up late than a poor site that destroys your SEO and drives away customers. It may take you months to recover from the mistake. Just remember to reschedule for a day early in the week instead of approaching the weekend.
How exciting! After months of work, the time has come to implement your migration SEO plan. If you’ve done everything meticulously, your efforts will pay off.
Launch quickly. Don’t roll your new layout slowly. The kickoff should take no longer than two days. Otherwise, search engines can’t collect data on your new site correctly, and you can tank your SEO. Keep downtime to a minimum, but set up a 503 server unavailable response for any visitors. Search engine crawlers will know to come back later when you finish maintenance.
Remember to allow search engines to crawl your site by changing the settings in your robots.txt file and adding your XML sitemap to allow indexation. Use web services to ensure browsers are indexing your new pages correctly.
You also need to update the URLs in all of your social profiles. Hopefully, your redirects are set up correctly and doing their job properly, but always opt for direct links to improve speed and SEO.
Go through your website migration checklist again, item by item, and do preliminary coherence checks. Locate if any pages are broken and ensure no internal links or redirects are heading to a development domain. This often happens on buttons, such as your “Contact Us” page.
Review page speeds since site velocity will likely vary in the real world compared to your staging environment. Determine any way you can make improvements.
You can breathe a little easier knowing you have reached your launch, but your work is not over! In the following weeks, continue to monitor traffic and test your site. Search for errors using web services. For example, pages may not be indexed. You must find out if issues lie in only a couple of pages or if there is an overall problem.
You’ll likely see an initial dip, but if the drop is drastic, compare your new and old pages carefully. You may have missed bringing a vital piece of content or a redirect. As you audit the new site, a log file analysis allows you to see that bots are accessing pages and you’re not wasting your crawl budget.
Check for lost backlinks, renew them if possible, or set up 301 redirects. Compare keywords and rankings from the new site to the old. If all else fails and you can’t get the site to operate correctly, return to the old site.
Vital SEO Practices for Your Future
You now realize the importance of SEO once you’ve gone through your website migration checklist. If you lacked a cohesive strategy before, work with your team now to recover any losses during migration and boost your performance far beyond what you achieved previously.
Maintaining a productive optimization strategy is the final step in your site migration SEO checklist. Even if you never do a site migration, you should control your online reputation with excellent SEO practices in the following areas.
Organic growth is the best growth online. You want the customers who need your services to find and trust you. Articles, social media posts, and videos that educate your audience on resolving their issues are optimal for bringing in your ideal client, just as you do in a website migration checklist.
When it comes to improving your SEO, there’s no substitute for well-written and relevant titles, descriptions, and content. These descriptors need to be unique and engaging to stand out from the crowd.
Make your writing more engaging by creating catchy headlines that accurately reflect the content. Use strong verbs and an active voice throughout your writing to motivate the audience. Finally, take advantage of opportunities to infuse your personality into your content.
Craft title tags that are both informative and keyword-rich with these suggestions:
- Keep it short & sweet
- A title tag should be no longer than 60 characters, the limit for search results.
- Make it descriptive
- A title tag should give users an accurate idea of what they can expect to find on your page. Avoid being too vague or generic.
- Use keywords wisely
- Include one or two relevant keywords in your title tag, but don’t stuff it with too many, as this will hurt your SEO.
- Optimize for click-throughs
- A title tag should also be appealing and make users want to click on it. Write headlines that will likely grab attention and entice people to click through to your website.
The quality of your content also plays a big role in your site’s SEO. Search engines use algorithms that consider content quality to rank sites. Fill your site with excellent, top-tier material. Each article or post should use keywords early on. Including keywords in the title, metadata, and headings can signal to search engines what your page is about and help them index your content correctly. Keywords also help users find your site when they are searching for relevant information.
Keep in mind link building as well. The more high-quality links you have pointing to your site, the better your chances of ranking well. Internal links can help tremendously. By strategically placing links to other pages on your site, you can help boost your site’s overall authority. In addition, internal links can also allow visitors to navigate your site more quickly, leading to higher engagement and lower bounce rates.
Well-chosen images can help improve your site’s search engine optimization in several ways. Pictures can help to break up text and make your content more visually appealing. Visual items encourage users to spend more time on your site, a factor that search engines consider when ranking results. In addition, good images can also help to illustrate your content and make it easier for users to understand.
As anyone who has tried to search for something online knows, the user experience on a website can be make-or-break. If a site is difficult to navigate or slow to load, users will likely click away and find another domain that better meets their needs. This increases your bounce rate, which tells search engines that your site is not providing a good user experience.
Search engines design their browsers to help users find the most relevant and valuable results for their queries. Fast-loading sites tend to get more page views and conversions than slow ones. To improve your site’s SEO, focus on improving your loading speed by optimizing your images and using a content delivery network.
The popularity of your content online boosts your rankings. Links to your site from other sites make you appear as an authority. However, backlinks can be a double-edged sword. Backlinks from high-quality websites can improve your SEO, but links from low-quality websites can hurt you by dragging down your overall link quality and ranking.
Maximize the benefits of backlinks by focusing on quality over quantity. Don’t pay for links, which results in a penalty from popular search engines. Look for opportunities to get links from top-tier websites and avoid wasting time and effort on acquiring links from low-quality websites.
Doing so will help you avoid the potential negatives of backlinks while reaping the many positive benefits from your SEO efforts and completing your website migration checklist.
The Most Essential Component of Your Website Migration Checklist
A website migration is a complicated and tedious process that bears fantastic results when done correctly. However, one false move by missing an element on your website migration checklist could spell disaster and numerous headaches.
Spare yourself from any problems. Contact Us at ELK Marketing to analyze the steps you can take to improve your domain and make migration smooth and painless.