Different Types of Migration:
- Protocol website migration: This involves changing your website’s protocol from HTTP to HTTPS, which is a crucial step in enhancing security. Moving your site to a new protocol may seem like a small change, but it’s still considered one of the different types of website migrations.
- Subdomain website migration: This is when you shift your domain from something like “www.yourwebsite.com” to “newsubdomain.yourwebsite.com.” While not always necessary, adding to your migration strategy may be beneficial.
- Domain website migration: Changing your website’s URL from one domain to another (e.g.,www.oldwebsitename.com to www.newwebsitename.com) requires careful planning to preserve SEO.
- Top-level domain migration: Altering your website’s URL extension (e.g., .com to .org, .net) can be beneficial but demands precise execution.
- Redesign website migration: Whether you’re making small aesthetic changes or completely revamping your site’s layout and code, a redesign should always include analyzing potential SEO implications.
- Structural website migration: Changing the architecture or site structure, including user flow or URL structure, can impact how search engines perceive your content.
- Content management system (CMS) migration: Moving from your current CMS (e.g., WordPress or HubSpot) to a new one, like Joomla, can improve functionality but requires specific attention to SEO details.
- Hybrid or combination migration: The process of combining any of the above migration types.
What is an SEO migration?
An SEO migration strategy is a meticulous process that involves several moving parts. The goal is to help transfer and improve search engine rankings, domain authority, and indexing signals based on changes in your site or URL structure. It acts as your insurance policy against losing valuable search engine visibility, affecting rankings and organic traffic. SEO migration needs to go hand-in-hand with website migration to avoid losing previous results from your hard work.
Why SEO Matters in Website Migration
Over the years, you’ve probably put a lot of time and money into increasing your site’s online visibility. Maybe you’ve curated the perfect content plan to help you rank highly for competitive keywords and appear in searches made by your target audience. However, making any structural change to your site can change how search engines see and analyze things, thus affecting the metrics used to rank you. SEO allows you to mitigate potential losses in traffic and dips in organic search results during the website migration process.
Consequences of Neglecting SEO in Site Migration
The risk of ignoring SEO when conducting a website migration is clear. It results in losing search engine rankings, traffic, and leads, which is a scenario that no website owner wants to face. However, without a solid SEO strategy, it’s a reality for many.
*other site has a picture of a graph from a previous site migration with a noticeable drop off in traffic after the new site launch
How Long Does SEO Migration Take?
The time it takes to complete SEO migration will ultimately depend on the size of the website, the amount of content you’ll move, and the necessary audits implemented both before and after the migration. For example, if your website only has about 50 to 100 pages, it will take much less time than a site with 1,000 pages or more. All in all, the preparation and execution of an SEO migration can take anywhere from one month to three months, but established websites with thousands of pages could take longer.
The key is to allocate enough time for each step in the following SEO site migration guide for planning, setting up a staging site, conducting quality assurance and audits, and then implementing the migration. To avoid rushing through the process, three months is recommended. However, the actual timeframe will vary depending on the resources available and the capabilities of your team.
A Comprehensive Website Migration SEO Checklist
Operation Technology helps clients with everything from domain migration SEO to complete website migration, and with over 200 years of combined experience, we’ve put together a pretty comprehensive SEO migration guide. To help you better understand the steps involved and determine whether you have the time and understanding necessary to achieve your desired results, we’ve outlined our process below.
1) Take Time to Plan and Strategize
The journey to a successful website migration begins with meticulous planning. A website undergoes substantial back-end changes when you start to alter the structure and URLs, so you should be prepared for everything you need to do. You’ll want to determine the kind of migration you need, outline your goals, figure out which parts of your website will be affected, assemble a strong team of experts, and try to develop a detailed project timeline.
Ideally, this timeline should outline every step you’ll need to do throughout your site migration project. You’ll also need to communicate with all teams involved, from SEO experts to web developers, project managers, and content creators. All players need to be on the same page regarding their roles in the site migration process.
2) Be Strategic About the Migration Date
Selecting the right launch date is another crucial step, but try to be reasonable about your deadline. For example, if you have 10,000 pages that need to be migrated, don’t set a deadline for 30 days from your start date. You also want to consider factors such as project goal setting, design approval, development work, content creation and updates, SEO migration tasks, and day-of-launch activities before choosing a deadline.
To maximize your efforts, opt for a time when website traffic is low, ideally during regular working hours. This allows you to address any unexpected issues promptly. Do not schedule your site migration for a weekend, as you’ll need all hands on deck in case of any issues.
3) Backup Your Site Completely
Before making any changes, create a backup of your existing website. This acts as a safety net, allowing you to revert to the old site if anything goes wrong during the launch. Develop a comprehensive rollback plan in collaboration with your marketing and web development teams to tackle any issues in the event of any issues post-launch.
4) Set Up a Staging Website
Another preliminary step in the site migration checklist is to create a staging website. This is a replica of your new site that is essentially invisible to audiences online. It serves as a testing ground for changes and can help you see how moving your website features affects things. For example, you can assess content, site functionality and, most importantly, implement URL 301 redirects before the site goes live. This helps reduce the need for multiple URL updates in internal links and sitemaps of your website migration plan.
5) Consider Phased SEO Migration
If your project is complex and you’re trying to do much more than moving a website to a new domain, you may want to consider breaking the process down into steps. This is especially important for complex migrations that involve multiple properties, sections, or websites. Using a phased approach simplifies troubleshooting and reduces the risk of critical errors when your new site is live.
Ensuring SEO Continuity
The next stage of a successful migration revolves around ensuring continuity with your SEO efforts. This helps you understand how your site will perform once the migration is complete.
6) Check the Organic Health of the New Domain and Perform a Backlink Audit
If you’re migrating to a new domain, it’s essential that you check the organic health of the prospected domain before making any changes. Make sure to look at whether there have been any past issues—like penalties for spammy backlinks or content, and evaluate the quality of existing backlinks. Metrics like Moz’s Domain Authority can offer insights.
Additionally, consider exploring the historical context of the domain through tools like Wayback Machine to ensure relevance. Although not always plausible, switching to a domain with historically familiar content types can help with overall site migration success.
7) Crawl Your Website to Take Inventory
Several SEO tools are available to help you crawl your pages and take inventory across the website. One option for this is a tool called ScreamingFrog. The website crawl will generate a complete URL and content inventory before the new site goes live. This, in turn, helps you identify issues on the staging website and provide insight on how to map old URLs to new ones for 301 redirects. After you crawl the website, you can better prioritize content based on its value to search engines using a scoring system.
8) Redirect URLs with SEO
Next, create a list of every URL on the new site that will be live. Then, using tools like Google Analytics and SEMrush, you can weigh the value of your content based on search engine value. This will help you prioritize URLs to support a successful SEO migration.
Identify high-priority URLs using your scoring system so they can be properly accounted for in your redirect map. This step helps direct traffic to essential content and effectively address outdated or missing pieces. Make sure you prioritize high-performing URLs for the biggest impact on website visibility.
9) Carry Out 301 Redirects
Create a comprehensive 301 redirect map based on your prioritization system and apply it to your website. This ensures old URLs redirect seamlessly to their new counterparts and maintains the integrity of internal links. Before and after launch, validate the map to ensure no redirects are broken.
10) Update and Improve Internal Links
Once new URLs are established, update internal links within your test website to prevent internal redirects or broken pages. Tools like ScreamingFrog can help identify and manage internal links, including anchor text and placement.