Are you building a new website and therefore looking to migrate from your old one? If so, this blog is a must read.
A poorly managed site migration could lead to a colossal reduction in your site’s organic traffic if not implemented correctly.
So, before you take the site migration leap, make sure you’ve read our SEO Top Tips to avoid a site migration disaster.
Tip 1: Overestimate Rather Than Underestimate
A migration strategy that is built on unrealistic and impractical goals is destined to fail. Stakeholders outside of technical development tend to underestimate the time, resource and expertise needed for a successful migration and never really consider the potential implications this could have on the future performance of the website.
The ‘launch now, fix later’ approach should never be an option to speed up the process because when it comes to SEO, it could take only a day or two to lose a huge amount of organic visibility. To gain back this traffic and visibility, could take months or even years to recuperate.
If you haven’t already, consult or employ an SEO specialist to help drive this migration. It’s this person’s role to inform and educate the key stakeholders of what is involved and why, outlining an achievable timeline with realistic objectives.
Tip 2: Failing To Plan Is Like Planning To Fail
Launching a site migration without the proper thought and planning it deserves is predestined to fail. Before committing to the plan make sure you have estimated the time and resources needed to make it a success. Take the time to understand the type and reason for the migration, what are the conceivable benefits and drawbacks and mitigate where possible any potential loss in traffic.
A well organised IT team should have a roadmap detailing technical and SEO tasks they need to do to migrate the site. Unfortunately, at best we see a basic roadmap, without any consideration around SEO.
By working SEO into the plan, rather than in isolation, will increase the chances of site migration success.
Tip 3: The Impact Of Change
Migrating the current site to a nice brand spanking new site, with a clean design could hold disastrous implications for organic if SEO is not considered. With any site migration Google needs to understand what each new page is about, how different it is from the site previously, what are the changes etc. And with this, one common mistake I see is that the current site’s content is not migrated over in its entirety or the content has been changed beyond recognition to the point where Google can no longer associate the current site’s ranking phrases with the new site.
With any site migration I always recommend migrating as much as you can and if you need to change the content/meta data for current pages then wait until it has been successfully migrated to the new website.
The reason for this is if the worst were to happen and rankings do plummet, it makes it so much harder to determine where the issue lies as the rankings could drop as a result of the changes to the content/meta data.
So remember, the more the change, the higher the risk to organic visibility so always determine what the risk is before the change.
Tip 4: Continuous Communication Throughout The Project
A site migration process will typically span over a few months so make sure you maintain regular contact with all parties involved. The IT/Dev team will be critical to its success but will also be concentrating on their tasks at hand and may consider your recommendations less critical to theirs or may not even consider them at all!
So make sure there are regular lines of communication so that all stakeholders are organised, educating and reminding them why SEO considerations are critical to a successful migration.
Tip 5: Launch Off-Peak
Avoid planning to launch the new site near peak traffic times because if anything goes wrong and the site doesn’t function as it should then this could impact the business’s bottom line significantly.
We recommend establishing launch date and time early on in the planning phase of the migration as this will impact times. Make sure you check traffic levels to understand peaks and lows of traffic, drilling down to the time of day you have the least number of users visiting the website.
Tip 6: Testing Is KEY
It goes without saying that a site migration launch should never go ahead until the new site has been thoroughly tested by all the teams involved, especially with the SEO and UX teams. Testing should be a continuous process, prior to, during and especially after the site migration goes live.
Here are just a few items we would recommend checking pre, during and post migration:
1. Are all the 301 redirects in place?
2. Is there an xml sitemap that details all priority pages?
3. Has all the metadata and content been uploaded to the new site?
4. Have all the internal links been updated from the dev domain to the live domain?
5. Are there any pages that are failing to load the content i.e. returning 404s?
Remember, it’s much more preferable to delay the launch if testing has identified critical issues rather than rushing the site into the live environment.
Attention to detail is also very important. Make sure that the developers are fully aware of the risks associated with poor implementation.
If you are planning a site migration and need SEO assistance, get in touch and let one of our SEO experts help you.
Words by Daniel Picken, SEO Manager