At first, one of the most important questions that you’ve to ask yourself. Do you really need to migrate your website? This is a serious step and could have a huge impact on your web performance, both negative and positive. Migration of already established website should be handled with extreme caution by an expert. Otherwise, the business risk to lose months or years of work in a few hours. But what are some good reasons to migrate your website and which are the different kind of possible migrations?
- Drastic change of your business and full re-branding: One of the rare cases when the business owner decides to take on a new business journey in different niche.
- Severe server related problems: There are various possible reasons, such as increased downtime in small time frames, bad or overpopulated IP address or dishonest hosting company.
- Serious technical changes: For example, the implementation of HTTPS protocol or large upgrade to the web application.
- Domain name change: It’s a usual practise to migrate the website, when its domain name changes.
But let’s get back to our important SEO tips for successful website migration:
The first and probably most essential step of the whole process. The planning should be done with great focus and attention to the details. The more time you spend on this step, the less problems you will encounter on the actual migration phase. All people involved in the process should be presented at this stage and aware of their responsibilities. Make sure to appoint a supervisor (especially for larger websites), because two pair of eyes are always better than one. The best practise is to start the migration process at a time when the traffic is low (usually at night).
Always Test First
Prior to hitting the big red button called “Migrate Now”, make sure to do tests and ensure that your new server is working properly with a copy of your website. This is usually done with a test domain or subdomain. The more functionality and views you test on this phase, the better. The problems, which appear can be corrected fast and easy before the migration takes place. It’s the best approach for both UX and SEO.
It’s a common thing to add new pages or remove old ones. When it comes to migrations where the domain name changes, various problems with those pages may appear. Old pages should be redirected to the ones with similar topics. The new ones should be linked from internal sources for better exposure and easy crawling from the search engines. Again, make sure to check twice the pages and their URLs for any errors. The landing pages, who are extremely important for SEO should be priority here.
Both internal and external links around the website should be checked. This is extremely important when the domain name is changing. One of the best ways to test out all the links in your website is by using a crawler tool. These are quite easy to find with a simple Google search. There is both paid and free software with all kinds of features and even more functionalities that will help you in the migration process.
Both the XML version of your sitemap and the HTML one should be updated with the new structure. Do not underestimate the importance of these files. Google and the other search engines are using them constantly crawl the websites more effectively. It’s a good idea to re-submit the new sitemap in Google’s Search Console.
Keep the Old Domain
In a case of domain name change, it’s best practise to keep the old domain name. You probably wonder why? All marketing efforts on the old domain will remain and benefit the new domain once you redirect it. It’s extremely important step for SEO and shouldn’t be skipped at all. All links and references to the old domain will be preserved and passed to the new one.
Monitor for At Least a Month
Document all the changes and make sure to monitor the new website for at least a month. In the best case scenario, there will be a few errors here and there. Most of them will be small. However, it’s still necessary to monitor the website and your analytics tools. After all we are humans and made mistakes, but if a major issue is spotted early on, you can reduce the damage significantly. This is the whole point of the monitoring step, especially in terms of SEO.