Any online business decides to migrate a website to resolve various issues. Besides, a successful web migration can yield positive results for years.
On the other hand, if it goes wrong, it can be a nightmare for any website owner.
Because your SERP rankings can drop drastically, you can lose a large volume of organic traffic, and you can also permanently lose a part of your website.
Are you feeling a chill in your bones now?
Yes, it is not everyone’s cup of tea to migrate a website.
You need a complete web migration checklist to safely migrate a website.
You have landed at the right place. This article is all about the necessary actions you need to take for a successful web migration.
But before that,
What Is Website Migration?
Website migration is the process of implementing major changes in a website’s technology, design, structure, and web server to boost its online presence.
When Do You Need Website Migration?
You may need to migrate web for any of the following reasons,
- To change your website’s design, structure, or navigation.
- To choose a new framework or content management system for your website.
- To introduce a mobile version of your website.
- To choose a new server for your website.
- To switch from HTTP to HTTPS for better encryption.
- To change the domain name of your website.
No matter why you choose website migration, it will have an impact on your website’s SEO.
Does Website Migration Affect SEO?
Like any other major change, website migration impacts your SEO.
For example, moving your website to a faster web hosting server will boost your SEO, as Google prefers fast-loading websites for searchers.
On the other hand, moving your website to a new server demands re-indexing by Google. That will create a drop in your SERP rankings and organic traffic initially.
However, once you successfully complete SEO site migration, you can regain and improve your SERP position.
A Complete Website Migration Checklist
We will divide our site migration checklist into the following four phases.
- Plan Phase
- URLs Mapping Phase
- Migration Phase
- Monitoring Phase
Let’s dive in!
Let’s see how you can plan a safe website migration.
Choose A Wise Timing
The time you choose for migrating your website can significantly decide the traffic volume your website will lose initially.
Your content will not be available on your website for visitors during your migration process.
That, in turn, will reduce the traffic to your website. However, you can minimize this loss by avoiding the peak hours for your website migration.
You can choose late night or early morning time for the migration process.
However, that works well if your website primarily drives local audiences. If you have a global audience, it is hard to choose an ideal time for migration while all your visitors are offline.
Alert Your Users
No matter what time you choose for your website migration, keeping visitors’ convenience in mind, it is your responsibility as a website owner to inform them about the process in advance, especially if you own an e-commerce website.
You can display a notification on the website for your visitors or email them about the migration.
Create A Backup Copy Of Your Website
Please keep the old version of the website live using a temporary URL.
It will not only help if you are stuck at any point while implementing the website migration but also allow you to check and revise the changes you made in the new version.
If you use a content delivery network, you must set the same for the temporary URL as well.
Prevent Indexing Your New Website
It is a must to implement “No Index” to the temporary website URL during the migration process.
That will stop search engines from crawling and indexing your content on the temporary website URL.
That is essential before you finish the website migration and your website is completely optimized.
You can implement no-index to the temporary website URL by adding the following code to the head section of your website.
<meta name=”robots” content=“noindex”>
Ensure Fast Server Performance
After you complete your website migration, Google needs to recrawl and reindex the new version of your website from the start.
You must ensure your hosting server is fast enough to allow Googlebot to complete the process as early as possible.
If the server response time of your website is slow, bots will slow down the crawling process. That, in turn, will increase your traffic volume loss.
You must perform a faster page loading speed check at your end to ensure a smooth user experience for the new website version.
If you find a specific page is taking longer to load, you must check the size of that web page. It should be within the average size of 3 MB to ensure a rapid loading.
You can use RankWatch’s web page size checker tool for FREE to measure your web pages’ size accurately.
Transfer Historical Data
You need to copy your existing website’s GA tracking code and implement the same on your new website to ensure a smooth transfer of historical Google Analytics (GA) data.
URLs Mapping Phase
Once your planning phase is complete, you need to ensure all the URLs in your website’s old version are appropriately updated to the new version.
Perform A Site Audit
Performing a detailed site audit using a reliable tool like Rankwatch Site Auditor will provide you with all the essential crawling stats of your URLs.
List Your Current URLs
First, you need to identify your site’s most crucial web pages.
The page’s importance should be decided based on content, traffic, and number of backlinks.
You can find all your page URLs in the crawl stats of the Rankwatch site auditor.
For that, you need to perform a backlink analysis to find your essential web pages with backlinks.
It would help if you opted for a reliable link analyzer like the RankWatch backlink analyzer.
All you have to do is log in to your RankWatch account and select the “Backlink Analyzer” option from the side menu.
Once the dashboard appears, enter your website URL, and the tool will give you the summary report within seconds.
That includes the total number of active and deleted backlinks, citation score, trust score, and a date-wise link acquisition trend graph.
Next, you need to make a complete list of the URLs of these existing pages. You must tally the list of URLs with the URLs in the new version of the website after migration.
Identify URLs Need To Be Redirected
Redirecting the old URLs to the new ones is one of the most crucial steps of migration site SEO.
Once you finish migrating the website, it is time to test whether the 301 redirects are correctly implemented on the new version.
RankWatch offers you an online redirect checker tool for FREE.
The tool can provide the exact redirection path for the URL you enter in the blink of an eye.
Create A Redirect Map
Once you complete tallying the existing website’s URL list with the new version, you can quickly identify the missing web pages in the new version.
You need to decide on relevant destination pages in the new version of the website for all the URLs of those missing pages.
That will ensure you don’t lose any referral traffic from any existing backlinks directing to those missing pages.
We will advise you to use server-side URL redirects while mapping your redirects.
That will ensure your old URLs are excluded from indexing, and the new ones will function even if you change your host in the future.
This is going to be the most crucial phase. Keep faith in your migration plans, and go ahead!
Migrate In Parts
Different web pages of your website may face different issues during the SEO migration phase.
Hence, if your website is large and you migrate web pages in bulk, chances are higher, it will create a mess. Moreover, it will take more work to find the root cause behind the mess.
It is advisable to move your website page-wise and perform tests to identify issues after moving each web page. That will ensure your website migration SEO falls in place.
Update Settings For New Server
If you are migrating your website to a new server, you must make necessary changes in your DNS (Domain Name System) settings to ensure it points to the correct IP Address.
However, you need to call your hosting company and raise a request to change the DNS settings.
Remove Temporary Blocks
You must ensure that the new version of your website is available for crawling. That can only make it available to the searchers.
The RankWatch site auditor shows the number of pages crawled in the ‘Page Depth’ section.
Ensure Website Verification
Once your SEO migration is complete, you must check whether the ownership credentials of your website are still valid in the Google Search Console.
If you previously verified your ownership using the HTML file method, you must ensure that the HTML file is in the new version of the website as well.
Inform Google About The Changes
You must be eager for a fast Google indexing of the new URLs in the new version of your website to minimize your chances of losing SERP rankings.
You need to inform Google about your website’s address change using the ‘Change of Address’ tool in Google Search Console.
Do not think your job is done after completing the migration process.
You need to monitor your website’s performance after the migration. You must also keep an eye on your website’s health at regular intervals.
Check For SEO Issues In The New Version
After completing your SEO migration, you must audit your website once again.
That will help you check whether the previous SEO issues in the older version have been resolved, and you will also be able to identify if any new SEO issues emerged in the migrated version.
RankWatch site auditor can make your job easier. It provides you with in-depth analysis on your website and its various issues so that you can solve them immediately.
Ensure Proper Indexing
You need to ensure that Google appropriately indexes your website.
First, you need to upload the sitemap of the older version of your website with the old URLs in Google Search Console to ensure that they have been deindexed.
Next, you need to upload the sitemap of the new version of your website with new URLs in Google Search Console and request indexing. However, creating an SEO-friendly sitemap ensures faster Google indexing.
Once you submit the indexing request, you must check the Google indexing status of your web pages at regular intervals using a trustworthy tool like RankWatch bulk index checker.
Track Your Rankings
It is common to initially face a drop in SERP rankings after the migration.
However, your website must regain its old position ideally within two weeks, provided you have taken care of your site migration SEO.
It is crucial to track the ranking of your website daily during this phase. That will indicate how your website is gradually coming back on track.
The RankWatch tool can provide you with the most accurate rank tracking.
If you click on the ‘Rankings’ tab of the RankWatch tool and go to the ‘Pages’ section, it will show you all the ranking details of your web pages.
Proper website migration can provide you with long-term SEO benefits. However, it comes with its own risks.
Site migration SEO is a complex game, and you need a proper checklist before you dive in.
Otherwise, the chances of making mistakes are higher, and that can ruin your online presence.
However, if your website is performing well, it is better to avoid website migration unless you want some significant changes like changing your website’s design & structure, opting for a new framework & CMS, switching to a new server, changing your domain name; introduce a mobile version; or switching for better encryption.
If you go for a website migration, you must follow the site migration SEO checklist discussed in this article and choose the correct tools to ensure a safe migration.
All The Best!