What Is Website Migration? 5 Best Practice Tips For SEO Migrations
Website migration is an essential process that can’t be underestimated. Just like moving house, you wouldn’t dream of leaving cherished possessions behind or neglecting to inform essential parties of your change in address. So, why should moving your website be any different?
Use this page to get up to speed on what site migration is and the best practices associated with it so that, should you have to relocate your site’s online HQ, it’ll go without a hitch!
What is website migration?
Website migration is the process of moving your website from one location to another. You might decide to do this because you’ve outgrown your current Content Management System (CMS), want to change your web address, or even transition to a different hosting platform.
However, when you embark on this big change, it’s crucial to ensure that the hard work you’ve invested in your site, particularly in terms of SEO, usability, and other crucial aspects, retains its value, or ideally, gains even more!
The key to this retention lies in the meticulous process of website migration planning.
Think about the following scenario with your new website: you’ve spent some time revamping all the URL structures for better consistency. However, what if you’ve neglected to inform anyone about these changes? (By informing anyone, we mean setting up the necessary redirects) …
Existing links to your pages will no longer work, leading to 404 errors, a poor user experience, and even potential penalties from search engines. These consequences could result in decreased website rankings and, consequently, diminished traffic.
Effective website migration requires strategic planning and execution guided by experts. Below we have five crucial tips for a seamless and successful move.
1. Collect as much information as possible
When you’re planning on moving house, one of the first things you’ll probably do is declutter and tidy up. A thorough review of your current website content is essential to determine which bits of your website are migrating over to the new site, and which are old, outdated or irrelevant and can be left behind.
Spend some time figuring out what’s important on your current website and make sure anything useful has been downloaded, including keywords, blogs, and PDFs. If it’s valuable, save it! Giving yourself enough time for this first step is crucial, so be as thorough as possible, because anything forgotten in the move could be lost forever.
2. Migrate your website in a quiet period
With the moving house analogy in mind, it’s safe to say most people wouldn’t want to move house over Christmas, one of the busiest periods of the year. It’s the same for website migration, don’t make what may feel like a daunting task even trickier by planning it during a busy season!
It’s important to allow yourself ample time to focus on the task at hand and allow yourself a little breathing room if things don’t quite go as planned.
3. Timing matters
With the popularity of flexible working, not everyone works the standard 9-5 any more, but it is best to time your migration to happen before the start of your working day. Allow yourself a buffer to address any issues that might arise!
You might like to look for quiet times in your GA4 account and maybe even a quieter day when you know you have time and the move won’t impact potential customers. It’s also worth mentioning that the end of the working day could also be problematic if things go wrong. So, stick with a morning migration if possible.
4. Make sure your redirects are in place
One of the most important parts of website migration is redirecting links from your old website, to your new one. Link redirection ensures your SEO value isn’t lost, but also that people don’t end up on broken 404 pages wondering what went wrong.
Remember, links exist everywhere, and trying to track down and change every external link or social media post probably isn’t a feasible solution. Just make sure the right redirects are set up.
In order for value to be passed over, and to retain traffic, you need to redirect and the best way to do this is a 301 redirect – the permanent kind.
Map out your redirects ahead of time, and make sure that your developer is comfortable helping you redirect them.
5. Test your tracking
Once you’ve migrated your website it’s important to make sure all of the tracking you had on your old site is set up correctly and working.
This includes things like Meta Pixel, Google Tag Manager, and GA4 – all things that need to be set up to run on the new site and checked to ensure they aren’t double counting. After all, if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And, after all the hard work you’ve put into your website migration, it’s important to track and see the success of your updates.
Ace your site migration
All of the tips we’ve touched on here are important, so don’t miss anything out as it’s easy to get things wrong if you don’t consider every step in advance.
If you need any help migrating your website, our team is on hand to help. However if you prefer keeping the big move in-house, then we have a free digital workshop to help you: “From Chaos to Clarity: The Art of Seamless Website Migration.”
Any questions? Get in touch with our experts who can point you in the right direction.
Visual learner? Watch the video!
If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, don’t worry! We’ll take you through the ins and outs of site migration in the video below.