The Website Migration Guide
July 25. 2020
If you are pondering the idea of migrating your website, know that you will be faced with a web of convoluted decision-making, flexible planning, as well as all the technical challenges. Still, this is by no means a cause for concern. With our website migration guide, you will find the process itself not so daunting. At the very beginning, we would like to tackle the definition of website migration itself.
What is website migration?
To put it in the simplest terms, it is a process that a website undergoes in order to change its setup or technology. Mind you, simple updates are not to be mistaken for site migration. The latter implies serious changes. These usually consider the website’s platform, content, structure, design, and location. While migrating a website has the purpose of solving issues, it inevitably brings forth a lot of risks. From losing your ranks on search engines to completely losing parts of your website – anything might happen. At this point, it is important noting that website migration is a challenging process, and you are going to need rather strong reasons to venture into it.
Good reasons that justify migrating your website
While there are various situations where site migration might be your best or only option as a website owner, we will name the most common ones:
- You have to change your site’s structure, navigation, or design. Mind you, reworking your website is not something you ought to do on a whim. If you find your conversions or sales are getting weaker because your website lacks in its appeal or the quality of customer experience, make sure that you back up this claim by excluding design or architecture related causes.
- Moving to a new framework or CMS. Having a website on an outdated platform can show to be rather limiting for you and disruptive to your audience. As you can imagine, this can result in a loss of sales. Make sure to consider all options before deciding that moving to a different technology is the only option.
- You wish to add a mobile version. We live in a mobile-first indexing age. Once you pair that with the immense ratio of mobile to desktop traffic, you would be smart to consider optimization for mobile platforms. Still, make sure that you access your audience preferences first, and find an appropriate cost-to-benefit balance of creating a mobile-specific experience.
- Moving from HTTP to HTTPS. The security factor is not the only reason for you to consider implementing the HTTPS protocol on your website. Not having an HTTPS site can negatively affect user experience. While this may not be a pressing matter on your agenda, it is something to start planning for, especially with the pages that store users’ personal information.
The process of website migration
If your situation fits with any on our list, or you are simply sure that this is the solution to your problems, let us explain how you ought to go about the site migration process.
1. Develop a plan
This ought to help you accomplish the following:
- determining the scope and timeline of your migration
- establishing who will lead and support the process
- creating a website migration checklist for each task
- coming up with a budget and list of resources necessary for the project
2. Include your design and development team on the updates
Depending on the end goal of this process, you will need to work with your design and development team in order to move forward with your website updates. Remember that you are dependant on their input, reviews, and feedback. Make sure that both teams are working together in order to reach the best result.
3. Make sure your technical SEO is prepared for the migration
Once your website’s design is applicable, this is the step to proceed to. Here, your dedicated SEO specialist will outline and prepare the technical SEO specifications for your site. Your development team will then use it to launch your site. These technical SEO specifications can include:
- URL structure
- HTML sitemap
- XML sitemap
- Internal linking
4. Time to launch and test your new site
Before you start doing this, make sure your website is not accessible to search engines. You don’t want them to crawl and index this website when you haven’t migrated your old site with the content on it. Prevent the search engines from finding your website by limiting its access to specific IP addresses. Now, as a part of your testing, here is a checklist of items to test:
- reviewing your site architecture
- checking your site’s usability
- confirming your page works on mobile devices
- evaluating your site’s internal linking
- reading your site’s title tags, meta descriptions, copy, and more
- making sure your site functions (loading pages, maintaining a decent page speed, etc)
- going over your txt file, XML sitemap, HTML sitemap, and structured data
5. Migrate your website
While it may take weeks or even months, your business will reach the phase where you complete the migration. One thing that may put your mind at ease is that your work leading up to this moment will help your company launch a successful website migration. Now, when migrating your site, speed is of the essence. If your website needs to go offline during migration, you want to try your best to avoid extensive downtime. Search crawlers may see that your site is down, and that can affect your visibility should the site remain down too long.
After you have completed the initial migration, these are the steps to cover:
- Ensure that your robots.txt file does not block search engines
- Check your redirects work for your pages, paying special attention to your most valuable pages
- Upload your XML sitemap to your Google Search Console account
6. Monitor your website after the migration is finalized
While the process of website migration is officially over, your team should still monitor your site. In the days, weeks, and even months that follow this process, it is paramount that you watch your rankings and traffic. These can help alert your business to issues with your website migration. Keep in mind that it is normal to see a decrease in traffic and rankings immediately after migration. However, long-term drops can indicate a problem with this process. So, it would be wise to use Google Analytics to monitor your traffic, and Google Search Console to track your rankings.