Create an SEO friendly site migration with our 13 steps SEO checklist for website migration.
What is Website Migration?
Website migration is the process of moving a website from one domain to another one. Migration could be switching to a new domain name, changing the web host provider, or moving to a new Content Management System (CMS).
Website migration has many purposes,
- Improving site performance
- Increase user experience
- Rebranding the online presence & more.
A website migration is not a simple task. It involves many technical & logical steps & expert knowledge. One of the prominent risks of a site migration is its impact on your SEO score (search engine optimization score). In simple terms, a site migration can cause many issues like reducing your search engine rankings, losing data & broken links.
Types of Website migration:
Common types of website migration include:
1.Domain Name Change: Changing a web address or URL of a website is a domain name change. For example, moving from “digifix.com” to “digifixagency.com.”
2.Hosting Provider Change: Moving the website from one web hosting provider to another is a hosting provider change. It is for improving performance or service quality.
3.Platform or CMS Change: Switching to a different content management system (e.g., WordPress to Drupal) or updating the CMS version.
4.Redesign & Structural Changes: Rebuilding the website structure, layout, or design while keeping existing content.
5.Protocol Change: Switching from HTTP to HTTPS for better security and search engine ranking benefits.
Risk of website migration for SEO:
Website migration can have several risks for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) if you don’t execute it carefully. SEO depends on aspects like website structure, content, & backlinks. All those aspects have an impact during a website migration.
Understanding these risks is necessary to minimize potential effects on your website’s search engine rankings. Here are some common risks that come with migrating a website:
1.Loss of Organic Traffic: One of the most notable risks is a drop in organic traffic after the migration. It can occur because of URL changes, missing redirects, or other technical issues. Your search engine rankings reduce when search engine crawlers can’t find or index your new pages.
2.Broken Links: If you don’t set up proper 301 redirects from old URLs to new ones, there will be a multitude of broken links. Broken links can negatively impact user experience and SEO, as search engines may penalize your site for poor usability.
3.Keyword Ranking Fluctuations: Changes in URLs, content, or website structure can lead to fluctuations in keyword rankings. Some keywords may improve, while others may decline. It’s necessary to monitor these changes & address any issues promptly.
4.Duplicate Content Issues: During migration, you might create duplicate content issues by having both old and new pages accessible. Duplicate content can confuse search engines and lead to lower rankings.
5.Loss of Backlinks: If you change URLs without updating external links pointing to your site, you will lose the SEO authority from those backlinks. Contact website owners of linking sites and request them to update their links to your new URLs.
6.Crawl Errors: Changes in site structure or navigation can cause crawling errors, where search engine bots cannot access certain pages. It can negatively impact indexing and rankings.
7.Metadata and On-Page SEO: If you ignore to transfer or update metadata (titles, descriptions, headers) and on-page SEO elements during migration, it can lead to poor rankings and click-through rates in search results.
8.Site Speed and Performance: A poorly optimized migration can cause increased page load times, which affects SEO. Google takes site speed as a ranking factor.
9.Loss of Historical Data: Switching to a new content management system or platform can result in losing previous data. Ex: blog posts, comments, or user-generated content.
Follow SEO best practices during a website migration to mitigate these risks. In this blog, we will present an SEO checklist for website migration so that you can avoid these risks. You can follow the tips we provide for an SEO-friendly site migration.
SEO Checklist for Website Migration:
1.Set clear objectives for the migration.
The 1st step in migrating a website is to set clear objectives. Clearly define your purpose for the migration. For example, are you hoping to revamp your website’s design, switch to a more reliable hosting provider, or rebrand your online presence? Clarifying the purpose helps you stay focused on the project’s core objectives.
2.Create a backup of your website.
Make a copy of your existing website before launching the new one. Why should you back up your website? Migrating to a new website can come with many issues. However, having a backup will help you restore your previous website if something goes wrong.
That means that if the new version of your site faces problems or isn’t well-received by users, you can return to the older version until you solve the issues.
3.Implement 301 redirects from old URLs to new ones.
Implementing 301 redirects is essential in an SEO checklist for website migration. It helps to maintain your SEO status & user experience.
Here’s a straightforward explanation:
When you change your website’s structure or URLs during a migration, the old URLs become outdated, and search engines might still have them indexed in their databases. Without 301 redirects, when users or search engine bots try to access these old URLs, they’ll encounter “404 Page Not Found” errors, which can be frustrating for users and harm your SEO.
A 301 redirect, on the other hand, is like setting up a notice that informs both users and search engines, “Hey, this page has moved permanently to a new location.” When someone tries to access an old URL, the 301 redirect automatically takes them to the connected new URL.
In simple terms, it’s a way to ensure that your website visitors and search engines find the right pages even after a structural change, keeping your website’s SEO unharmed.
4.Creating a staging website.
Creating a staging website involves duplicating your new website that isn’t visible to the public. It’s where you can test changes & updates before applying them to your live website.
This method allows your team to review how the content looks and functions & test URL 301 redirects before the changes go live.
A staging website eliminates the need to constantly update URLs in internal links and sitemaps before and after launching the new website, making the process more efficient and decreasing the risk of errors.
5.Perform an organic health check.
In an organic health check, you can understand the health & reputation of the new domain you hope to use for your new website.
Before investing, you should check the below requirement,
- Have search engines penalized the domain before for having spammy backlinks or low-quality content?
By doing an organic health check, you can ensure the new domain has a clean & positive record in search engines. Domains with bad reputations can severely damage your SEO.
6.Perform a backlink audit.
Backlinks are the links from other websites that direct to your website. In a backlink audit, you should analyze the quality & relevance of the backlinks your website has. Check if they come from trustworthy & reputable websites.
The backlink audit helps to identify potentially harmful backlinks that might negatively impact your website’s search engine rankings.
If you find any problematic backlinks, you need to reject or remove them to protect your website’s SEO performance.
7.Update internal links.
Internal links are the hyperlinks that connect different pages within your website. When URLs change, update these internal links to point them to correct new URLs.
When you don’t update internal links, it can cause internal redirection & broken pages. Internal redirection slows down your website. Broken pages show an error message to your visitors.
You can use Screaming Frog to automate finding & analyzing internal links on your website.
8.Create a customized 404 page.
It is a good practice in the SEO checklist for website migration to create a customized 404 page.
The purpose of a 404 page is to inform users that the page they were trying to access doesn’t exist or is temporarily unavailable. Instead of showing them a generic error message, a customized 404 page delivers a more informative and helpful response.
Your customized 404 page should have links to guide users to other parts of your website. That helps users find what they’re looking for despite encountering an error.
A well-designed 404 page can keep users who might otherwise leave your website in frustration if they see a generic error message or a blank page.
9.Update Google My Business.
A prominent step in an SEO checklist for website migration is updating new website information in your Google My Business profile.
Google My Business is a platform provided by Google that helps businesses manage their online presence, especially for local searches. It includes facts like your business’s address, phone number, business hours, & website link & more.
If you don’t have a Google My Business profile, refer to the below tutorial on How to set up Google My Business profile.
When you transfer to a new domain, update the new website link in your GMB profile. It ensures that when users find your business on Google, they can smoothly access your updated website.
Google analyzes the data in your GMB profile to figure out which local searches or search terms your business should appear & to confirm the reliability of your business. Google needs correct & recent data, including your website link, to show your company in search results.
10.Create a new sitemap & connect it to your website.
An XML sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the main pages and information on your website. It is a road map for search engines to study the structure and content of your site.
When you migrate your website to a new one, create a new XML sitemap for that new version.
Once you’ve created the new sitemap, you should connect it to your website. It usually involves uploading the sitemap file to your website’s server.
Google Search Console is a tool by Google for website owners to observe and optimize their site’s presence in Google’s search results. You should submit your new XML sitemap to Google Search Console. That tells Google about the updated URL structure and content of your site.
Don’t forget to do this as soon as your site goes live or when significant changes happen. So, this step is an unavoidable step in a site migration checklist.
11.Update Robots.txt file.
A “robots.txt” file is a text file on your website server that informs search engine crawlers which pages or files to request from your site & which ones they should avoid. Update your robots.txt file whenever you change your website’s structure or content.
12.Check the functionality of 3rd party integrations.
Verify the functionality of all the software programs and systems that connect with your website. These integrations are,
- Google Analytics
- Google Tag manager
- Customer Relationship Management tools
- Marketing automation software
- eCommerce tools & more.
Checking that all these tools are operating well is the goal of this step. It’s crucial to frequently check that all the software and services your website depends on are functioning well. That guarantees you collect correct data, deliver a positive user experience, and manage marketing efforts.
13.Track performance after launch.
This step is the last in our SEO checklist for website migration. Tracking performance is monitoring and evaluating the functionality of your website after launch rather than just leaving it as is.
Ensure you launch the website successfully and that all pages operate as planned.
It’s not enough to launch the website and forget it. You should actively track your website performance.
Use tools like Google Analytics to check your website’s traffic and user behavior.
Check how your website performs on various devices (like desktops, smartphones, and tablets) and different web browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari). Confirm that it looks and works well across all of them.
Study the engagement metrics, such as page views, bounce rate, and time spent on the site. These metrics provide insights into how engaging and useful your content is to visitors.
This action is a proactive measure to guarantee that your website will continue to fulfill its objectives and offer a satisfying user experience after it goes live.
We came to the end of our website migration checklist for a SEO friendly site migration.
A smooth website migration from us!
If you are looking for a trustworthy web development agency to help you migrate your website, look no further. DigiFix is here to rescue you from a complex website migration process. We have a track record of delivering the best for our clients.
We value our clients & put our effort into giving the best for them. Let’s have a chat to discuss further details. And the consultation from us is totally FREE! Contact us by clicking this link.
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