Migration of web pages is a way of describing the event of bigger changes in areas that can affect a site’s visibility in the search engines. A website migration often involves big changes to the structure, content, coding, performance and UX-related challenges or changes of a domain.
When migrating data, you should not underestimate the risk of a significant drop in visibility in the organic search result and less traffic to the site.
Keywords that are not brand related will often be affected at a website migration. A drop can last from weeks to months, all depending on how much the elements the search engines rank on have been affected. The time frame for the migration is also a factor.
As a business you need to be prepared for a temporary loss in traffic since the Google bot will go through the new page, process the changes and then update the index.
Planning and testing a migration can avoid big changes to organic traffic and at best Google sees the changes as positive and rewards the hard work with a better placement.
But, it is easier said than done and the reality for many businesses is that a website migration rarely contributes to a better placement, rather a fall in the search engines. To avoid this, there are four important phases that you should work on.
Different types of website migration
There are different types of website migration. It is, for example, storing and changing skills from HTTP to HTTPS and on changing content structures. Processes in the examples mentioned are not the same and must be handled differently. But, no matter what change a website faces, one of the primary goals is to preserve the site’s organic traffic and eventually create growth through a new and improved website.
If migration is carried out properly, you avoid losing business due to migration and you will be rewarded for the new site faster by Google (if it meets best practices). If you need help with a migration of your website, Kvantum is ready to help.
Why is site-migration important?
- A thorough website migration is important to maintain the current visibility of the organic search result when switching from one website version to another.
- With the correct website migration, it is possible to convey to the search engines that the site is going through essential changes and that provides the opportunity to avoid major shifts in organic traffic.
- Through correct data migration of a website, all phases are thoroughly reviewed to ensure that all precautions are considered.
- When a migration is done on a website, there are a number of stages that must be completed before successful migration.
When should you have a website migration plan?
There are different reasons for a website migration plan.
New domain migration
If a website is changing domains you need to redirect all web pages and the tracking needs to be changed. It is easy to forget to redirect PDF’s and similar elements and that would entail a fall in traffic.
Major UX changes
If the site’s appearance is to change significantly, it is important to look at how these changes will affect the company’s KPIs. It should be ensured that none of the changes have technical consequences. If something is found that could have consequences, it should be included in the plan. You should also go through all tracking since it can be affected by different CSS elements.
If menus are renamed or if the URL structure is changed it is important to set up redirects and make sure all tracking is also changed.
A brand-new site
A new website is already a big investment for most. A plan for website migration is often forgotten in this context, which can mean that a lot of work in the end does not produce the desired results. If no users visit the new website no one can enjoy the new investment. A new website is one of the biggest migration projects where tracking, redirects and other SEO work needs to be prepared and set up.
The website migration process
Planning of website migration
The first phase is the planning that is crucial for the success of the project. Whatever the reason for the website migration, there needs to be clear goals from the start. Clear objectives contribute to an expected reconciliation of the project. KPIs should be set and matched with various business-critical parts of the website.
One of the most important elements is to identify critical aspects prior to migration. All risks that can have a negative impact on the organic visibility should be identified and precaution must be taken. Based on the risk analysis different scenarios are prepared for result and growth opportunities. It is after the initial analysis that you decide how the website migration should be handled.
Prior to website migration
Prior to migration, there are a number of activities to be performed as the new site is under development. This is among other things a number of SEO requirements must be clarified.
Two of the most important elements are wireframe and technical review but there are a number of technical specifications that you should consider in order to achieve a successful migration. On new sites we often see elements that look good from a user perspective but do not work for a bot. This means that Google cannot read and crawl the site properly.
In addition, DOM, canonical structure, pagination management and other technical elements must be reviewed and determined. A third and very important element is to go through all the URLs to be redirected. If a redirect error occurs, the landing page may disappear completely from the search engine’s index.
After website migration
When the migration is complete, a new round of checks start. It is almost the same routine as before the migration but the difference is that now much more data is available.
Never underestimate the amount of work for this phase, this is where any errors and deficiencies should be identified. The longer it takes to fix an error, the longer the organic search result will be affected. When the site is tested for errors and deficiencies, you can start measuring and tracking accurately on the new site.
The launch of a new website
At the launch of a new website, redirects and tracking should be monitored to ensure that everything is working properly. Google Search Console, Search Metrics and Screaming Frog are tools that are used in combination to make sure everything is working properly.
A common mistake at a launch is that the site is down when updated. When the new site replaces the old one there is always a risk that the new site is down for a period of time. This should be kept to a minimum but if it happens the server should be able to react on a URL request with a 503 response. This response tells the search engine that the website is down for maintenance. If this is set up properly a Google bot will return and crawl the page later.
If the website is down without a 503 response and the search engine is crawling the site, it will have a negative impact on the organic visibility. It takes time to build up what you have lost.
When the migration takes place, you should display a service message, telling the user that the site is down for maintenance. Other classic mistakes when launching are to remove various bootstraps such as using 302 redirects for permanent changes or that your robots.txt or sitemap is not updated. The launch day is critical because this is where unexpected errors can occur and there can be big consequences if this is overlooked.
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