The Baby & the Bathwater: How to Survive a Website Migration

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One of the first casualties of a new website can be its search engine rankings. What you gain in user experience, brand focus, hosting speed and customer conversions can be lost by a slump in the traffic arriving at your site from the search engines.

There are, however, ways that you can keep the baby and still get rid of the bathwater when you develop a new site.

“It’s rare to see a site migration without some temp loss of SEO value”
– Barry Adams, State of Digital editor

Why change?

There are many reasons we upgrade our websites and these include creating a design refresh, improving our security, changing its hosting to build its speed or to move to a new domain.

What should I do before the migration?

  • Start with creating a list of all the URLs on your website and map these pages to the new site, implementing 301 redirects where needed.
  • For your best-performing pages on Google you should check how these are linked in to your current site so that you don’t lose their PageRank in changes made to the new site.
  • Whilst you are checking your internal links you should fix any broken links on the old site. You do not want to migrate any of these problems to the new site.

“The core goal of a SEO site migration is to preserve your old site’s SEO value as much as possible”
Barry Adams, State of Digital editor

What tools can I use to help?

Here are some helpful tools that will make your site migration easy and effective.

  • Screaming Frog is a website crawler that will help you understand your URLs, site structure and internal links.
  • Google Analytics is essential for benchmarking the site migration process.
  • Google Search Console will monitor any indexing or crawl errors Google meets on your new site.
  • UpdraftPlus is a WordPress plugin that offers scheduling, remote storage options, monitoring and reporting.

How can I prepare my new site for search engine crawlers?

When your new site launches you want search engine crawlers to visit as soon as possible so that your new pages can appear on the results pages. This checklist details all the things you should do to encourage a visit.

  • Make sure your Robots.txt or ‘no crawl’ commands are not inadvertently blocking crawlers.
  • Use XML Sitemaps for your new site but keep the old XML Sitemap live for a month to allow Google to quickly find your 301 redirects.
  • Get rid if any 404s (page not found) on the new site through careful planning and 301 redirects.
  • Use Search Console to keep an eye on any crawler errors.

Anything else I can do on my new website itself?

Site migration process can lead to a deterioration of your site’s digital footprint. Here are a few more ways you can prevent this:

  • Use redirection best practices – you can find out more about the correct and complete implementation of 301 redirects here.
  • Use meta description and meta title tags for every page – they will help search engines and searchers understand your site.

How can I measure the success of my migration?

Once your new site is launched, you will want to measure your success.

  • Traffic loss is a normal occurrence but it should right itself quickly.,/li>
  • Check metrics across the search results pages and your Google Analytics and Search Console to keep an eye on rankings, traffic, pages indexed and crawl errors.

“Site migrations are one of those instances where the less immediate change you see, the better”
Barry Adams, State of Digital editor


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