Sooner or later, there comes a time for changes during the life of any website. Often they are dictated by at least one factor, such as:
In each case, the process looks very similar — the devil is in minor or major details.
In this article, I will try to introduce the entire migration process and point out its most important elements, as well as specify the most common mistakes that can have a disastrous impact on the website’s visibility, and consequently reduce traffic and conversions.
In a nutshell, website migration is the transfer of the current website content to a new version. The details of the migration process may vary slightly depending on the exact purpose for which it is being done, however, the general principles are always similar.
The most common reason for website migration is a change in the engine on which the site (CMS) runs. The growth of the company, along with a company’s new needs, often involves the requirement to access new features and enhancements that the current solution does allow.
The most critical stage during the migration of the service is its proper preparation. During this period, some of the most important decisions related to possible limitations of the old system and the new one are made, as well as other elements that emerge during the preparation process.
Being properly prepared before the migration makes the subsequent implementation very easy, as well as the verification of the course and results. Therefore, the more we dedicate to the process at the beginning, the fewer issues will arise at the end 🙂
In order to prepare well for the migration, first you need to understand what exactly you are going to be working on, i.e. determine what engine the site is currently running on and which one you are migrating it to.
Once we know the material we will use to whip it into shape, it is necessary to set a realistic date for the migration. This will allow us to better plan our activities, determine milestones and deadlines.
This stage is vital, as many of the next steps depend on it, such as preparing a redirection map or determining the effect of migration. Based on the available analytical tools, you should:
Stage three is by far the most significant in the entire process. It is the technicalities that determine how web robots will reindex the site from the old version to the new one, and consequently – how the status of key phrases will look like after the migration.
The optimization of the new engine can be divided into two parts:
This is the key element that determines the success of the entire migration process and allows you to maintain the current results. A properly prepared map containing redirection URLs will facilitate their implementation.
An ideal redirection map should include:
You can easily generate a set of redirection rules with such information gathered in one place.
A new version of a website often involves changing the structure of the menu or the theme of some subpages. This is why you need to adapt them to the relevant key phrases. When creating new content for a new sub-page, take into account the information and keywords included in the redirected addresses. It is necessary to check not only the phrases, but also the optimization (headings, title, etc.) and create new content.
Selecting the date of migration is no trivial matter. This should be the time when statistically we have the fewest visitors, and it should also ensure that the people involved in the process are as comfortable as possible.
The most suitable days of the week for migration are Tuesday and Wednesday, when there is still plenty of time to make any critical fixes that may surface when the site is being migrated to the new one. For obvious reasons, Friday afternoon is not recommended 🙂
On that day, you should pay close attention to: correctly transfer the site files and database of our service,reconfigure DNS if necessary.
Process verification is also a multistep operation, as it is not a one-off activity and is spread out over time.
The first verification should take place pretty much as soon as the new version of the site is implemented. Elements worth checking include:
If the redirects and the site itself are working properly, the next step is to track how things are running in Google Analytics, Google Search Console and site:domain-name.com.
If the domain doesn’t change, your traffic statistics should be fairly flat, with possibly a slight drop in the first two weeks after the migration — at that point Google is still reindexing phrases to the new addresses, which may result in a drop in their positions, and consequently less traffic.
In GSC, you should verify and fix any errors that come up in the report. Special attention should be paid to “404 — not found” errors, as they are the ones we want to avoid the most.
A very simple command to paste into the Google search bar (obviously with our domain included in the body of this search query).
Thanks to this procedure, in the search results we will be provided with everything that Google has indexed for our domain. There we can detect undesirable elements found by Google. This makes it quite easy to find some “hidden” issues.
A multitude of issues related to migration can appear, but some happen more frequently than others.
Some of the most common issues include:
Service migration is a very complex and challenging process, which should be done carefully and well-thought-out. Communication between those involved in the whole endeavor is very important — it will minimize the risk of possible problems. Everything, from the choosing the new version of the site — the engine and layout — to the preparation of redirects and even selecting the day itself, are of significant importance. When migrating a site — especially an extensive one — it is worth reaching out for the help of specialists who already have experience and knowledge in this area.