Site migration is the process where you move a site to a new domain or directory.
Migrating happens to almost every company out there,and more often than we tend to realize.
All Marketers and Digital Specialists aspire and aim for a site migration that does not create any loss in traffic, revenue, SERP rank, or SEO strength.
What I hear most often is that it is as simple as redirecting the old domain to the new domain with a simple 301 redirect – SEO friendly redirect. This is a good start and better than nothing. But it is important to follow a more detailed procedure that will allow you to make this transition without losing value, while getting rid of any mistakes on the current site.
So How to conduct a smooth SEO Friendly site migration while maintaining good rankings on Google, Bing or any other Search engine ?
1. First step is understanding the objective behind an SEO friendly migration.
The main Goals you should keep in mind are the following:
- Maintain Traffic
- Maintain Rankings
- Seamless User Experience and Transition
2. Second step is to know what to pay attention to.
Understand that there is no magic Bullet. we need to do the best we can to ensure that we maintain the highest ranking possible.
And here are Main Factors to pay extra attention to as an SEO Specialist:
1. URL structure
2. Duplicate content
4. Indexed pages
3. Understand the process
Here are the 3 different phases that make an SEO friendly site migration:
Phase 1: Pre-Migration Phase
Here is what to account for and work on:
• Know what you have on your current site/platform
For an ideal SEO friendly site migration; the best place to start is with an SEO audit of the site on hand. It is important not to bring the current site’s mistakes with you to the new one.
• Understand and map current site architecture
Download your current sitemaps, and export the list of indexed pages from the Google Search Console.
This will allow you to know the pages that should be redirected to the new site.
• Understand and map new site architecture
This will allow you to understand what URLs you will be matching from the old site to the new site.
• Account for technical limitations
In some situations while moving domains, directories, or hosting, it is important to understand if the new site can support all the changes being made.
• Create a URL redirect map
Map out all the old URLs to the new URLs on the new site.
Additional Things to Account For:
• URL structure
Ensure the new site is well structured and categorized, so that there is a consistency across all the pages, posts and properties.
• Content – avoid duplication
Ensure you are using the right tags on the new site to avoid any duplicate content.
• Messaging/New design/Site
As there is a new design and there is a new domain, we tend to get too familiar with it that we forget to notify our visitors about the changes made.
It is important that you have a notification mentioning the changes, and if it is going to affect your visitors in any way.
Smart marketers turn new designs into marketing advantages, by creating a buildup, a release date and a feedback request.
Phase 2: Migration Process
• Keep the old site (in parallel while using the right redirects and SEO tags)
The most common mistakes I see in this market is when an old site is put down by the time it is redirected.
The ideal approach is to keep the old site and the new site running in parallel after performing the redirect.
• Tag the new site page properly to avoid penalization
It is important to have all the pages canonicalized to the new site before your redirect, to avoid any duplicate content.
Phase 3: Post-Migration
• Perform an audit for the new site (Fix any broken links, loop, or missing URL)
Check your Google Search Console and Bing Web Master tools.
This will allow you to discover: crawl errors, mobile usability, pages indexed, top keywords driving traffic, organic search traffic.
• New sitemap, new robots, and submit new site for indexing
Submit the new site map and robots.txt file to search engines, and keep an eye for any errors, broken links, and redirects.
• Check redirects
As a final check on the new site, check redirects to ensure there are no redirect loops or inconsistencies.
Also, ensure that all the redirects are 301 redirects. The 301 status code means that a page has permanently moved to a new location.
Site migration might be a bit of a tedious process, but it is crucial that is done correctly.
As it is done once every couple of years, it is best to pay extreme attention to details through out this process. If one is not vigilant in the process, they can suffer a loss in visitors, or SEO strength that might take a much longer time to bring back.