Considering a website migration? Ensure everything runs smoothly with our SEO checklist
A website migration is a term used by SEO professionals to explain the process of refreshing website structure, moving databases, updating site designs or editing site templates in order to improve SEO performance and user experience. In very simple terms, it’s an update to your current website. This can be anything from moving to a new CMS, changing from HTTP to HTTPS, updating URL structure, updating your domain and more.
When carried out incorrectly, a site migration can cause a major drop in traffic to your website as well as a drop in views on search engines, and nobody wants that do they! We thought we’d delve deeper into steps you can take to ensure your website migration runs as smoothly as possible with minimal drops in users visiting your website.
Is a Website Migration the right option?
A website migration is a big job, there’s no hiding from the facts. There is also the chance that migrating your website will result in a temporary drop in website traffic while Google processes the change of websites. So before going ahead, you should really consider if a website migration is the best option for you. What is it that you’re trying to achieve from the migration? Does your current website have major issues? Do you need to change the whole structure of the site? Can you afford a potential drop in traffic? These are all questions you should be asking before considering a site migration.
So you’ve decided that a website migration is the best solution for your current site…great! A new structure and layout for the website will hopefully bring great success. Now you need to ensure that everything runs smoothly, so we’ve put together a simple but complete SEO checklist to ensure your sparkling new website is performing as well as it can on search engines:
1. Don’t Rush!
As we mentioned previously, a website migration is a big job, so it’s definitely not something that should be rushed. The great thing about a migration is that your original site can still be running while you’re working on the new site, so there shouldn’t be any major rush. So take your time, work out a plan and ensure you are completely happy with the new site before launching!
2. Crawl…and then crawl again!
Before migrating your site, you should always ensure that you have crawled your original website and have a full list of the URL’s (a tool such as Screaming Frog can crawl a site for you). Having this crawl of the old site allows you to compare the URL list to your updated site, to ensure nothing has been missed during the process. Crawling a site can also allow you to spot any errors such as incorrect redirects, missing page titles etc.
3. Use a staging site
You should never run a site migration without first testing everything on a staging site. By ensuring that everything is working correctly on the staging site, you will then be able to make the new site live with a lot less risk of anything going wrong.
4. Ensure re-directs are correct
Updating the URL structure on the new website means that a lot of the existing URL’s will no longer exist. This does not mean however that they will drop off from search engines immediately. To ensure that no users are finding these non-existent pages, you must ensure that you have set up a full list of redirects to your new website. A redirect will guide users to the relevant page when this old URL is found, so it is vital that users are directed to the same/similar page.
5. Update internal links
You may think that by setting up redirects to new pages, all your internal link issues will be solved? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Relying on redirects can cause the site speed to slow down considerably which in the long term can lead to a drop in search performance. It’s good practice to ensure all internal links are updated and directing users to the new URL’s. A simple search and replace rule can help with this process to ensure it doesn’t take too long.
6. Add a Robots.txt file
A robots.txt file is a way of telling web robots how to crawl pages on a website. In normal language, this is a way of blocking out pages on your site from appearing in SERP. By adding these rules in, it means that web robots can spend more time crawling the important pages of the site, and doesn’t waste any crawl budget on unnecessary pages. For example, successful form submission pages are a good example of pages to be blocked as you do not want users finding these on search engines.
7. Update & submit the Sitemap
Ensure your updated website has an xml sitemap included. This xml sitemap is a way of guiding the google spider through all the pages on your site, making it easier to crawl the site. An effective xml sitemap will mean less time is taken crawling the site which means Google can crawl the site more effectively leading to improved search rankings.
8. Ensure new site is added to Google Search Console & Analytics
Make sure your site is set up correctly on Google Search Console and Google Analytics before launching. This way you can ensure that all data being tracked in analytics is accurate, as well as being able to monitor pages being indexed within search console.
9. Set specific goals to track in Analytics
It is important to understand and be clear in what the overall goals that you are trying to achieve on your new site are. Setting up goal tracking in Google Analytics can allow you to monitor and observe the performance of these goals making it a lot easier to track and report. Whether it’s trying to sell a product, clicks on a certain link or form completions, these can all be tracked within Analytics.
10. Optimise website for search engines
Now that you’ve got a brand new sparkling website, it’s important that the content on the site is optimised to rank well in search engines. For some great SEO tips on optimising your website, check out our recent blog post explaining our top tips to a healthy site!
So there we have it, our checklist to a smooth website migration. If you have meticulously planned your migration and ensured that all the above points have been ticked off, then we’re confident that your website migration will bring great success!