Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Website Migration

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Are you thinking about migrating your website but worried about its impact on your SEO efforts—such as a drop in the search engine rankings or reduced conversions?

Website migration doesn’t come without risk and is one of the most challenging tasks for developers and SEO professionals. Hence, having a proper migration strategy and a roadmap that ensures successful website migration is crucial. 

You can either hire expert web design services from a credible web design company or experienced creative agencies or perform website migration yourself. If you’re going with the latter, we explain a step-by-step process of hassle-free and successful website migration in this guide. 

Let’s first see what website migration is and why you’d need to migrate your website in the first place. 

Introduction To Website Migration And Its Importance 

Website migration is migrating your site from one domain to another. It involves substantial changes to your website’s SEO and attributes, like URL structure and traffic. 

Website migration comes in many flavors, including:

  • Transitioning to HTTPS from HTTP
  • Changing URL structure 
  • Changing URLs or fixing incorrect URLs
  • Merging content
  • Switching web hosting providers 
  • Switching Content Management System (CMS)
  • Switching domain names 
  • Performing website redesign 

While website migration is essential and lets you grow or rebrand your business—if not done correctly—it can crash your website and significantly hamper its traffic and revenue. If you want to seek expert services, you can look for design or branding agencies in your area, such as web design in Los Angeles. 

But if you own an internal team and wish to migrate your website through in-house experts, let’s get into the website migration checklist to prevent your website from falling into the pitfall of poor SEO and ensure a quality SEO performance with a successful migration strategy. 

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Website Migration Checklist: 10 Key Steps For Successful Site Migration

Here are ten steps to streamline your website migration strategy and eliminate errors. 

Define your website migration goals 

It’s important to start by defining the reason for website migration and analyzing the process. For instance, the reasons for your website migration can be:

  • Moving from HTTP to a secure HTTPS
  • Increasing organic search traffic
  • Moving to a better domain to reach a wider audience
  • Establishing a global brand presence 
  • Redesigning your website to appeal to new and existing users 

Determining these reasons make it easier to set clear goals for your website migration strategy. 

For instance, if you’re moving to a .com domain to reach an international audience, the migration goal could be to grow site traffic. On the other hand, if you’re redesigning your website, the goal could be to boost conversions and sales. 

Setting such goals further helps you measure your migration success and plan better moving ahead. 

Setup website migration timeline and budget

Website migration isn’t a straightforward process and requires efficient communication between different teams and strategizing a plan. 

Once you set clear goals, you must design a migration plan that consists of the following: 

  • A sensible migration budget
  • Designated teams and key responsibilities 
  • Timeline for each step 

You must break down the migration process into actionable steps and assign them to the relevant teams, such as developers, designers, SEOs, copywriters, and system admins, and set realistic deadlines. 

Pro tip: You can leverage project management tools like Trello, Slack, or Asana to streamline the workflow and team collaboration—ensuring everyone’s on the same page. 

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Setup hosting, mail, DNS, and CDN 

Now it’s time to get into the action. 

Make sure you back up your website and create a staging site to perform the migration—ensuring you test it and prevent hiccups that may occur along the process. 

Once you build your staging website, make sure you:

  • Setup your web hosting environment and transfer files 
  • Change your CDN details 
  • Change email parameters 
  • Setup the DNS information 

Completing these preliminary steps is important before moving further toward migrating your website. 

Pull all the website’s URLs to create a content map 

The major part of website migration includes changing website URLs. 

This is where creating a content map of your website’s content and URLs plays a huge role. It’ll help you analyze the URLs that need to be redirected and the ones that don’t and also highlight errors you can fix beforehand, like:

  • 404s and 5xx errors 
  • Bad redirects
  • Pagination issues 

You can use crawling tools like Screaming Frog to pull all your site’s existing URLs and analyze errors if any. 

Create a list of 301 redirects 

Once you’ve got the list of URLs, you must identify the URLs that need to be redirected and those that don’t. 

Typically, you’ll want to redirect legacy URLs that generate the most sales or get the most traffic to the new URLs so that you won’t lose out on them. Without these 301 redirects—your new pages won’t get the traffic as your old pages—causing a major hit in your site’s rankings. 

Pro tip: Ensure you redirect a page only if a relevant new page exists or remove the legacy URLs altogether. Mass redirecting URLs to pages, like your site’s homepage—results in soft 404 errors.  

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Perform a test of your website migration 

It’s important to test your site migration in a closed environment to ensure the following:

  • The changes you incorporate won’t affect your live website
  • You can keep your old site live for your customers to use—while giving you a point of reference to make the necessary changes
  • The closed environment gives abundant space and flexibility for trial and error

Besides, testing your site migration allows you to notice and fix errors quickly. Here are the things you must review while testing site migration:

  • Site architecture 
  • Usability 
  • Metadata
  • Internal linking 
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Canonical tags 
  • Pagination 
  • Sitemaps 
  • Robots.txt 
  • Structured data 

Testing your site’s SEO structure is the key to ensuring seamless migration. 

Run key benchmarks

You must run and view the following key benchmarks that will tell you a lot about the success of your website migration:

  • Page loading speed 
  • Crawl errors 
  • Page indexing rates 
  • Keyword rankings 

You can return to these benchmarks once in a while to notice and track changes, including your migration success. 

Execute website migration 

It’s now time to finish your website migration. 

You’ll have to take your old website offline during the migration process. Hence, performing site migration as quickly as possible—especially during low-traffic periods is recommended to avoid extensive downtimes and save rankings. 

After the migration, ensure your robots.txt file doesn’t block search engines or bots from crawling and indexing your website. You must also test redirects of your important pages and upload your website’s new XML sitemap to Google Search Console

Perform usability testing 

Besides checking redirects, you must manually check other key areas of your website and perform usability testing to ensure you maintain rankings and boost business revenue. 

Here are the areas you should check to ensure they work properly:

  • Checkout 
  • Downloadable content 
  • Live chat 
  • Navigation 
  • Forms 
  • Mailing lists 

This test helps ensure your website’s features run as desired, and if not—correct them immediately before it’s too late. 

Track migration, monitor changes, and make improvements 

A successful website migration isn’t the last step—you need to track the success of your migration and make necessary improvements. 

You need to track key metrics and benchmarks for a couple of weeks or months post-migration to ensure they align with your expectations. 

It’s also important to track traffic on legacy URLs and make sure they drop to zero gradually over the next months. 

Wrapping Up 

Website migration may seem daunting—but following the best practices and steps mentioned above will help you streamline the process and make migration a breeze. 

While it’s normal to see a short-term drop in rankings or traffic post-migration—a significant drop isn’t a good sign, and here it’s crucial to consult an expert. 

So, ensure you get in touch with reliable SEO or web design agencies who can assist you with your website migration—while avoiding major drops in rankings and performance. 

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