Website Migration: All You Need to Consider When Migrating a Site
August 25th 2021 | By Steve Grant
If you are set to move your website to another server or platform, or it’s being redesigned or restructured, then at some point it’s going to need to be migrated. Website migration is something that needs to be undertaken very carefully, because if anything is missed, there could well be considerable web traffic loss due to disappearing search positions. These could potentially last some time depending how significantly the search engine ranking signals have been affected, and how long your recovery plan takes to kick in.
The good news is that migrating a website can be seamless and doesn’t have to result in lost traffic and revenue, providing certain protocols are followed. In fact, if a website is redesigned and the user experience improved, and everything that needs to be done for a successful website migration is taken care of, then the site could even enjoy notable growth following its relaunch.
The key to a successful website migration, where there is minimal loss of online visibility and fast visibility growth shortly after, is good planning. This is especially the case if the migration is a complex one that involves various changes, such as new landing pages, a switch from HTTP to HTTPS, an updated URL structure and multiple page redirects to keep inbound links intact.
Wherever possible, it is wise to try to minimise the volume of changes being made at the same time. This is because, if something does go wrong, it could be tricky to work out precisely what the culprit was. However, by the same token, if you leave certain vital changes for a later date, this could affect visibility in itself, and also call for more resources over time.
The answer here is, if you have a full-scale website migration to contend with, place it in the hands of a team that really knows what it’s doing, and that has a proven track record of success in migrating websites.
What causes website migration disasters?
There are various factors that can lead to an unsuccessful website migration. These include:
- Lack of planning
- Failure to set clear objectives
- Poor testing
- Absence of consultation with SEO experts
- Lack of advice from UX specialists
- Slow response to bug fixing
- Failing to assess the risks involved
- Not allocating sufficient time and budget
- Underestimating the scale of the job
Now we can take a closer look at how to make a success of a website migration.
Set a strategy
Setting out a strategy is vital if you are going to meet your website migration objectives. And of course, setting those objectives will need to come first.
You may be looking for enhanced visibility in search, for example, or a more robust platform that can cope with higher levels of web traffic. When it comes to the actual migration of the site, objectives will usually be to retain the current traffic and revenue levels, although in some cases, it may be that revenue growth will be an immediate goal.
Whatever you are looking to achieve, be sure to set clear targets so that you can evaluate the success of the migration process.
Plan, plan and plan some more
A detailed plan is essential to guide the migration, with a contingency allowance for any unexpected issues that may arise. It is probably unrealistic to expect everything to run like clockwork, so it’s good to be flexible with your plan and be ready for delays.
If you are using a web development agency to manage your migration, they should be upfront with you about the potential pitfalls. If you’re given a guarantee that everything will run smoothly, you will probably want to take it with a pinch of salt.
It’s so important that a website migration isn’t planned around seasonal peaks, when rectifying any issues will be urgent. Go for a traditionally quiet period instead.
Take specialist advice on SEO and User Experience
When you are moving a website, due consideration must be given from an SEO and user experience (UX) perspective.
If you are removing huge chunks of content for example, or taking out links with a view to improving UX, it could well adversely affect the site’s ability to achieve or retain good positions in the search results.
If on the other hand you are adding large swathes of content because you are looking to satisfy the ‘content is king’ approach, it’s vital to assess how this might impact UX negatively.
Always consult with SEO and UX experts when migrating a website. They will assess all the potential outcomes of certain tactics and clearly explain the advantages and disadvantages of each, making recommendations as to the best route forward. Be sure to take advice early on, before significant changes are made that may be costly to rectify.
Insider tip: We usually advise that it’s best to keep as much the same as possible when we are migrating websites that already command good positions in the search engine results pages. Content, URLs, page structure, etc. are best left as they are initially. Later, only when sufficient monitoring has taken place, we will look at gradually changing things once we can see that the search engine visibility has proved itself to be steady.
Undertake pre-launch testing
The only way to predict whether there are going to be any issues ahead of completing the website migration is to undertake some testing. It is much better to delay the site’s launch if something’s not right, rather than deal with issues in a live environment, during which time revenue could start taking a hit.
Testing should bring in a blend of skills, including technical knowhow to identify potential bugs, SEO expertise to look for possible search visibility drops, and UX experience to ensure everything is working well for the user across all browser platforms and device types.
Be prepared for delays
One thing we have learnt as an SEO agency that is regularly tasked with website migration, is that the process is often time consuming, and that last minute issues will inevitably arise that can delay the migration.
Something we will never do is launch now and fix later, just to tell a client that we stuck to a deadline. We are acutely aware of the damage a disastrous site migration can cause, and we would rather wait and see it done successfully, rather than go head just for the sake of ticking a box.
We’ll always be upfront in this respect, preferring to be honest than hide behind false promises.
Website migration planned? Place it in expert hands.
There is a great deal involved in a website migration to ensure existing search engine rankings are not lost.
It’s something we have in-depth knowledge of so, if you are considering redeveloping or moving your website and you want peace of mind that when it’s time to relaunch, the site will continue to serve you well or indeed serve you better, you are welcome to talk to Figment.