A-Z Guide to Plan up Successful Website Migration

Though apparently daunting yet website migration is indispensable to keep a site up and running over time.  Website migration can be defined as a process that brings a major change, influencing the visibility and indexability of a site to the search engines. A complicated procedure no doubt, a successful website migration calls for  a strategic plan so that you can always have a blueprint for seamless navigation enroute.

Whether you are planning for a website makeover or you intend to switch platforms or you have to update the site structure- a migration plan will always come in handy. Prior preparation will even help to pull off a magnum site migration without putting too much of pressure on your team. Good bit is, the migration process might even allow some major enhancements to your site.

Here is a step-by-step guide on charting a bullet-proof plan for website migration-

Start with the “type”

As mentioned previously, website migration brings a “change”- the change could be many things ranging from  upgradation of internal structures to visual refresh to CMS change to software update, and more. It needs to be mentioned here that based on your website needs, website migration covers many types.

The first thing to keep in mind while drafting a migration plan is to choose the “type” of migration you want for your site. Here is a brief on the different types-

  • Structural change
  • Content change
  • Software update
  • Design/UX change
  • Platform change

Think about the elements and/or aspects of your site that need a change or makeover. Choose your preferred type of migration from the list based on that.

Prep the army

After you decide the type, the next step is to gather a smart squad, set expectations, as well as outline goals and objectives of website migration.

Set the expectations

Website migration is a crucial process and any major change is likely to lead a short-term dip in traffic. You must be mentally prepared for such hiccups. And since you can’t avoid the drop completely, you should be prepared to at least lower the span of the drop. A successful migration would reveal the errors as well as correct and optimize the site that would eventually lead to improved traffic growth.

Outline your goals

Gather a sound understanding on your goals – it will offer you a strategic blueprint to help you navigate the migration process in right direction. A planned and organized migration process must focus on these goals-

  • Power up backlinks and SEO

When it comes to website migration, the goal is to introduce the essential changes yet without disrupting the SEO quotient. You must also be careful of preserving existing backlinks so that users don’t find it difficult to find the website.

  • Migrate the contents

Make sure to pack in all kinds of contents during the site migration, including all essential text, images, or/and whole pages.

  • Amp up site design, function, and performance

Take a look around and chart out the changes you have to make on the website. Depending on your situation, you might have to update a particular visual design or change CMS, and so on.

Beckon your squad

Website migration is a colossal process and demands team effort. You will need more than your band of developers to complete the whole process. So, call in the professionals who look after the design, marketing, and content parts as each of such individual divisions impact the search visibility of your site.

Who would you involve in the process?

  • Designers
  • Web developers
  • Content writers
  • Marketing team

Based on the target and current platform, some professionals/teams might be capable of developing site elements (relevant to their niche) during the migration. There are portals such as Webflow that help users to implement or work on visual interfaces without coding or programming know-how. This way, the developers would be free to invest their time in more crucial tasks for the migration.

Dig into SEO and site traffic

Take a deeper look into current website performance

Before you proceed with the migration, evaluate the current state of performance of your website. A thorough analysis will help to assess how much impact the migration will have on the site. Mark the high-performing pages as those will need extra care. Google Analytics as well as Search Console will show you the pages indexed by the search engine giant aka Google. Also, please do no make drastic changes on high-traffic pages.

Follow the steps below:

  • Run full website audit to evaluate current state of the platform
  • Keep tab on current ranking of keywords
  • Keep record of current traffic flow to your site to set benchmark for analyzing the impact of the migration process afterwards

Clean-up on-page SEO

The audit will reveal to you the SEO errors, if any. If you find any, this is the time to clean them up. Your site will be must be relaunched with optimized SEO after the migration. The SEO improvements just before the migration will lessen impact on post-migration dip in traffic.

Things that you will check for SEO-

  • Headline tags
  • Title tags
  • URLs
  • Meta descriptions
  • Name of image file
  • Alt text of image file
  • External and internal links in the body copy

Round up with post-migration audit

A second audit is necessary to ensure every thing in order as you gear to relaunch the site after migration. Check the traffic level to see whether or not the migration has been able to scale up the traffic. You might not see increased traffic immediately but if there is a dip (compared to that of the old website)- there could be a glitch.

Bucket in the backlinks

List down current backlinks and URLs

Make a list of all URLs of the current website and pages. Now, sign up for a tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush to assess as well as log all backlinks to pages or site. Frequently linked web pages are  certainly your trump card but you should also keep record of each individual page URL.

This information will help later (during migration) to redirect old URLs right to bypass 404 errors.

Go slow

It’s not really wise to purge out a huge volume of pages all at once. The search ranking of the site might plummet if Google suspects a visible dip in the indexed pages. The idea is to go steady but slow.

Make a roster of pages you have to delete. Then make two lists for pages that you have to change and preserve.

Time for redirects and link updates

Based on the lists created, set 301 redirects which would be used for migrated site. In case, you will shift to new CMS, certain slugs will change inherently. You will need to prep up site plan to set redirects to, say, Webflow.

You must also update URLs in marketing materials, covering ads, newsletter, social media, and all other templates used for marketing. All the URLs must link to desired pages after the site is updated.

Get Set Go

We have almost reached at the final stage of the planning. It’s time to plan up to migrate the entire content.

Catalog, catalog

Make a catalog of all content presently featured on the website, ranging from simple stuff like placing all files in the Docs (Google) folder to indexing of all kinds of text and visual contents. Don’t forget to create backup copy of all contents.

CSV file is a lifesaver

CSV files are handy to migrate all the contents effectively. In case you plan to switch platforms, you can export CSV of site content. There are plenty of tools out there to help you with easy export. After you export the CSV file, upload it into new CMS to ensure easy access to the contents  of the site. It’s going to save you a good deal of time.

Tag along sitemap

You will have to add XML sitemap right to both new and old sites during the migration process. It will keep things organized while you are passing through a complicated process like migration. Good thing is, the process is a breeze- just add/sitemap.xml right to site domain.

Sitemaps will make it easier for your squad to check the previous site pages and the overall structure to ensure every single thing has been migrated. Besides, it will also help the great Google to index the new site.

Submit to Search Console

After you complete the sitemap, you have to submit it to Search Console (Google). It will verify the ownership of your new website as well as extend access to the Search Console.

Website migration unfolds new opportunities

Website migration offers the window to review as well as reimagine what you want to do with your site and what kind of roles your team should play in creation as well as maintenance of the web presence of your brand. Technically speaking, website migration demands clinical organization. But once you look past it, the process also offers you a great opportunity to explore new improvements and adventures with your site.

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