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How To Do Website Migration Without Losing Traffic & SEO Value?

Businesses need a fast-loading website with fresh & quality content to gain potential customers from search. This means websiteneeds site-level, content-level amends at regular intervals. When these website changes happen without considering SEO can result in losing website visibility, drop in organic performance on SERPs etc.

 

So to help businesses deal with site migrations effectively, these list of SEO website migration strategies below can help businesses grow, reach every milestone, and win online.

Does Website Migration Affect SEO?

Done well site migrations can be a boon for a site’s performance. In the past, one of my e-commerce clients noticed 200x traffic growth after SEO-assisted re-platforming migration. On the other side If migration happens without baking in SEO best practices it will risk the website's visibility and ranking across channels. Let me explain this using an example to make it easier for you

 

You run a Web Development Agency. You decided to update the " Progressive Web Apps Development service page" to “Single Page Application Development Services” i.e. need a change to URL & content. These new changes will result in losing rankings for discontinued pages, along with traffic, and audience. Also, create a poor experience for users accessing these discontinued web page from various sources i.e. internal web pages are external link sources. All these results in diminishing SEO authority the landing page has been established to date. This may not happen if you have taken assistance from an SEO specialist. Why because he/she would have suggested you implement redirection from the old URL to the new URL, this could diminish the impact the change had resulted.

 

So I would always recommend business webmasters implement Site migrations assisted by SEO specialists.

Do You Think Website Migration is an Easy Task?

Website Migration is not as easy as we think, it needs a larger effort from multiple stack holders i.e. involvement of developers/programmers to write code, content/copywriters to draft fresh content or update retiring content, UX experts to refine the user experience, Designers for designing the right look and feel, CMS experts for supporting re-platforming and marketers for providing SEO website migration strategies to ensure success full relaunch of your website

Which Migrations Can Harm Your SEO Performance?

Want to know which Migrations Can Harm your SEO Performance and which will not? Here is the breakdown of all types of site migrations and their impact on your SEO performance

How Does the SEO Expert Lead Website Migration Work and Help?

An SEO lead website migration will help bake your new website following SEO principles and best practices through the development process and let every user searching for old website content navigate to a relevant new experience page to provide a better solution for their problems than that of earlier experience. Also, SEO specialists help site owners restore old website site authority, and site analytics data through which they can make all necessary upgrades for placing your brand where your audience is when they require assistance and drive in traffic & digital conversions.

 

SEO Website Migration Strategies Webmasters Need to Consider When Refreshing their Websites?

Know when to start implementing website migration?

Website migrations happen when businesses decide to make either of these following changes i.e.,

  • Changing domain name

  • Rebranding

  • Upgrading from HTTP to HTTPS protocol

  • Merging multiple domains into one

  • Targeting an international audience or introducing a new language to locals

  • Replatforming or moving to a new CMS

  • Consolidating page content i.e. merging multiple pages

  • Changing subdomain to the directory or changing URL structure or hierarchy changes or navigation changes

Due to any of the above reasons, if when site owners decided to go for migration, they needed to create an Inventory of all indexable webpages, top-performing pages using XML sitemap, crawled data, and Analytics landing page data (consider 12-month traffic, performance data) as sources. Also, build a baseline report with keywords rankings, and SEO KPIs metrics to compare the performance of the website Pre & Post-launch.

 

Consider Including SEO through website migration.

SEO Led Migration Can help Businesses roll out website changes without losing hard-earned SEO value & traffic.

 

Finalize the New Website Webpage URLs & Build Redirection Map

 

After implementing all the recommendations on the new website provided by all stack holders, considering business requirements, and fulfilling the goal of Website migration, it's time to finalize URLs, navigation path, and hierarchy or taxonomy. Firstly, get all the required inputs i.e. target keywords for each webpage, confirmed URL best practices, etc. Then map each webpage with its target keyword following confirmed URL best practices to create a unique URL. Finally, we have all the final URLs of the new website which are approved by the site owner. Ensure none of the final URLs are non-indexable, blocked by robots.txt file, redirecting, broken, and canonicalized URLs.

Now it's time to build a redirection map. Firstly get all required information i.e. redirection limit or count, 301 or 302 types of redirection, Rule-based or one-to-one redirection prices, redirection method (HTTP method, JavaScript method, refresh, etc.).

 

After finalizing everything properly map each old URL to its relevant final new URL. If no relevant URL is found then redirect to its relevant parent category. Implement rule-based redirections for URLs

Finally, the low-quality or retired pages, orphan pages, and outdated content pages with less or 0 traffic are forced to write 404 error codes at the server level to slowly remove these legacy URLs from the search index. Along with indexable URLs, we also have existing redirect URLs. To amend the impact of legacy URL redirections replace destination URLs, with relevant new website URLs.

 

Configure Webmaster Tools, Analytics to Report New Website Changes and Retain the Old Web Analytics Data

 

After implementing keyword mapping, and redirection mapping, we need to let monitoring tools know our website's changes, to update website search data as required based on trends, insights, customer behavior, etc. We can either use Google Tag Manager/ Telium Tagging to update triggers or independently configure GSC, GA/GA4, Bing Webmaster, Facebook pixel, Adobe Analytics, and other search monitoring tools using the best implementation methods.

 

Finally, Map your Analytics to Properly Track User Engagements on your Website.

 

Properly implement web analytics mapping by implementing tracking configuration which provides critical information about how your visitors interact with you, contact you, and make purchases on your websites. For this reason, you must implement GA4 to map out all tracking codes, events, goal objectives, and reports—and make sure they’re all updated to align with the new site.

 

Summary - SEO Website migration strategies webmasters need to follow when migrating websites for different CMS

  1. Run the Crawl to have a comprehensive list of all website URLs.

  2. Audit the CMS to know whether all SEO features are available in the new CMS.

  3. Indicate the URLs to redirect for building redirect map for developers

  4. Note down user stories and acceptance criteria i.e. As an SEO, I want product page URLs to be the same even if users go to the product page from different categories so that we don't have duplicate product pages. i.e. www.example.com/products/{%product-name-id%}

  5. Become the SEO tester to test if each SEO issue is fixed to ensure the website is ready to go live.

  6. Once it is done ensure the website on the new CMS is ‘SEO healthy’.

  7. When migration is implemented, Be available for fixing post-migration issues if any are discovered.

 

What is a successful site migration?

 

The motto of website migrations is the retention of the site’s current traffic and revenue levels. Those site migrations result in minimal visibility loss during the first few weeks and visibility growth thereafter are the successful migrations.

 

Website Migration Best Practices To Avoid Disasters

  1. Create a baseline report of current website traffic( All channels, Natural traffic, Brand vs non-brand traffic), site health, keywords & rankings. This should help as the benchmark for tracking the performance of a new website.

  2. Create current websites inventory of URLs, redirect mapping file, Keywords (Brand & Non-Branded keywords), Top linked pages, URL & Keywords mapping reports, no-indexed pages, canonicalized pages, robots.txt, Assets (PDFs, Images, CSS, JS, Videos, Forms), Defined Goals & Events, Application Journeys, website out links, Site loading speed, core web vitals & site performance scores, Mobile usability score, structured data records, Hreflang data, Links to your site, etc.,

  3. Assess your competitors against content gaps, customer journeys, Landing page templates, etc.,

  4. Get collective feedback on migration SOP, and templates(wireframes) from UX, SEO, Analytics & Content Teams.

  5. Define Technical SEO Requirements for your website in advance (URL structure, URL structure, Meta data (including dynamically generated default values), Structured data, Canonicals and meta robots directives, Copy & headings, Main & secondary navigation, Internal linking, XML sitemap, Hreflang (if there are international sites, Mobile setup (including the app, AMP, or PWA site, Redirects, Custom 404 page, JavaScript, CSS, and image file, Page loading times & core web vitals (for desktop & mobile). These should be agreed upon by SEO & UX in advance to avoid discrepancies in later stages.

  6. Ensure the CMS/Platform allows the content author/ SEO to edit URLs, metadata, canonical tags, meta robots tags, og tags, image titles & alt tags, PDF titles and descriptions and Update the robots.txt file to override default ones, add SEO value for websites

  7. Go for Multi environment testing i.e. staging environment, live preview environment before pushing it to the production

  8. Plan website launch during non-seasonal peaks

  9. Preferred one-to-one redirects over rule-based redirections

  10. Block staging/test site from crawling and indexing

  11. Review user journey, faceted Navigation, internal link, site architecture, h1 headings, metadata post-launch, canonical tag, hreflang tags, meta robot tags, 404 error pages, website responsiveness, mixed content issues, analytics tracking, and robots.txt file,

  12. Park 20% additional resources for the project in advance to support the launch

  13. Update the XML sitemap on Google Search Console or set GSC for the new website using the Change of Address tool on the launch day

  14. Use the “Fetch as Google” feature for each template to validate if the pages are rendered properly for Google bots

  15. After launch, regularly monitor the new website for crawling errors, site health errors, page speed scores, mobile responsive errors, structured data errors, clicks/traffic, ranking, technical SEO issues, indexed pages, etc.,

 

What Tools do you need for Website Migration?

Here are the Tools you need for Website Migration:

  1. Crawl the website using Screaming Frog (Crawl both Live & Staging website),

  2. Perform SEO audit for CMS using SemRush

  3. Here are the most used Chrome Add-ons for SEO

  4. Perform Site performance audit using Google Pagespeed insights, Lighthouse, webpagetest.org or gtmetrix

  5. Check or validate Backlinks using Google Search Console, Ahref, SEMrush

  6. For Mobile-friendly testing: https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly

  7. Validating Structured data of the website using https://webmaster.yandex.com/tools/microtest/, https://search.google.com/test/rich-results, https://www.bing.com/toolbox/markup-validator, https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool,

  8. Assess new website Site Health using Google Search Console

  9. For SEO Reporting use GA4, Looker Data Studio, Looker BI tool, Adobe Analytics

 

Know The Do's and Don’ts of Website Migration

Implementation of effective website migration can be a big problem for any site owner since the process requires handling multiple tasks and the involvement of multiple stakeholders. Often webmasters/site owners ignore or push back SEO optimization tasks during website development due to limitation of skills, or resources or not knowing its importance. This puts brands at risk of losing established site authority, traffic, and rankings.

 

So to mitigate the risk or consequences, involve an SEO expert either from the internal team or hire an SEO Consultant with experience in identifying and rectifying critical SEO issues during a website migration. This includes assessing the current state of the website to document the SEO information of each page, leverage it to draft a perfect SEO website migration strategy, ensuring no value information is lost or no traffic drop.

 

Here is your Website Migration Checklist (TBH) for implementing Migration as Seamless as Possible

 

Website Migrations FAQs

 

How long does it take for indexing and rankings to settle post Migrations?

 

This is termed "Migration Lag" which ideally should be 3 to 6 months. The SEO migration lag can be based on the extent of website changes made, website change and quality of migration execution. SEOs expect an SEO Dip after implementing migration, which means a drop in rankings, indexing issues etc, This is due to delays in re-crawling, re-indexing of the website by the search engine bots and re-evaluation of the website's relevance and authority by search engines after making amends. I typically advise my clients to monitor the site's performance during the migration lag period, making necessary adjustments and optimizations if needed. As search engines catch up with the changes, the website's rankings and visibility should stabilize and hopefully improve within 7 weeks to 3 months if the migration is well-executed and the new site meets the necessary SEO requirements. I also add that HTTP to HTTPS migration does not lead to any decrease in SEO traffic.

 

What approach would you recommend if the client wants to change the domain or design?

 

This answer should depend on why the reason for moving your website, based on my experiences I have suggested client go and follow the approach used for developing the new website from scratch for the new domain, allow it to crawl, make the changes needed for content and website and later build and implement redirection map pointing to relevant new web pages for old/legacy website. This helped one of the luxurious brands regain its rankings and traffic within 3 months after implementing domain change migrations.

 

What CMS platforms are more difficult or Easy to work with when doing Migrations?

 

Firstly I never worked for all content management systems and every CMS has limitations. Comparing the ease of use and customised, SEO friendly, available resources to support and security features I would suggest using Wix/WordPress for a website with fewer pages and Adobe Experience Manager or SAP Hybris for enterprise websites of health care, manufacturing business and Salesforce Commerce cloud for e-commerce websites. In the past, I have implemented Single page Applications, Javascript websites and enterprise websites using Salesforce, Adobe Experience Manager, SAP Hybris, Wix, WordPress, Shopify, Magento and Bigcommerce. I have noticed Adobe Experience Manager, Salesforce Hybris and Wix are wonderful CMSs that are easy to customize for meeting business requirements, implement SEO requirements and maintain the website assets etc.,

 

How Long do redirections are to be maintained to benefit SEO Value after site migrations?

 

If you are not willing to remove the redirections, it's okay to keep them for long enough. If you want to remove the redirections, i would ask to retain them at least for a year before deciding to remove them. I will always stick to it and recommend my clients to do it as well.

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