Building a website and getting lots of organic traffic isn’t easy – it demands time, commitment, and persistence. So when the rewards start coming in, the last thing you want is to see a dip in traffic due to a site migration.
The grim reality is that during a site migration, there is a real risk that you can lose some of your organic traffic.
However, with thorough preparation and a strategic approach, you can transition smoothly to your new site and ensure the impact on your organic traffic is minimal.
Consider Whether Site Migration is the Best Course
There are various reasons that might lead you to consider site migration. You may have undergone a total rebrand, targeting a new audience or introducing a new line of products. For some businesses, the shift might be coming from a broader company strategy or technical challenges with their current platform.
Either way, before moving forward with the change, it’s crucial to weigh if migration is actually the right step forward.
Although strategies exist to lessen traffic drops, site migrations aren’t risk-free, and they can demand substantial resources to address unforeseen challenges.
Whatever your final call, ensure that you’ve considered the potential advantages against the possible risks, aiming for a decision where the benefits outweigh the possible downsides.
Analyze Your Current Site
Before starting any migration project, analyzing your current site is crucial. This will help you understand what your current site looks like and how it performs so that you can compare it to the new site once it’s live.
Some key aspects to analyze include:
- Site structure: Look at your current site map and identify any areas that may need improvement or consolidation.
- Content: Go through your website’s content and identify any pages or sections that might benefit from editing or removal.
- Metadata: Examine your page titles, descriptions, and headers to make sure they’re relevant and optimized for search engines.
- Backlinks: Examine the sites linking to your current site and determine which links may need to be redirected to the new site.
Document your current traffic statistics to have a clear reference point for your new website. Although trying to get identical metrics between the old and new site may be unrealistic, having a starting point will assist you in evaluating the success of the migration and pinpointing potential areas for improvement.
Research and Invest in Quality Migration Tools
Regardless, there’s a variety of well-established site migration tools available to make your transition easier and ensure nothing gets overlooked.
Some well-known tools you can use to help you migrate your website effectively include:
The tool you decide to use will depend primarily on the type of site structure you have. While not all tools will cover all site structures, you’ll want to make sure the one you use gives you the necessary level of customization and control over your migration.
Plan to Migrate During Slower Periods
Site migrations don’t always go as planned, and there may be some time required to tweak settings, fix any issues that arise, or deal with technical difficulties. To lessen disruptions to your web traffic, consider scheduling migrations during your business’s off-peak times.
If any unexpected downtime occurs during the migration, it’ll have a reduced effect on your daily operations and site-generated income.
Make Use of a Sandbox
Sandboxes are isolated environments that allow you to test and make changes without affecting your live website. They can be invaluable when creating major improvements or site changes before you actually push them live.
When moving a site, using a sandbox allows you to gauge the seamlessness of your migration and address any problems before making the changes live. This is especially important for bigger sites with multiple components and databases.
Be sure that your sandbox is properly set up and configured to mirror your live website as closely as possible. This may include ensuring that all plugins and settings are the same, as well as importing any necessary data or content. While many organizations skip this step to save time, testing in a sandbox can ultimately save you from costly mistakes and downtime during the actual migration process.
Set Up 301 Redirects
One of the critical steps in a smooth site migration is setting up 301 redirects. These redirects help guide users and search engines from the old URLs to the new ones, allowing uninterrupted access to your content.
Forgetting to do these redirects means running the risk of having broken links and a potential drop in your SEO performance. This can significantly affect your site’s visibility on search engines and might be detrimental to your business.
For companies utilizing platforms like WordPress, numerous plugins are available to simplify the task. However, even if you’re not using a CMS, you have the option to set up redirects by working directly with your server or hosting provider.
Use a Post-Migration Checklist
Create a post-migration checklist is critical for ensuring that everything has been successfully migrated and is functioning correctly. While every site migration is different, below is a sample of some important items your post-migration checklist should have:
- Monitor for Changes in Traffic: Monitor any traffic changes to your site which can help identify any issues that may have occurred during the migration process.
- Verify Redirects are Properly Formatted: Check that all of your redirects are properly set up and functioning correctly. This can be done with Google Search Console.
- Run SEO Checks: Use online tools to scan your sight for any potential SEO issues. This can include broken links, duplicate content, or missing meta tags.
- Update Sitemaps: Generate a new sitemap and update your robots.txt file to ensure that search engines can crawl and index your site properly.
- Verify Mobile Responsiveness: Test to make sure your new site offers the same experience to mobile users as desktop.
- Test All Forms and Links: Make sure all forms and links on your site function correctly and send data to the correct locations.
- Optimize Site Speed: Run tests to check your site’s speed and make any necessary optimizations to site plug-ins or your hosting provider.
- Update Social Media Profiles: Update all of your social media profiles with the new domain and ensure that they are linking to the correct pages on your site.
Don’t Let a Site Migration Slow Your Business Down
Whether or not a site migration is right for your business will depend on your own unique goals. However, if you decide the moving your site to a new domain is the right course for you, follow this guide to ensure a smooth and successful transition while minimizing traffic disruption.
Jason Khoo started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is founder of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.