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Website Migration Checklist 2024: 9 Steps for Success

website migration checklist

Website migration is a big step for any business that wants to make its online presence better through rebranding, enhancing site performance, or updating technology. This could be for reasons like changing the look of the brand, making the website faster, or using new technology. It involves moving a site to a new domain, altering the site structure, or changing the content management system.

However, if not executed properly, it can negatively impact your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and organic traffic. This website migration checklist outlines a 9-step process designed to navigate the complexities of website migration, ensuring a successful transition with minimal SEO disruption.

Understanding Website Migration

Definition of Website Migration

Website migration refers to the process of making significant changes to a website’s core aspects, such as its platform, site structure, content, design, or location (URLs or domain). Businesses may undertake migrations for their existing website for several reasons, such as improving site speed, enhancing security (e.g., HTTP to HTTPS), or merging multiple websites. Understanding the different types of migrations and their purposes is the first step toward a successful migration project. These changes can significantly impact a site’s visibility and performance in search engines.

Impact on SEO

Yes, Site migration can significantly affect SEO, potentially resulting in lost traffic, broken links, and decreased search engine rankings. Search engines like Google use complex algorithms to index and rank pages. Changes in a site’s structure, content, or URL can disrupt this indexing, potentially affecting the site’s organic traffic and rankings. However, with proper planning and execution, you can minimize these impacts and ensure a successful transition. Key concerns include ensuring search engines like Google can crawl and index the new site correctly, preventing duplicate content, and maintaining the integrity of internal and external links. Implementing redirects correctly and updating the Google Search Console account are crucial steps to preserve SEO rankings.

Further reading: 6 SEO Tips to Boost Your Visibility

Comprehensive Website Migration Checklist

The Planning Stage

ideation - website migration checklist

1. Pre-Migration Planning and Preparation

First, you have to define clear objectives for the migration, such as improving site architecture or increasing organic traffic. Reflect on the reasons behind your migration and establish a timeline for completion.

Assess the schedule. Utilize our checklist to outline key milestones. Don’t forget to choose the right time for migration. You can plan the migration during low-traffic periods to minimize the impact on website visitors.

Seek assistance. Ensure you have a team that includes webmaster engineers, SEO professionals, analysts, UX specialists, and content experts to support the process.

2. SEO Considerations

As you want to migrate your website, consider doing an SEO audit and benchmarking. Evaluate the existing site’s SEO performance to identify key pages and any existing SEO issues. Ensure all old URLs are redirected to the new ones to maintain link equity and user experience.

Adjust internal links to point to the new URLs. This includes updating links in content, menus, and other navigational elements. For external links, contact owners of external sites linking to your content to update their links, if possible.

Make sure you keep URL structures consistent to preserve SEO value. Also, submit the new sitemap to search engines to aid in reindexing your site more efficiently.

The Development Stage

development stage for website migration checklist

3. Technical Setup

Configure Google Search Console and Google Analytics, set up new properties if necessary, and configure them for the new domain to track your site’s performance and identify issues.

You may find the URLs that require redirecting. You can use site audit to find it out. Use 301 redirects for all changed URLs to redirect site visitors and search engines to the new pages. This can help you to not lose your traffic. Another thing is, to check for broken links. Use tools like Broken Link Checker to identify and fix any broken links within your site.

Ensure mobile responsiveness with mobile-first indexing, and ensure your new site is optimized for mobile devices. Secure Your Site with HTTPS. Migrate from HTTP to HTTPS to improve security and potentially boost your SEO rankings. Also, optimize page speed by utilizing tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to identify and rectify any issues slowing down your site.

4. Establish a Search Console and Webmaster Tools

For a seamless transition, include your website in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, especially when undergoing domain changes. Subsequently, prompt the indexing of your site and submit XML sitemaps.

In Google Search Console, you can facilitate the alteration of your site’s address by navigating to Settings (Gear icon) > Change of address.

This feature in the Search Console enables you to notify Google about the change in your site’s address. However, before submitting the change of address, it’s crucial to confirm ownership of both sites.

Furthermore, consider utilizing Google Search Console to change your site address, enhancing the efficiency of the migration process.

5. Conduct Content Inventory

Then, you have to conduct a content inventory, which includes cataloging all the pages, posts, and assets on your existing site. Tools like Screaming Frog can help in creating a comprehensive list.

It is crucial to conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current content, encompassing pages, documents, media files, and other content assets. It is advisable to generate backup copies for all these elements.

Maintaining a content inventory proves invaluable in swiftly identifying any content losses occurring during the migration. Recognizing which documents become inaccessible post-change enables prompt issue resolution, preferably before significant harm occurs. With backup copies in place, the process of uploading missing documents to the new site becomes a more straightforward task.

6. Conduct Usability Assessments

Often overlooked, usability is a critical aspect of site migration. While your site may maintain its rankings, a decline in usability could lead to revenue loss. The next crucial step involves manual testing of key site areas on both mobile and desktop devices. Thoroughly check the functionality of the following areas:

  • Downloadable content
  • Forms
  • Complete checkout process
  • Live chat function
  • Mailing lists
  • Navigation

Ensure that all site features operate seamlessly. Identify and address any issues that may arise during the testing phase to maintain optimal usability.

Further reading: eCommerce Website Checklist: 11 Essentials Steps for Online Store

The Monitoring and Reporting Stage

monitoring stage for website migration checklist

7. Post-Site Migration Tasks

  • Verify Search Engine Accessibility

Ensure that your new site is accessible to search engines and not blocked by any robots.txt files.

  • Monitor Site Performance

Regularly check Google Analytics and Google Search Console for any unusual drops in traffic or crawl issues.

  • Update Social Media Profiles

Adjust any links in your social media profiles to reflect the new site address.

  • Conduct a Final SEO Audit

Look for duplicate content, missing meta descriptions, incorrect canonical tags, and other SEO errors.

8. Report on Benchmark Metrics

The concluding phase of any site migration involves revisiting the metrics collected during the planning stage (refer to step three). Now, you can scrutinize the web analytics data for the new site and assess its comparison with the benchmark metrics.

9. Continuous Monitoring and Optimization

After migration, track rankings and traffic. Use rank-tracking tools to monitor your site’s performance in search engine results for key queries.

Gather insights from site visitors regarding the new site’s usability and address any concerns. Continue to refine your site based on feedback and performance metrics.

Evaluate your site structure. Assess the architecture of your current site for improvements or adjustments in the new site structure. Create a duplicate of your existing site on a new server or domain for testing purposes without affecting the live site.

Further reading: 29 Free SEO Analysis Tools in 2024

Tools and Resources for Successful Website Migrations

Leveraging the right tools can significantly streamline the migration process. Here are some recommended tools:

Conclusion

Website migration is a complex but crucial process for maintaining and enhancing your online presence. By following this detailed checklist, you’re setting the foundation for a successful website migration in 2024. Remember, the key to a seamless entire site for the migration process lies in meticulous planning, thorough execution, and continuous monitoring. With the right approach and tools, you can ensure that your successful migration not only preserves but also enhances your site’s performance and SEO rankings.