How To Successfully Migrate A Website

Are you looking to upgrade your website, improving the overall speed which offers a better user experience? If you are, that means you will have to go through the process of migrating a website. As a business owner, a website developer or someone who works in SEO, this can be one of the most stressful moments during your career. For a website developer, this will occur a lot with them however, for a business owner, that is very different. 

There is a process you must follow when going through a website migration, to make sure you maintain rankings, encourage communication on your website, and generally have a smooth experience. In this article, we will talk you through the process of website migration and how to successfully execute a migration without it going wrong. 


Step One – Establish Your Goals With The Website Migration 

Before the whole process of a website migration begins, you need to establish your goals. What do you want to achieve? Is it moving from HTTP to HTTPS? Reaching a larger audience with a better domain? Are you looking to make your website international? Do you want to improve the website’s design to give a user a much better experience? There are many reasons why you want to migrate to a newly built website.

Once you have the main goal, you can then establish many other goals that can get you there. If you want to reduce the bounce rate and improve user experience, one of the goals will be to have a quicker website to improve load time if that is one of the issues. 


Step Two – Have A Budget and Timeline

Before any major business decision, you must consider the budget. The budget is there to make sure you don’t spend too much on the less important things and you stick to your original and main goal. Creating a realistic timeline of when you want certain things to be completed is also very important with a website migration. This timeline will help the whole process go as smoothly as possible with the website migration. Moreover, it requires a lot of planning and communication between the team that is working on it. 


Step Three – Promote The Migration

Something that you need to communicate with your customers or clients is that you will be going through a website migration. They need to be aware that you will be moving to a different domain/website. Furthermore, the previous website could have been an issue for them. They may have never bought a product or enquired about a service because of slow site speed. 

It is fairly easy to tell Google that your URLs have changed; however, it is much harder to tell your clientele. To be ahead of the game, have a pre-migration campaign that alerts people of what is coming up. Not only are you letting them know of the new and wonderful website that you are going to migrate to, but you are also causing a bit of hype around it, meaning more people will visit the website on the day. 


Step Four – Use SEO Tools To Pull All URLs For The Migration

Usually, when going through a website migration, will involve you changing URLs. To do this, you need to create a content map. This content map will be the full picture of your website. 

The reason why you do this is that it will show you which URLs need to be directed where. Furthermore, the URLs you would have added to the content map could show existing errors such as directs that don’t go anywhere as well as pagination issues. 

There are dozens of tools which you can use to locate all of your URLs so it is just about finding the best tool and which one you can afford. Remember, stick to the budget and be wary of stretching a little bit over for the better SEO tools out there. 


Step Five – 301 Redirects

Now, it is time to pick your most valuable pages. These are not the ones which you think are best because it has the most products. The pages that you need to prioritise are the pages which are ranking, gain organic traffic through these pages and, also get enquiries/ sales. These are your most important pages. 

You do not hand-pick these URLs out either. You need to export them onto a spreadsheet with the CSV file. Now, you have these, you load up your analytics and find which URLs are most valuable to your business and website. 

To most of these pages, you will be required to redirect them to a legacy URL. This is so users don’t land on a 404 error page. Furthermore, you do not want to redirect them to the homepage because this is a poor user experience. Also, you need to make sure that you redirect them to a relevant page. If you cannot find a page that is relevant to the user, create the page or remove the legacy URL completely. 

Before you begin your redirects, you must confirm the URL structure of your new website. Don’t be updating any pages either until your website is live as well. Freeze your content uploads for a month beforehand and wait until everything is live with the migration. 


Step 6 – Execute Your Website Migration

Next, you want to execute the website migration. Before you do this, we advise you to test the migration in a closed environment before you begin. This is to make sure that nothing major goes wrong when you do the real thing. 

We understand it has taken months for you to get to this stage but it is worth doing a test first. We also advise that you do this at the time you get the least traffic as your website can be offline for some time. The best time to do this is at night if you are a company based in one country. That doesn’t matter whether you are a fashion brand or a company that specialises in telehandler hire. The best time for many businesses would be when nobody, or very few people are visiting your site. 

Ensure your website isn’t down for a long time or else you could be in trouble with your rankings. The longer your website is down, the more your rankings will decrease. 


Final Step – Track The Migration 

This is the final step of your months-long project. Make sure that nothing too major has gone wrong. Make sure navigating to the pages doesn’t result in any 404 errors and use a tool such as a search console to find pages where there are errors. 

Don’t worry if your traffic drops slightly either. This is completely normal so there is nothing to worry about. However, if your traffic does not recover and you notice you are receiving fewer sales, this means there is a much bigger problem.