We know how painful it is to migrate a website without losing SEO; at least, I know from my past experience. My inexperience cost me SEO ranking, keyword ranking, backlinks, and the hardest part was the traffic, which came down to 500 from 10K.
Honestly, website migration is a nightmare, and there are many reasons why your site might need to be migrated, including improving the site’s structure, user experience (UI/UX), old content updates, security, and the list goes on. Although there is a large level of danger involved with moving your site, you might want to think about getting professional assistance.
So here are some of the most frequent SEO errors I’ve observed, along with tips on how to avoid them in order to protect your search engine rankings and reduce risk. I hope you learn from my inexperience and do the right thing. I’m pointing out the 8 common mistakes to avoid while migrating a website.
So let’s get started.
What is Website Migration?
Although the term “Website migration” typically conjures images of switching hosts, platforms, or domains, there are a lot more things that it might mean. Any event that would significantly alter a website is sometimes referred to as site migration.
This can include a complete revamp or redesign of your website, which would change its organization, content, user experience (UX), design, etc. It may also include anything that modifies the present URLs of a website, such as switching from HTTP to HTTPS.
The design, feel, flow, traffic, etc., of your site may all be significantly impacted by all of these changes. Therefore, it’s crucial to remember to take the time to recognize the specifics involved and develop a strategy to address them properly.
How to migrate a website without losing SEO
Migrating your website without negatively impacting your SEO rankings is a crucial concern for many website owners. To achieve a seamless transition, follow these essential steps:
- Plan Carefully: Begin with a well-thought-out migration plan that includes detailed strategies for preserving SEO. Identify the pages, URLs, and content that will change, and ensure that every change is accounted for in your plan.
- Implement 301 Redirects: Redirect the old URLs to their corresponding new ones using 301 redirects.
This tells search engines that the content has moved permanently, preserving your SEO authority and preventing broken links.
- Update XML Sitemaps: Generate new XML sitemaps for your migrated website and submit them to search engines like Google and Bing. This ensures that search engines can efficiently crawl and index your updated content.
- Have the Same URL as before: It’s important to note that having the same URL will automatically redirect users to new migration websites. It will keep your SEO consistent, and your ranking won’t drop suddenly. Of course, the Google algorithm will have some effect, but it will be minimal.
- Monitor Keyword Rankings: Keep a close eye on your keyword rankings before, during, and after migration using tools like Google Search Console. Identify any sudden drops and take corrective actions promptly.
- Content Optimization: Review and optimize your content during migration, focusing on keywords, meta tags, and headers. Ensure that your content remains relevant and engaging for users.
- Check for Broken Links: Use tools like Screaming Frog or broken link checkers to identify and fix any broken links resulting from the migration.
8 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Website Migration
- Failing to Develop a Plan or Assessing Risks
It is imperative to contemplate the potential risks associated with implementing changes on your website and to formulate a comprehensive plan. Neglecting this crucial step not only ranks among the most prevalent website migration blunders but also serves as a primary reason for the failure of web development projects.
The ease with which modifications can be made on your website, contingent on its structure and hosting platform, can be deceptive. While simplicity in effecting changes is typically desirable, it can lead to a misguided perception of the consequences of these alterations.
It is vital to comprehend that just because a change seems straightforward to execute on your website does not imply that it can be made without consideration of potential repercussions.
When dealing with changes that fall within the ambit of site migration, it is essential to assess the rationale behind the proposed alterations. You should be capable of articulating the objectives you wish to achieve and acknowledging the potential risks associated with these changes.
By doing so, you gain insight into the proper approach to implementing these changes and discern the requisite measures to mitigate risks. All these factors contribute to the development of a comprehensive plan that allows you to attain your goals while ensuring that all necessary steps are taken to sustain the growth of your website.
- Redirecting Numerous Pages to the Homepage
Shortcutting the process, particularly during website migrations, is an inadvisable practice. A common error we observe is organizations rushing through the redirection process by directing all pages to the homepage. On the surface, this might appear efficient, as it saves the effort required to manage individual redirects. Nevertheless, this approach can have severe repercussions on your SEO performance.
The primary issue with indiscriminate redirects lies in the transfer of link authority. Every one of your existing pages possesses a certain degree of authority and search engine rankings. When you redirect an old page to an irrelevant destination, you divert this authority to the wrong location. Consequently, the performance of the ostensibly “relevant” page in search engine results is compromised, as both traffic and authority are redirected elsewhere.
- Neglecting to Redirect Non-HTML Assets
People often overlook the fact that non-HTML assets, such as images and PDFs, can significantly contribute to your website’s traffic. Therefore, during site migrations, it is not uncommon for these assets to be disregarded.
To maintain your rankings in image search results, it is recommended to retain the same image size and file name when redirecting images:
By adhering to this practice, you can prevent your images from being de-indexed by Google during a site relaunch. Similarly, you can apply a similar approach to PDFs, although it is advisable to create new HTML pages, as they are more easily tracked and serve as superior landing pages for potential clients. You can subsequently redirect your old PDFs to the new HTML landing pages, thereby ensuring that your content remains indexed by Google and potentially enhancing your organic SEO performance.
- Don’t forget to Backup
Whenever you institute changes to your website, it is imperative to maintain a robust backup system to address any potential issues. Possessing a stored copy of your current site and database serves as a contingency that permits you to revert to the previous version if necessary. In the worst-case scenario, it facilitates the recreation of the site in the event of a catastrophic incident during the migration process. You can make use of backup plugins for a seamless process.
- Not Submitting New Sitemaps to Google Search Console
The implementation of a new website often entails a revised website structure. To expedite the discovery of new pages on your site by Google, it is of paramount importance to submit the updated sitemap of your site while retaining the old one in Google Search Console (GSC):
By retaining the old sitemap, you facilitate Google’s discovery of redirects, thereby expediting the indexing of your new site’s URLs. The new sitemap serves as a directive guiding Google to the URLs of your new pages, expediting their indexing. To streamline this process, it is advisable to include a link to your sitemap in your robots.txt file.
- Unnecessary Alterations to URLs
During site migrations, it is a common misstep to disregard the existing URL structure and content of your site. Whenever possible, it is advisable to retain the existing URL structures. In cases where this is not feasible, old URLs should be meticulously redirected using 301 redirects.
Neglecting the existing URL structure may result in complicating the process of search engines rediscovering the content on your site, necessitating the reevaluation of the content. This could lead to a temporary decline in rankings and potentially slow down the overall speed of your site due to excessive redirecting.
While it may be tempting to modify page URLs, it is important to assess whether such changes are necessary. If your current URLs are already performing well in search engine rankings, the risk of losing those rankings due to unnecessary URL alterations should be weighed against the perceived benefits.
Remember the quote, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
- Failure to Monitor 404 and Other Error Pages
During site migrations, one of the primary concerns is the emergence of numerous 404 errors on the new site, which can significantly impact your site’s SEO performance.
To avert this scenario, it is crucial to conduct a comprehensive site crawl on your new site to identify any 404 pages, 500 internal server errors, and other crawlability issues. Tools like Screaming Frog can be invaluable in identifying pages with 404, 5xx, or 3xx status codes:
Once you have identified these broken pages, it is advisable to locate suitable replacement pages that function correctly. This proactive approach minimizes the risk of losing valuable keyword rankings for your website.
- Absence of a Post-Migration Checklist and Monitoring Protocol
Completing pre-migration checks and successfully launching your new site is a commendable accomplishment. However, it is crucial not to prematurely conclude the migration process. Even after your new site has gone live, there may be latent migration issues that require attention. To uncover and address these issues, you should have a well-defined post-migration checklist and an ongoing monitoring process in place.
Regarding SEO considerations, your post-migration checklist should encompass the following:
- Monitoring website traffic and analytics.
- Tracking keyword rankings.
- Ensuring the indexation of new pages.
- Testing the robots.txt file.
- Assessing page load times before and after migration.
- Monitoring the status of 301 redirects.
- Requesting indexing of new pages in Google Search Console.
- Vigilantly monitoring Google Search Console for any reported errors.
Maintaining a clear post-migration checklist for your SEO efforts ensures that you can sustain your SEO rankings following a site rebuild.
Website migration is a critical process that should be approached with meticulous planning and attention to detail. While the benefits of migration, such as improved performance and enhanced security, are enticing, avoiding common mistakes is paramount to a successful transition.
By steering clear of errors like insufficient planning, neglecting backups, and overlooking SEO, you can safeguard your website’s integrity, user experience, and search engine rankings. Remember to prioritize mobile optimization, comprehensive testing, and open communication with your team.
Where user expectations are constantly evolving, website migration remains a crucial strategy for businesses and website owners. By learning from the examples of these common mistakes and implementing best practices, you can ensure that your migration is a smooth and successful endeavor. So, embrace change, but do so wisely, and your website will thrive in its new environment.
FAQs on Website Migration
1. How long does a website migration typically take?
The duration of a website migration can vary widely depending on the complexity of the project. Simple migrations may take a few hours, while more extensive ones can take several days or even weeks. It’s essential to plan accordingly and communicate with your audience about potential downtime.
2. What is the cost of a website migration?
The cost of website migration depends on various factors, including the size of your website, the complexity of the project, and the services required. It’s advisable to request quotes from reputable web development and hosting providers to get a better understanding of the potential costs.
3. How often should I migrate my website?
Website migration frequency depends on your specific needs and objectives. Some businesses may migrate their websites every few years, while others may do it more frequently to stay up-to-date with technology and industry trends. It’s essential to assess your website regularly and plan migrations accordingly.