How Can I Migrate My Site Without Losing SEO?
SEO is hard work. Site migrations can affect rankings. Combine the two and panic bells ring. Web design and technologies evolve continuously. While a simple website redesign every couple of years help you keep updated; at times you may need a site migration for a major site revamp. If not planned well, a site migration can destroy the SERP rankings that took you months or years to earn.
So, how can you migrate your site without losing SEO? Follow this Site migration SEO checklist from our SEO experts.
What is a site migration?
A site migration is a broad term that includes any process wherein a website undergoes a substantial change. These changes affect SERP visibility – mostly changes in design, location, user experience, platform, structure or content.
Some migrations like domain name changes or moving from http to https may see a drop in traffic for a few weeks. However, it is possible to save your SEO results with a well-planned and executed site migration strategy. It may actually improve traffic as your site becomes a new and improved version.
Planning for website migration
Is migration the right choice?
You can expect a drop in traffic with a site migration. Google needs time to find and re-index your site. With a sound migration plan in place, the traffic loss can be regained in a few weeks. That being said, you must be sure that a migration is necessary for your website and business. Will the migration help with improving SEO? Does your business need a rebranding?
When is the right time to do the migration?
Things can go wrong, even with the best of the plans. The goal should be to minimise the glitches. If your business is a seasonal one, plan the migration for the off-season. For a regular business, do the migration during off-hours when there is the least traffic to your site. Ensure that your technical and SEO support is available during the migration.
Which pages are the most valuable?
Review your analytics to identify the pages with maximum traffic. Understand how visitors generally navigate your site. This will help you to strategise the site architecture in particular and migration in general.
Migrating a site without losing SEO – Checklist
1. Crawl the current site
Perform a crawl on the current site to list all the URLs and save the crawl for further reference. Fix any crawl errors, orphan pages, redirects etc. before the migration. A point to note – a crawl may not crawl all the pages, so it is a good idea to cross-check with your own database.
2. Map the URLs
The first step is to create a database with the old URLs and the corresponding new URLs. If you are making a significant change to URL and site architecture, you need to ensure proper redirections. This is necessary to ensure that you don’t lose link equity and attributes. Map the URLs to ensure a backup, in case you lose anything while testing redirects.
3. Make a copy of your benchmarks
Analytics data may get lost during site migrations, so it is advisable to save a copy of your Google Analytics data. This data will help you identify if any traffic is lost, and which pages are losing the traffic.
4. Test on a sandbox (test server)
Testing in a local environment may not give you a real picture of the implementation. Always run a trial on a test server. Check the redirects and make all the necessary changes before the migration.
1. Set up Google Analytics on the new site before you launch.
2. Update your site’s DNS settings if you are moving to a new server.
3. Launch! Set up redirects, unpublish and launch
4. Crawl the new site to ensure proper crawling and indexing.
5. Ensure all redirects are working. Identify any redirect chains and resolve it.
6. Identify and fix content issues. Compare the old and new crawl reports to identify and resolve duplicate content and broken links.
7. Mark the date. Annotate the date in Google Analytics, to help monitor performance before and after implementation.
8. Submit sitemap to Google Search Console to help speed up crawling. Ensure there are no errors in the sitemap.
1. Monitor performance and traffic
A temporary dip in traffic is to be expected. Do a daily analysis of the referral and search traffic for the initial few days. Compare the pre-and post-migration analytics to find any substantial traffic lost, especially from referral links. Pay special attention to high-traffic and most linked pages.
2. Update platforms
Update PPC campaigns, forums and guest publisher bio, social media profiles and any other platforms that you use to ensure links point to the new site.
3. Reach out to publishers of backlinks
Even with a well-implemented redirect, it is always better for backlinks to point to new URLs. Reach out to publishers of your backlinks and request them for the swap.
Crawling – The process by which Google searchbots visit and analyse the content on a page—in simpler terms, crawling = visiting a site.
Backlinks – When one website mentions another site and links to it, it is called a backlink or inbound link or incoming link
Index – The database where a crawler stores the data from the pages it has crawled.