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3 Questions to Ask Before a Site Migration

When it comes to changing a website, things are never straightforward, and each migration presents its own set of unique challenges.

Changing sites has the potential to cause business disruption such as losing traffic and rankings overnight. To make things run a bit smoother, you should expect these things to happen, plan for the worst and mitigate risk by communicating with your development team, CEOs and SEO migration team every step of the way.

There are many reasons you may be migrating your site including:

  • Adding https to your site
  • Increasing page load speed
  • Improving user experience
  • Updating design
  • Going through a rebrand

SEOs need to be made aware of a migration project in advance of it occurring. This team will need to spend time influencing site structure, top performing pages and moving existing optimised Title Tags, Meta Data and H1s over. Having SEO at the forefront of the site design stage is paramount to ensure changes are made with organic traffic in mind. Taking this approach helps to keep your visitors and Google happy, lessening the shock once the switch is flipped and the site goes live.

Top questions to ask before a site migration

1. Are you changing content?

Changing your content can be a double-edged sword. If you’ve experienced duplicate content issues, this could go a long way towards ensuring you don’t risk a penalty from Google. However, you can’t escape a penalty which you have already got, so if this is the case, this is not the process you need to follow.

Changing content means you could lose the keywords you currently rank for on that page. This loss can be mitigated by an SEO specialist who can ensure the best pages you currently have are either moved over or matched to a similar page with relevant content.

To do this, you can find your top-linking pages from Moz and prioritise getting content published on pages to match up when redirect mapping. Redirects can help but must be applied carefully. Only apply use redirects, and never 302 as these tell Google that the redirect is temporary, and Google reacts by not sending the power from the previous page to the live page.

2. Are you keeping current taxonomy or changing structure?

If your site migration is going to involve structural changes, it can make the redirect mapping more difficult. However, it may be beneficial to apply a more logical structure to the site both for the user experience and so that Googlebot has no trouble crawling your site.

To work around a new URL structure, you should aim to map all redirects to the most relevant new URL. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you should be reinventing the wheel- Googlebot better understands consistency and clear directions. Consider using similar category names or rules to keep the 301 redirects towards the most relevant.

3. How will Google know what’s going on?

Your SEO is going to tell them.

Once you’ve mapped the URLs they will need to be uploaded to the root, before testing that they work and uploading a sitemap. Upload both an old and new sitemap and refer to them both on a new Robots.txt file. This will tell any crawler in the neighbourhood that you have the URLs pointing at the new URLs.

Even if you upload your sitemaps through a Change of Address request to Google, this will take the search engine time to understand your migration, and will vary depending on how complex your planned change is. It’s important to have your SEO on board to help with the migration as soon as possible, they will be capable of checking each stage of the process works and doesn’t cause project delays.

This is far from all you need to know about site migrations, but it’s a start. Site migrations will affect your SEO and it is not a thing to be taken lightly. When carried out carefully with SEO considerations at the forefront, disruption will be minimal, and your traffic and rankings will recover. They may even get better than before, leaving you with a new site which performs well. We have plenty of experience with site migrations, often completing them in conjunction with our connected web agencies, NetConstruct, Statement and Pinpoint. If your business needs a new site but you’re worried about losing your traffic and organic rankings, get in touch with our SEO experts today.