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Digital Marketing 7 min read

Everything You Need to Know About Site Migrations & What to Avoid

Sarah Harris photo

Written by Sarah Harris

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Dallin Porter photo

Expert reviewed by Dallin Porter

Marketing Director @ Galactic Fed

Published 01 Nov 2022

A site migration is a process in which a website moves from one platform or domain to another. Site migrations are often done to improve a website’s performance or make changes to the site’s initial structure or design.

There are different levels of migration:

  • URL changes
  • Website redesigns
  • Changing site architecture
  • Moving from HTTP to HTTPS
  • Changing hosting companies
  • Combining websites
  • Changing domain names

Migrations will probably include several, if not all, of these levels.

There are several things to consider when you’re planning a site migration. For one, site migration is a challenging process, and if not done correctly, it can cause you to lose traffic and high rankings among search engines. 

You must take the time to plan and execute your migration thoroughly to avoid any issues.

Make a Plan

When you’re arranging a site migration, you first need to choose a date for the migration to begin. It is essential to pick a date that will be convenient for you, your team, and your users.

From there, create a checklist of what you need to accomplish. Convert this checklist into a timeline. Ensure everyone across all teams is on the same page.

Analyze Your Website

Have a complete breakdown of all content on your site and the site’s structure ready to go. List where each of your site’s pages rank in the Google search results.

Build a Test Site

Don’t wait until after the migration to begin modifying the new environment. Put together a test site on a separate domain and use it to test all of the proposed changes. This site should be a copy of your current site. Use this time to experiment and change anything that isn’t working.

Prevent Indexing of Your New Site

If search engines start crawling your new site before you’re ready to launch it officially, the new content can compete with the old content and cause problems with SEO. Set up a robots.txt file on your new site and include a directive that blocks all search engine bots. You will need to remove this when the new site is ready to go live. 

Make a List of All URLs and Redirects

Planning for all URLs that will move to the new site can prevent significant difficulties and headaches. Generate a list of all URLs and match each of them with the link that will be on the new site. Check the Google Search Console for a list of all indexed pages — this will help you find any pages you may have missed.

If the site structure changes during migration, plan 301 redirects for pages as required. Failure to complete this step will cause lost traffic and lower rankings. Look for any missing URLs on the plan for your new site, and plan to redirect pages to cover this content.

Create a Backup

Form a backup of all of the original site’s content before beginning the migration while ensuring the data is easily accessible. This will ensure you have a fallback in case something goes wrong during the process.

Notify Your Users

Your users should be aware that a migration is taking place. Assure them that any issues will be resolved quickly.

Transfer Your Domain and Update Your DNS

Transferring your domain is the first step of the migration process. This is done through your hosting company.

The next step is to update your site’s DNS records. These records will tell the internet where to find your website, and they need to be updated to include the new server’s IP address. DNS updates can take a few days to propagate across the internet.

Start Migrating Content

Migrate your site in several stages if possible. This will allow you to test the new site before making a complete switch. With that being said, however, try to limit downtime as much as possible.

Post Migration Checklist

The migration process is not complete until you’ve checked everything off this list:

Test Everything

Once all content is transferred, begin testing everything. Check all of your links and redirects, and ensure your site is wholly accessible from the new domain.

Check for any broken links and 404 errors, as these can impact your site’s usability and search engine rankings.

Verify that all forms on the site are working correctly, including contact forms, subscription forms, and other forms your site may have.

Once you have verified that everything is functioning, you can launch your new site.

Notify Search Engines

Ensure that your sitemap is updated and submitted to search engines. This will help them crawl your new site and index your content.

Monitor Traffic and Conversions

Be prepared for your brand to experience a drop in search engine rankings for several weeks. This is typical of the migration process, as search engines must evaluate your new content. Adhering to the best SEO practices will minimize this disruption, but it is not entirely avoidable.

After this adjustment period, your rankings may reach new highs, but they can also decrease. Even with a carefully planned migration and the use of expert SEO practices, it’s search engine algorithms that have the ultimate power over search results.

Make sure you monitor your new site’s performance after its launch by checking your organic traffic. If you see a drop in traffic, it is crucial to investigate the cause and take corrective action.

If you see an increase in your site’s bounce rate, this could be caused by broken links or poor redirects.

Continue Searching for Bugs

Issues will continue to arise even after your site is live. Be prepared to investigate and fix any problems that arise.

Evaluate the Migration

Once your website has been live for several months and things are running smoothly, look back and evaluate the entire process. Analyzing mistakes and blockers can provide valuable knowledge for future migrations.

What went well? What could be improved next time? Document your findings and share them with your team. This will help you plan and execute future migrations more efficiently.

Prepare and Plan for a Successful Website Migration

Site migrations are a necessary headache for businesses. They can disrupt your site’s traffic, cause you to lose ranking, and even affect how search engines view your website. However, if you plan and execute your migration correctly, you can avoid many of these pitfalls.

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Sarah Harris photo

Sarah Harris

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed