Migrating a website has undoubted advantages, but it also presents great risks: if you do not perform the migration correctly, you may lose your traffic and your ranking on Google.
You can use the migration of your website as an opportunity to improve SEO: you have to create the new site by optimizing it for the On-Page SEO and keep all the backlinks of the old domain.
But this only works if you don’t make mistakes during the migration.
When is it useful to migrate your website?
- Rebranding – If you change the name of your business, you must also change the site’s domain.
- To avoid confusing regular visitors to your website, you could announce the new name and domain in a blog post, on social media, and your Homepage.
- To avoid losing the position that the old domain had, you have to be very careful to follow all the rules of SEO migration.
- Switching from HTTP to HTTPS – This migration is the only one that has real benefits in terms of SEO.
Google could find two different domains with the same contents, and therefore think that there are two sites where one is a copy of the other. It could penalize the new HTTPS site because it perceives it as a copy of the old one. For this reason, it is important to pay close attention to redirects in implementing the HTTPS protocol.
Change of CMS in use – You may want to change CMS, for example, switch from Joomla to WordPress. In this case, you have to be very careful to transfer all your images that have been indexed, as well as make a list of all your pages to make sure you don’t forget any of them on the street.
What are the basic rules to keep in mind to avoid losing traffic and positioning?
- Consider whether site migration is the right choice for you
- You could solve your problems in another way, it is not necessarily necessary to migrate your website. This operation involves great disadvantages if it is not carried out correctly.
- In the case of a rebranding, simply heavily changing the look of your site without changing the name of the business, the URLs or the domain is often a better choice.
- Obviously, there are also cases where a very heavy rebranding is necessary, so site migration is also necessary.
- Instead of implementing the HTTPS protocol is useful for SEO, so in this case, migration is necessary.
Try it out
- Don’t rush into your project; take some time to do some tests.
- You have to use a server (dedicated only to the tests) on which to put the new site, to check if the Redirects work, if all the new pages work.
- Doing everything right away will lead you to make mistakes, which if they are very serious, can destroy all your efforts.
- Migrate during a slow period
- If your online activity is slower or less at certain times of the year, this is the right time to migrate your site.
What to do before Migration?
Analyze your entire site
If your site has been online for a while, it probably has hundreds of pages online. Probably you forgot some of it over time. Or you have lost count of pages useful for browsing, and all those that have only four hundred words of text and are useless to your SEO. Maybe you have unindexed pages that you used for an AdWords campaign, and after that, you left them there to collect dust.
Make a list of all your URLs, old and new
Once you have finished analyzing your website, you will need to make a list of all your old URLs and all your new URLs, so that you have a clear view of all the redirects to do and how to do them. This work can be a bit long, but it is necessary to not forget important parts of the site. After all, having only a hundred pages may seem a little, but remembering to do 100 redirects is difficult.
Furthermore, it is important that you highlight your “top pages”, those that are positioned better, and pay a lot of attention to the redirect of those pages because the ideal is to do the migration without damaging the positioning. For this, you need to analyze your sitemap.xml and make sure it is perfect.
Edit Adwords and Social Media
It is important to consider that not all traffic coming to your site is traffic generated by your organic search engine rankings: it could come for example from AdWords ads (which is now called Google Ads) or from social networks.
Redirecting traffic from these sources to the new site is easy. You just need to change the links in the Adwords ads and in the Social Network biographies and make a redirect for everything you can’t change, like the links in your old articles posted by others.
Analyze your organic traffic
You must analyze all your keywords: those for which you are positioned and those for which you would like to position yourself. The keywords for which you are positioned must insert them in a document and assign to each the URL for which you are placed and the new one. This will allow you to more easily keep an eye on traffic changes and redirects to do.
Then write next to each of the operations you need to do to improve their positioning and keep them in mind when creating the new page on the new site. So when the new site surpasses the traffic drop due to the migration, even these improved pages will be better positioned.
The important thing is to see very clearly the progress of your current site, because this way you will have some material to compare, when your new site will be online, to understand if you have made mistakes that may have worsened the positioning.
System Internal Links
Remember to update all internal links on your site. It may seem obvious, but when you start the migration process, you will realize that it is very tempting to leave them like this and do a simple redirect. But you must resist temptation. Not only because a redirect link loads more slowly than a normal one because having too many redirect links can lower your PageRank. The ideal is, therefore, to do a search on your site and update all the links so that they point to the new site.
You have to, before migrating, put your new site on a test server and do all the redirects for the pages, so check if they work. This phase is very important and delicate. If in fact, you are wrong something you will lose the positioning of the page on which you have not made the redirect. The tests serve to highlight any problems that could make you lose your current position.