Website Migration Guide – Getting it Right
There’s no doubt going live with a new and improved website can be a very exciting time.
It likely represents a significant investment in the resources of time, effort and of course cold hard cash. So the last thing you want, is to see all that effort negatively impact on the search equity and rankings you’ve built up over time.
It doesn’t have to, and can be simply managed by knowing you current site, knowing the new site, making sure the resources are all mapped, handling any exceptions, performing an SEO check and testing, testing and finally more testing.
Website Migration Guidelines
1. Know your website – Simply put this is knowing the navigational pathways and pages that exist on you current website. E.g. If you don’t know you have it then there’s a chance it could be missed in the transfer.
2. Know who’s linking to you – There’s a ton of different places and sources that may contain links to you website. These include direct email campaigns, social engines, blogs, partner and affiliate websites, news portals to 3rd party plugins and other web assets you may own to name but a few. It’s important to find out who they are and where they’re linking to so you can manage them appropriately, and while many of them may require no action, some will. Again there are some good tools out there that can help identify these, for instance Google’s Search Console in there webmaster tool or MOZ’s Open Site Explorer
3. Map to your new site – It’s highly likely that the Url structure between the old and new websites will be different. This means that even if the page content is the same or identical the link to get to it will be different. The world and more importantly search engines know the Url’s to your old site so it’s critical to map them to their respective place in the new website to ensure both good user experience but also retention of page rankings. These mapping should take the form of a 301 redirect which is a permanent redirect and enables the search engine to replace there indexed data with the correct Url. Don’t use temporary (302) redirects.
4. Handle any missed links – Yah – everything’s mapped – or is it! You may have missed a page or resource which when clicked on by the user will experience a page not found or 404 error. Customising this error page to be consistent with the websites look and feel and having an appropriate helpful message will minimise the impact to your user when this occurs.
5. Get an SEO audit – Getting an SEO audit on your new website will ensure all in-page optimisation elements are in place as well as providing a comparison to the current website. This enables you to understand that at the very least the new website is at the same standard as the current website – let’s hope it’s even better. It also provides the opportunity to test that the analytic setup and configuration is in place and recording as expected which will minimise any potential data loss on go live.
6. Test, Test and Test again. – I’m a great advocate of test and re-test and while it’s hard to catch everything, especially for large complex site, it will set the new website up for a problem free launch and happy and satisfied customers.