When the digital marketers, especially the SEO people hear the term ‘website migration,’ it shatters the bones of their bodies as if they’re about to witness apocalypse. Why wouldn’t it? After all, their years of hard work could potentially be wiped out in seconds. That’s why almost nobody likes website migration. But, it’s inevitable. At some point, you’d need to give an overhaul to your site whether you like it or not.
Before we get to the do’s and don’ts, how’s and why’s of website migration, let’s understand what website migration actually means. Fundamentally, website migration is the process in which a website goes through major changes. These might be content changes, or URL structure changes, or UX related changes.
As Google watches your site day in day out, even the thought of migration could give you sleepless nights. However, you don’t need to destroy your brain cells. With proper planning, right strategy, and appropriate steps, you could limit the damage to the minimum.
Let’s start with the website migration checklist, shall we?
Checklist and Process of Migration
- Ask yourself if you really need website migration
We won’t nag you about this one and leave it to you.
- Crawl your site
Tools like Screaming Frog are great at scanning every corner of your site. You might be shocked seeing some of the pages that you didn’t think even exist. Such crawlers will show you literally everything that you have on your site. Once you crawl the site, make a sitemap of it and compare it with the migrated site.
- Don’t jump straightaway, experiment first
Sandbox environments exist for a reason and it’s called ‘trial and error.’ Develop the sandbox version, try it, make your users try it, and go ahead if you’re confident enough. If you don’t want to test the changes in the sandbox, make changes to your live pages/subdomains that are not as important as your main site. For example, if you’ve got most of your users from the US, and very less from New Zealand, migrate your New Zealand site and see how it pans out.
- Identify which pages to be deleted and created
We don’t need to tell you how to do it, do we?
- URL mapping
If you’ve got a new and an old URL for the same purpose, you’re in a bit of trouble. You could be penalized for duplicate content. That’s why you should map new URLs to the old ones.
- Save your analytics data
The same reason why you crawled your website, you should also keep a record of your Google analytics data. It could come pretty handy once the migration is done.
- Prepare your new sitemap
We can’t stress enough on this point. Your sitemap should be your Bible, or your Quran, or your Gita, or your Commandments – whatever you want to call it. This is how your new site will look like and that’s why preparing it with precision is of utmost importance. So, take your time.
- Make a new robot.txt file
Setting up a new robot.txt file will stop search engines from crawling your site. You should set up the file by including the parts of the site Google can and cannot crawl.
- Is this the right time to migrate?
You know your business better than anyone so it would be you who’d know the right time to migrate the site. Choose a period in which your business will be least affected.
Website migration: SEO strategy
1. Identify pages with inbound links
Inbound links play a great role when it comes to your site ranking and driving traffic. That’s why you cannot afford to leave them behind. So, you’d need to update the URLs wherever your pages have been mentioned. You should identify them and contact the site administrator to update the link.
2. Record current rankings
Before you get on with migrating, you MUST record your site’s rankings on popular keywords. This will work as a benchmark for your future SEO endeavours.
3. Set up 301 redirect
301 redirect redirects your old site to your new site. You should do this for all pages, especially the ones with high traffic. This way your rankings will be less affected. 301 redirect tells Google that your site has migrated.
4. Perform a comprehensive SEO audit of your current site
Performing an SEO audit gives you a clear idea of what’s working and what’s not working on your site. You should conduct SEO audit even if you’re not going through a migration.
On the surface, website migration seems like a daunting task and rightly so. But there’s no need to press the panic button as there have been thousands of websites who have successfully gone through this phase. If someone can do it, so can you!
Original Article Source-> A Complete Website Migration Guide – Checklist, Process & SEO Strategy