Website Migrations: When Should I Consider SEO?

Moving your website to a new domain or platform can be exciting as it opens up possibilities for growth and allows you to redefine your online presence. 

However, when planning a website migration, it’s crucial to think about the impact it may have on your search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts. When considering a website migration, it’s essential to address SEO concerns early in the planning stage to avoid potential setbacks, and avoid any negative impact on your website’s search engine rankings. 

Whether you are changing your domain name, restructuring your website, or moving to a new platform, here are some tips and recommended tools to help manage your SEO website migration effectively.

Table of Contents

What is a Website Migration?

Website migration refers to the process of making significant changes to a website’s technology, structure, design, or location in order to enhance its online visibility.

What are the common reasons for a Website Migration?

The term “migration” suggests substantial modifications that require a compelling reason to undertake. Some common motives for website migration include:

  • Revamping your site’s structure, navigation, or design: When your existing design requires an update or when your site’s structure and navigation discourage search engine crawlers from effectively crawling and indexing your pages.

  • Transitioning to a new framework or content management system (CMS): This may be done to enhance your site’s performance, security, or functionality, as a different framework or CMS can offer superior capabilities.

  • Optimising for the mobile version: It is crucial to have a mobile version of your site to cater to visitors using tablets or mobile phones, as mobile compatibility is increasingly important for user experience and search engine rankings.

  • Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS: A switch from HTTP to HTTPS is necessary to ensure visitors’ security and privacy. HTTPS encrypts visitors’ information and prevents alarming notifications about potential risks, thereby boosting trust and confidence.

  • Transferring to a new server: Relocating to a different web hosting provider can improve the overall speed and performance of your site, particularly if it is experiencing growth. A faster site is appealing to visitors and search engines, contributing to better user experiences and improved search rankings.

  • Changing your domain name: Occasionally, a site migration is necessary when rebranding involves a change in the domain name. This involves transferring the entire website to the new domain, ensuring a smooth transition during the rebranding process.

The Impact of Website Migrations on SEO

Website migrations, while often necessary for growth and improvement, can have a significant impact on your site’s SEO if not executed carefully. Understanding these potential impacts is crucial for mitigating risks and maintaining or even improving your search rankings.

Pre-Migration: SEO Checklist

Before initiating a website migration, it’s crucial to lay a solid foundation to minimise the potential impact on your site’s SEO. Let’s begin at the start, focusing on how you should construct your plan:

Pre-Migration Benchmarking

Benchmarking is a crucial step to gauge the performance of your website before migration. 

You should analyse existing traffic and benchmark organic traffic levels, keywords rankings, and current page speed.

Crawl Your Existing Site

Crawling your existing site is a crucial step in understanding its structure, identifying potential issues, and planning for a successful migration. 

Use a website crawling tool to generate a full list of all URLs on your current site.

Redirect Map

If you change the URL structure of your new website, you will need to create a redirect plan for mapping old URLs to their corresponding new URLs. 

Failing to properly redirect the pages will result in the new pages not receiving the same traffic and PageRank as the old pages, negatively impacting your rankings.

Backlinks are an essential component of SEO, as they indicate the authority and credibility of your website. 

During a site migration, it’s important to audit your backlink profile and ensure that existing backlinks are redirected to the appropriate pages.

During Migration: Best Practices for SEO

This phase of migration is a critical juncture where careful execution is essential to prevent disruptions to your site’s SEO. Follow these best practices to safeguard your SEO during the migration process:

Implement Redirects

As you transition to the new website, ensure that 301 redirects are in place for all old URLs. Redirects pass the link equity from the old URLs to the new URLs, and help to preserve your site’s SEO value. 

Regularly monitor and update the redirect map to address any issues that may arise.

New XML Sitemap

Create a new XML sitemap to reflect the new structure of your website. This helps search engines understand the hierarchy and relationships between pages. 

Submit the updated sitemap to Google Search Console to facilitate efficient crawling and indexing.

Update Robots.txt File

Update the robots.txt file to align with the structure of your new website. Maintain essential directives that facilitate proper crawling and indexing, such as allowing access to the sitemap. 

You should also retain any rules that prevent bots from crawling duplicate or low-value content.

Monitor Crawl Errors

Regularly check your website’s crawl reports using tools like Google Search Console. Address any crawl errors promptly, as these can impact your site’s indexation and search performance. 

Keep a close eye on error reports during the migration to catch and resolve issues early.

Test URLs and Navigation

Regularly test URLs and the overall navigation of your new website. Ensure that internal and external links are working correctly, and users and search engines can navigate your site seamlessly. 

Resolve any broken links or issues with URL structures promptly.

Analytics and Performance

Continuously monitor analytics and performance metrics during the migration. Track key indicators such as traffic, and conversion rates. 

Any significant deviations from the norm may indicate SEO issues that need immediate attention.

Communicate Changes to Stakeholders

Keep stakeholders informed about the migration progress. 

Effective communication ensures that everyone is on the same page and can respond promptly to any unforeseen SEO issues that may arise.

Post-Migration: SEO Analysis

The completion of your website migration marks the beginning of the post-migration phase, where assessing the impact on SEO is crucial. Follow these steps to conduct a thorough post-migration SEO analysis:

Monitor Indexation Status

Check the indexation status of your new website using tools like Google Search Console. Ensure that search engines are successfully crawling and indexing the updated pages. 

Address any anomalies or discrepancies in the indexation process. Keep a close eye on your website for any 404 errors that may arise post-migration.

Verify Redirects

Review the effectiveness of the redirect plan implemented during the migration. 

Use a crawling tool to identify any redirect issues, such as redirect chains or loops. Rectify these issues promptly to maintain link equity.

Keyword Ranking Assessment

Evaluate the impact of the migration on keyword rankings. 

Compare pre-migration and post-migration rankings to identify any fluctuations. Prioritise efforts to optimise content and address any declines in keyword performance.

Continue monitoring your backlink profile post-migration. Ensure that authoritative backlinks have been successfully redirected to the new URLs. 

Address any issues with backlink preservation and proactively build new, relevant links.

Analyse Organic Traffic

Assess changes in organic traffic post-migration. Use analytics tools to compare traffic patterns, including the number of sessions, user behaviour, and conversion rates. 

Identify any areas of improvement or potential issues affecting user engagement.

What are the common pitfalls of site migrations?

Despite careful planning, website migrations can be fraught with challenges that may have adverse effects on your site’s SEO. Here are some common pitfalls to be aware of and strategies to avoid them:

Incorrect Redirects

Redirects should be carefully mapped out from old URLs to new URLs. 

This should minimise the impact on performance and provide a good user experience, ensuring users arrive at their chosen page via a redirect. 

If redirects are not implemented correctly, this will lead to a loss of traffic and rankings.

Neglecting to update internal links can lead to broken navigation and negatively impact SEO. 

Create a comprehensive plan to update all internal links, ensuring they point to the correct URLs on the new site structure. 

Regularly check and test internal links to identify and fix any issues that may arise.

Analytics & Tracking

During a migration, it’s important to make sure that Analytics tracking code is carried over from the old site to the new. 

The longer the tracking code is not in place, the more data is lost, making it hard to measure performance. 

Post-migration checks should always be carried out, including testing that the tracking code is working.

Crawling & Indexing Issues

Post-migration checks should be carried out to ensure the new website can be crawled and indexed. 

Checks should include: noindex tags are not present on key pages, robots.txt file is not blocking key pages, new sitemap is submitted for indexing, and progress checks of pages indexed by Google. 

Anything that could delay indexing will mean a drop in performance.

Issues With Functionality

Any functionality issues with the new site will harm performance.

Testing is key to identifying issues. Look at menu navigation, links, buttons, contact forms. Does everything work as it should?

Also consider accessibility of the website. Look at elements such as readability, colours, screen reader compatibility and forms.

It’s really important to check the new site on different devices, or you risk losing a large portion of your traffic if the site doesn’t function properly on mobile or tablet.

The benefits of working with The SEO Works during a website migration

At The SEO Works, we understand that a website migration is a critical undertaking, and our expertise in both SEO and Web Development positions us as a strategic partner for a seamless migration. Our comprehensive services begin with a detailed SEO audit of your current website, providing a benchmark and foundation for meticulous planning tailored to each client’s unique needs.

Our expert team supports you throughout the migration process. By leveraging our technical expertise, we adeptly handle complexities such as URL restructuring and redirect mapping, ensuring your migration aligns with the latest SEO best practices.

Throughout the migration, we provide continuous monitoring of key SEO metrics, enabling us to swiftly address any emerging issues. Post-migration, we conduct in-depth analysis to assess the impact on your SEO, and identify areas for optimisation.

If you’d like to find out more, get in touch with our expert team and we’ll assist you wherever we can!

Conclusion: The Importance of SEO in a Website Migration

In summary, incorporating SEO into website migrations is crucial for businesses looking to maintain and improve their online presence. By considering SEO during the migration process, companies can mitigate the risk of their visibility and ranking being reduced that they have worked hard to achieve.

Implementing SEO strategies during website migrations allows businesses to optimise their new site, increase visibility in search engine results, attract more organic traffic, and effectively compete with their industry rivals. SEO also enhances user experience, builds trust among potential customers, and provides valuable insights into customer behaviour.

Ultimately, by taking SEO into account during website migrations, businesses can enjoy long-term success and reap the benefits of improved website performance, increased brand awareness, and higher conversion rates. 

So, when considering a website migration, remember that it’s never too early to start incorporating SEO into your strategy!