At some point of time, you might have to migrate your website. All the content and technology that went into making your website may need to be upgraded, moved or merged. Site migrations may have been done because maybe you acquired another website that needed to be merged, you might have rebranded and then needed a new domain/ designing or you wanted to transfer to an HTTPS website. This post talks about website migration steps and how to avoid poor site migration which might damage the progress you have made so far.
Website migration is the process in which a website undergoes changes which can affect search engine visibility. These changes include moving of a website from domain to another, switching servers, changing CMS platforms, etc.
Types of website migration
- Existing domain migration: When root domain remains the same it is called an existing domain migration. It includes CMS update, redesign or URL restructure. The existing domain migration has the least impact on the rankings but, if website migration steps are not carried out properly it can severely affect rankings and website traffic.
- New domain migration: In this type of website migration, the domain changes. Usually a new domain migration is done when you move to a new TLD or merge two or more websites. A new domain migration has the highest risks.
- HTTP to HTTPS/HTTP2 migration: In an HTTPS migration, the website remains the same but an SSL certificate is applied to it. This changes every URL on your website from beginning with HTTP to HTTPS. The impact of such migration is quite significant as it is a common cause of reduced website traffic and lowered search engine rankings.
- Combining domains: This is the process of combining multiple domains into one or merging of small domains into the main website. The benefits include the merging of domain authority which might lead to improved rankings on SERPs. A potential risk is getting penalty due to merging with a domain with malicious or spammy links.
Read some of the best tactics to achieve higher results in SERPs, in our blog: BEST TACTICS TO ACHIEVE HIGHER RESULTS IN SEARCH ENGINE RESULT PAGES (SERPs).
Site migration risks
- Ranking decline and loss of organic traffic: Fluctuations in rankings after site migration are quite common. In fact, the impact on rankings and website traffic could last approximately 5 to 8 weeks.
- Dip in conversion rates: After website migration, there might be a drop in the conversion rates. To solve this, ensure that the strongest conversion points of your previous website are present in the new one.
- Broken links: After implementing website migration steps, it is quite common to find spike in the number of broken links. This might be because some old pages may not have been redirected or the links have not been changed.
- Slow or no indexation: Sometimes, after migration, the new site might not get indexed. In this case, check the robots.txt file to make sure that crawler access isn’t blocked.
Common issues that result in poor site migration
Before knowing how to shift website from one hosting to another, it is important to know the common issues that result in poor website migration. This allows you to minimise the negative impact.
- Poor strategy or planning: Having a poor strategy is bound to result in a disaster. Establish benchmarks to keep track of the impact of migration on rankings and traffic. The primary objectives should be retention of traffic and revenue. Have a flexible plan and know that there might be delays.
- Lack of resources: Website migration is a time-consuming and resource-heavy task. So, before implementing website migration steps, estimate the time, resources and effort required. If there is a lack of resources, there might be a risk of failure.
- Lack of testing: Before the launch, thorough testing of the new website is essential. If after testing major issues are identified, it is better to delay the launch to fix the issues. It is crucial that the new website should not be launched before being tested by SEO and user experience consultants.
- Slow bug fixing: There are bound to be a lot of bugs that need to be fixed once the new site is launched. But, there are some major ones that need immediate attention. Slow response to technical bugs can lead to major losses.
Read about the importance of enriching user experience, in our blog: IMPORTANCE OF ENRICHING USER EXPERIENCE FOR DIGITAL MARKETING AGENCIES.
How to shift website from one hosting to another?
Mentioned below are the instructions to move website from one server to another:
- Planning: One of the most important website migration steps is planning. It is quite essential as website migrations are complex and may span over several months. The objectives of a website migration must be set clearly. Changing from HTTP to HTTPS is different from domain migration, therefore, the objectives for both must be different. The primary objective in the first case would be to retain traffic and ranking levels, while in the latter it could be traffic growth.
- Preparation: This includes activities that are carried out when the new site is under development. Reviewing the website’s prototypes before development can help identify and fix SEO or UX issues. After reviewing, the next step is to highlight essential SEO requirements that developers need to be aware of. These requirements could include URL structure, canonicals, navigation, internal linking, sitemaps, redirects, page loading time, etc. The next step is to benchmark the old website’s performance to compare the new site’s performance. This also helps to diagnose areas in which improvements can be made. One of the most important instructions to move website from one server to another is the implementation of redirects. If the URLs are not correctly redirected, visibility and rankings will take a plunge.
- Testing: Pre-launch testing involves the reviewing of the website with the help of UX professionals. Website architecture review, review of internal linking, canonical tags, XML sitemaps, structured data, redirect testing, etc are crucial areas that need to be tested before the website is launched.
- Launch: Once the website has been launched, check the robots.txt file, page redirects, server responses, etc. Also test and upload XML sitemaps and configure URL parameters.
- Post-launch testing: Another one of the important website migration steps is post-launch testing. After the website has been launched, run tests in the same areas as you did in pre-launch testing. In addition, check crawl statistics, review crawl errors and measure website speed. Take advantage of various tools like the search console to do testing.
- Website review: 4 to 8 weeks after the launch of the new website, measure and compare the website’s metrics with the old one. The metrics to be measured include visibility, rankings, bounce rates, average time on page, conversion rates, etc. By looking at these you can conclude if the migration has been successful or not.
Website migration steps involve a lot of planning and testing. By following the above steps and not rushing through the migration, you can ensure the least possible impact on search engine rankings and website traffic. A successful migration can result in positive impact on rankings, visibility and conversions.