Website migrations can be nerve racking if you’re a business owner and fraught with potential pitfalls. If a migration goes well you should be seeing some improvement to your search engine visibility. This was taken from migration we handled recently.
If a site migration goes wrong then you can in extreme cases lose all your hard won rankings. So to avoid falling victim to some of the more common mistakes and make your site migration a walk on the park, here are my top SEO tips.
Start by taking a record of all the page urls from your old website
This is essential because you may need to redirect all the old pages to the new versions during the migration process. For example www.examplepage.com/subpage.html may change to www.examplepage.com/subpage.
Record current keyword rankings and ranking pages
Another important part of the data gathering process is taking a snapshot of keyword rankings. This will help you set a benchmark for performance. It also provides crucial data so you can continue to monitor how successful the migration has been.
Avoid making major changes to site structure where possible
Pages can often be amalgamated or split into different subject areas as part of website migration planning. Unfortunately, this new broom sweeps clean approach can cause major problems if the ranking pages change and weaker pages begin to feature in search results (more on this here). It is better to make changes carefully over time rather than make wholesale changes that may end up doing more harm than good.
Think carefully about website architecture
Even small changes in the structure of pages can have an impact on rankings. If you have an important keyword ranking you need to protect at all costs, ensure that the ranking page continues to target that keyword and that design elements don’t get in the way of search engines crawling the page.
As part of the planning process take a record of all the old meta page titles
Meta titles are one of the most important ranking factors. Sometimes title tags are not copied over and this can be the root cause of a catastrophic drop in keyword rankings.
Take a before and after technical SEO audit
A site migration is a good way to get rid of a lot of old SEO issues that may have been holding the website back in the search results. Taking an audit pre and post launch will ensure that those old issues haven’t been exported and no new issues have arisen.
Monitor keyword rankings
Keyword rankings are an important indicator of the underlying health of the website. If keywords have dropped several places, this should set alarm bells ringing. While you might expect some fluctuation when pages are 301 redirected, these fluctuations should be temporary in most cases unless competition for a keyword is high.
Monitor Google Analytics
If you had Google Analytics set up on your old site this will contain lots of data on how your website was performing and this can be compared to data generated from the new site. For example, you can check traffic year on year to make sure there has been no impact on visitors to your site following the migration.
Monitor Google Search Console
Google’s search console is an excellent diagnostic tool. It will help you diagnose most of the problems that will impact on your SEO and provide data you can use to discover 404 pages and broken links which can often be a problem following site migrations.