7 Things To Consider When Planning a Site Migration
A site migration is typically a site wide change which could drastically affect search visibility. Whether you’re migrating your CMS platform, changing your domain name or having a site structure re-haul; any migration can impact performance.
Let’s be honest, hearing the words “site migration” puts any SEO on edge.
As SEOs, we always prefer to keep all website migrations as simple as possible.
That’s not because we’re lazy or we don’t want to put in the planning and preparation; but because we want to minimise the risk. I would always be hesitant to change various factors at once, and I would never recommend changing platform, site design, URL structures and content placement within one sweep. That’s because we simply wouldn’t know what has caused an impact.
Let’s say the site revenue has plummeted after the migration – how would we know what has caused that to happen? How could we possible know what to analyse and look for?
It could be the UX changes impacting conversion rate.
Maybe the new page titles and metes descriptions have caused a decline in CTR.
The new site may have crawlability issues with the new platform; or even the old content was serving a purpose to help high volume rankings.
Depending on the migration and the site itself, there are certain steps we need to take to ensure we protect visibility and traffic as much as possible.
Which is why planning is absolutely crucial.
Here are just a few things to consider before making the decision:
Is the site migration required?
When you’re planning for a site migration, more often than not, you’ve been working on sites for months; building trust and authority with crawlers, and now you’re going to change that.
Therefore, the first thing you must always understand is WHY?
Sometimes you’re wanting a refresh of web design; your customers may not be converting as well as you’d have hoped, or your site is a little outdated.
Perhaps your platform can’t keep up with your expansion, did you start on a small platform but now want to accelerate and scale up your site for maximum efficiency.
Maybe you’re moving from HTTP to HTTPS to secure your site.
Or, are you looking to implement a global SEO strategy and need to change your domain name from .co.uk?
There are hundreds of reasons why you want to migrate your site, and as long as you have a valid reason, than that’s okay. As long as you do so with caution.
You have to ensure you’re fully aware of any potential impact this may cause; whether to your overall visibility, current rankings and even traffic.
What will the impact be?
Every site migration is different.
We can’t predict exactly what will happen. But we can help to mitigate any potential road bumps along the way.
Which is why we would always recommend having technical SEO specialists on hand to assist you throughout the process.
Depending on your current site, structure, new site and endless other factors; even the smoothest migrations can have unpredictable impacts.
Many people often overlook the fact that without careful planning and execution, crawlers have to rediscover a site in it’s entirety. We can help show Google the way, to new pages, new elements and new designs, but unless it’s guided well, the impact could be drastic.
Will URLs be changing?
One of the most common questions from both SEOs and Web Developers.
Depending on your reason for the site migration, you may (or may not) want to change your URLs. But it’s important to plan this before any work starts.
Over time, changing URLs continually can be a game changer.
Imagine having a core, commercial driving landing page with a bunch of highly authoritative links which have been acquired.
This page drives 60% of your revenue.
If you were to do a simple change to the structure, but without putting plans in place, your new page could drop completely in visibility and those links could be almost worthless.
Will redirects be required?
If the answer to the above was no, then great. That’s one major step out of the way.
But, if your answer is yes, this is one of the most crucial stages of site planning.
In order for crawlers to re-discover new pages with ease, we would always implement a permanent 301 redirect map at the time of launch. This will instantly direct crawlers users and authority to the new pages; showing that the original page no longer exists and this page is the new one we would like them to visit.
Changing URLs without mapping over redirects can be very costly and could even see online businesses lose their entire revenue stream over night.
Have you considered the user experience?
It goes without saying, but user experience should be at the forefront of your mind. No matter whether you’re having a full site redesign or changing site structure. Navigation is key.
We’d always highly recommend working with skilled UX specialists to ensure you’re redesign is adhering to any best practices, as well as understanding your current users being driven to your site.
Whether that be for placement of CTAs, website navigation recommendations or simply on page factors which sit above the fold.
When do you want to launch?
Planning a site migration in advance allows you to consider launch. Many migrations take months of preparation and launch day is key.
It’s important not only to consider seasonality, but the time of the day and day of the week you want to launch too.
Many businesses have seasonality throughout the year, whether that’s eCommerce sites ramping up the sales towards Christmas, or B2B sites seeing seasonal peaks and troughs throughout the year.
It goes without saying, but launching mid-peak season can be very risky. Especially when revenue is involved. Therefore, we would always recommend launching prior to such a huge season, in time for rankings and visibility to stabilise.
Also, it’s crucial to consider the time of the day and day of the week which you launch. Is there a time of the day where your users are primarily on site?
If you find that all of your visitors tend to browse your site at a specific time of day, or day of the week; we would strongly advise taking this into consideration prior to launch. It’s also important to consider resource too, if carried out effectively, there will be a lot of individuals involved with the launch. So it’s always useful to have these on-hand, just incase!
How will you measure success?
What does success look like to you?
In order to deem whether a migration is successful, it’s important to know the goal.
Again, this will very much depend on the migration taking place.
Are you hoping for an in conversion rate with a new site design or do you simply want to minimise the disruption to rankings and visibility post-launch?
As always, it’s important to also give the new website time. As crawlers re-discover your website, it’s not uncommon so see slight fluctuations within your metrics; but this doesn’t always last forever. So we would always recommend having specialists involved throughout the process; from planning to post-launch to help identify any issues after launching your site changes.
If you’re considering a new site design, restructure or migration; get in touch with our team of specialists today where we can help plan every step of the way.