Are you planning a site migration?
Migration is one of the more difficult – and often feared – SEO tasks.
To make it work, avoid common pitfalls that can affect your visibility and result in lost traffic and revenue.
On August 11, I moderated a sponsored Marketing-Ideas webinar presented by Cody Gault, Migration Services Lead at Conductor.
He shared the most common problem with website migration so you can be prepared to deal with them.
Here is a summary of the webinar presentation.
There are plenty of reasons why brands decide to take on a site migration.
But whatever the purpose, migrating websites can be daunting for most people, even for SEO professionals.
Done wrong, migrating sites poses a lot of risks.
They can significantly affect your visibility and ranking in search results. Even worse, you could lose rankings and revenue.
Gault shared that most of the teams they work with have zero experience with migrations.
Almost everyone is worried about losing locations and traffic, and usually there is not a full plan in place to reduce the risk.
And because most migrations take about 4-6 months on average, teams often feel rushed to complete it.
Common migration problems stem from:
Technical SEO problems. Content changes. Urgent projects. Lack of communication. Lack of action and focus.
There are plenty of checklists for migrating sites out there, but some important topics do not come up often.
Let’s dive into some of them.
If you are working on React or Angular, keep the following in mind:
Internal link often slips under the radar during site migration, but not taking it into account can be detrimental to SEO.
Here are tips for maintaining your internal connection structure:
Do not drastically change your internal connection structure if you can help it. Although changes are likely to occur, be aware of your previous internal connection. Burying parts of the site behind a few layers of pages never ends well. Your menu links mean something. Your menu navigation is a strong signal to Google. Numerous problems can be caused by menu navigation being deleted.
Launch of critical issues
These are the things you will not want to miss checking out before launching your newly migrated site.
Check noindex tags. They have no place on your live site. Check redirects. Make sure they are running. Check robots.txt. You do not want to block Google from crawling your site. Check out canonicals. Reversals are not your friend and often bring problems.
Do not change your content when migrating if you can help it. Changing content removes a previously stable element. Google will need to re-evaluate the site based on changes made during the migration. If you need to change content, you will need to back up old content if you need to add it again. Content recall can be a key factor in a migration recovery.
Targeted redirects correctly. Do not redirect to the website.
If a page is missing, find a suitable match (product to product category). If an important page does not match, you may want to consider recreating the page.
Best practices for migrating sites
Here are general tips and reminders to make sure your migration is as successful as possible.
The more you change, the harder it is to diagnose what caused a fall
If you can stick to certain changes (e.g. content) and distribute it after launch, it will be much easier to identify specific issues
Do not be afraid to push back and delay launch if there are critical issues
Migrations are bumpy enough without adding further problems to the mix.
If a site is going to start up regardless of the issues, be sure to inform the client or your higher-ups about the potential downfall
Do not start during a Google update
Google updates make it difficult to diagnose problems.
If someone comes along that they warn you about, it may be easier to identify how the migration affected things by pushing the launch back.
Avoid incremental migrations
While Google now says they can handle phase transfers, Gault often sees problems with this approach.
Be especially wary of incremental launches when dealing with international sites.
Start your redirects early
Test your redirects if possible – you’ll be amazed at how rare this is.
You probably have errors that can be fixed with testing. Be aware of potential better redirection matches down the line.
Double check your redirects
Check when the site launches.
Check later in the day or the next day.
Check back a week later just to be sure.
Most major migration issues are not always the most obvious. Be aware of what is changing and do not be afraid to push back. Internal linking and content changes are not always good. Keep the migration as simple and “clean” as possible. Consider saving some changes for after the bulk of the migration. Good communication and early addressing problems prevent major headaches later.
Are you considering a site migration? Equip yourself with the right resources, knowledge and expertise to ensure a smooth transition. Talk to Conductor’s expert team.
[Slides] Where website migrations go wrong and sabotage SEO
Check out SlideShare below.
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All screenshots taken by the author, August 2021