When deciding to proceed with a website migration, there are many variables to consider. First and foremost, however, it is important to understand when it is necessary – and when it is not – to take this path to Improve the usability and performance of the site itself: if not handled properly and professionally, a site migration can in fact have severe impacts on the visibility of the domain on search engines and the user’s own browsing experience. And it is precisely for this reason that managing the migration of a site from an SEO perspective is of paramount importance to thus ensure the increase of revenue streams through organic traffic.
When and why to proceed with a website migration
Most of the changes that need to migrate a site for SEO purposes can be reduced to these types:
- Domain name changes
- Need to use a different CMS platform
- Changes in the basic structure
- Improvement of website ranking on search engines
- Substantial changes in site architecture
- Change from a national top-level domain(ilmiosito.it) to a generic top-level domain(www.ilmiosito.com/it)
In these cases, whether it is a blog, a simple showcase site or an e-commerce , a website migration is always necessary.
In SEO terms, however, the big difference lies in changing domain names and changing URLs: in these cases, one could face the loss of so-called link juice, or authority transferred through the use of a link from one web page to another. Even with proper setup of all necessary redirects, the backlink profile — created naturally over time or through off-site SEO activity — will have to be rebuilt almost from scratch.
If well thought out, however, migration often represents the decisive turning point for a brand, which is why its management from an SEO perspective is crucial in defining the success of the project.
The stages of a website migration with an SEO perspective
First of all, it is good to carefully evaluate the timing according to the market in which you operate: in fact, the restyling of a website would be best completed in periods where there are physiological drops in sales. Take, for example, a brand that specializes in the production of skiwear: in such a case, the best season to implement a migration is definitely summer, where purchases tend to decrease significantly due to the nature of the products themselves.
Once the timeline is defined, we get into the thick of the migration, which can be broken down into three different phases, where the intervention of a team of SEO specialists becomes decisive:
- Pre-migration phase – This represents the most delicate moment of the entire process, where it is necessary to analyze in detail the site you intend to migrate to identify critical issues to be corrected and strengths to be maintained. So, in addition to an SEO audit of the old site, it is also good to identify all those keywords that offer the best rankings and the list of backlinks, so that we can have a defined picture of the situation and be able to replicate it on the new site. Also at this stage, you need to prepare a mapping of all URLs and meta tags so that nothing is lost due to the relocation of the website and redirect old URLs to the new versions. Then do not forget about the generation of the new Robots.txt file, the new Sitemap, and a check – meticulous – to make sure that all content and Metatags have been implemented in the correct way.
- Migrating a website – You are now ready to go-live the site: in conjunction with this phase, it is critical to activate and verify 301 and 302 redirects, the heart of the migration. We then move on to tracking scripts using analytics and monitoring tools (Google Tag Manager, Google Analytics and Google Search Console) and updating-where possible-input links.
- Post-migration phase – Now comes the SEO check phase: indexing, rankings, and performance of the new site in fact need constant checking for the first few weeks following the website migration, so that prompt action can be taken if there are drops in website visibility and usability.
As seen, therefore, if you do not have a well-defined plan of action to cover all the factors and variables listed, the probability of failure is very high-and with it the loss of visibility in terms of search engine rankings. Therefore, it is a good idea to plan ahead, organize resources and rely on professionals in the field so that the migration can be a success.