Site migration is a process every webmaster has to deal with at some point. There are many reasons why it might be necessary. Yet, the risk of it failing will make you think twice about the decision.
Site migration can be an easy process that results in a significant boost in your results. But to get there, you first need to understand the mistakes you should avoid.
A failed site migration could put an end to your business — especially if you’re in a competitive industry.
That’s why we always recommend to our clients to hire SEOs to handle their site migration.
But first, let us show you how a site migration can fail, and how an SEO can help you prevent that.
4 Reasons Why Your Site Migration May Fail
Throughout our long years of SEO service, we’ve seen lots of cases where a site migration fails.
Many successful companies went out of business after losing authority over search engines. And the common factor among all those failures is terrible SEO.
Here are four ways your site migration can go wrong:
1 – You set a bad migration plan
Site migration, without a solid plan, is no different from walking blindfolded through a minefield.
If you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve and the necessary steps to reach your goal, you’ll never get there.
That’s the problem webmasters often face when migrating their websites on their own.
They don’t have the best understanding of digital marketing, so they find it hard to make an SEO based plan.
They also don’t set the right goals and KPIs to get the best measurement. So even if they make an error, they wouldn’t realize it until after launching their new website.
2 – You don’t follow SEO best practices
The reason behind site migration often is the improvement of marketing and SEO of a website. But if done incorrectly, it may result in significant losses to the business.
The problem here is that bad SEO is much like a bad migration plan.
Webmasters won’t be able to tell if their new sites aren’t following SEO best practices. It’s only after they launch and wait for a few weeks that they’ll be able to notice the negative changes.
But unfortunately, by then, it would already be too late.
Before they can even identify the problems, their competitors would have already dominated the SERPs.
3 – Your old links don’t redirect to your new pages correctly
This one is way too common among failed site migrations — which makes it essential to know.
When you migrate your website to a new host or CMS, the majority of your links are going to change. Your whole site structure will be different. And those changes can lead to huge problems in terms of linking and SEO.
When a search engine starts to notice errors in your site links, you’ll lose all of your rankings for those pages.
So, whether it’s your backlinks, indexed pages, or internal links — you need to make sure they’re well-aligned with your new website’s structure.
4 – You lose touch with your message
Some change can be good, but too much change might put an end to your business.
This often happens after a site redesign or complete rewriting of the marketing copy. The business owner gets too excited about change that they abolish everything they’ve achieved for their brand.
There’s no difference between such a site migration and starting a new business from scratch.
Without consistent messaging and tone, your audience will no longer be able to recognize your brand. And if that happens, you’ll have a hard time reconnecting those people to your brand.
How SEO During a Site Migration Can Go Wrong
Site migration isn’t against any guidelines or terms of service. Yet, Google isn’t so open to the idea of site migration due to the big changes that might happen to your website.
A change in your indexed website URLs makes it harder for crawling spiders to determine which link goes to which page. Also, a new site architecture changes the whole organization of your internal linking. And with that, the relationship between your pages also changes.
That might be a huge problem for search engines.
Recently, a client of ours decided to move their website with the help of a Magento development company.
Unfortunately, we were not involved in the SEO process after pleading to be more involved and supplying SEO best practices and steps to a successful migration plan.
A few weeks after the site migration, our former client decided to go with the Magento design company for SEO moving forward since the owner believed any development company knew search engine optimization. We monitored the site and noticed major drops in their rankings. Their organic traffic has plummeted to a large degree after seeing large gains and continual new highs for organic each year (5 new highs during 2019).
They lost all the results including keyword rankings and organic traffic we had worked hard to achieve and grow over for years.
Their keywords were no longer relevant in the SERPs. And the majority of their pages were nowhere close to the first pages or dropped out of the top 100 search engine results. It turned out that our former client’s site was blocked from being indexed in robots.txt for a significant period.
Even worse, no 301 redirects were implemented. So, search engines had no clear signal from the website that the new pages are related to the old ones.
Why Hire an SEO to Help You With Site Migration
The whole migration process can be daunting and complicated on its own. And the last thing you want is to overwhelm yourself with more details — especially if it’s your first time.
That’s why you should hire an SEO expert to assist you with site migration.
You’ll avoid losing everything you built — and for only a minimal cost.
Expert SEOs deal with site migration regularly.
They understand Google very well. So, they’ll work to meet its’ expectations and stay within SEO boundaries.
They also know the changes your site will go through and how Google will react to that. Thus, you wouldn’t have to worry about search engines not recognizing your website.
Here’s how an SEO will help you with site migration:
1 – Site migration plan
You can’t come up with the right migration plan if you don’t know how your site is performing at present.
An SEO will help you get a better sense of where your website is at the moment and how it can improve.
How will they do that?
Basically, they’ll help you detail out the steps you need to take to move your website from start to finish. And they’ll identify the goals you need to reach and the potential challenges you may face along the way.
Once you understand that and decide where you want to go, they’ll detail out a site migration plan.
That plan often consists of a list of SEO improvements on different aspects such as:
- User experience
- Site design
- Content creation
2 – SEO optimization
One reason why you might prefer to use a popular CMS like WordPress is SEO optimization. The last thing you want is to worry about your new website matching the latest SEO trends and guidelines.
But without the help of an SEO, you’ll face such challenges — even if you’re using WordPress.
A good CMS comes with many features to help ease the SEO optimization process. But the setup and configuration still need to be guided by an SEO expert.
3 – Site links: Redirects and internal linking
This step makes a huge part of the site migration process due to its’ importance. And it often needs to be dealt with before the launch of the new website.
Your old website has a clear site structure with different sections of it linking to each other. But when you make changes to it, many of those links will be broken or no longer accurate.
Also, introducing a new section to a website requires lots of work and accuracy.
For a large website, link redirection and URL mapping are of huge importance. Each page is linked to a dozen other pages. So, an error in a single page might cause dozens of broken links and errors.
Do you want a simple solution is to all that?
Hire an SEO expert.
SEOs will develop a flexible site structure that works with any new pages or sections you create.
They’ll also ensure the accuracy of your internal linking structure and deal with all redirect errors — including 302, 307, 404, etc.
Most importantly, they’ll make sure you don’t lose any of your backlinks over wrong redirects.
4 – Monitoring and tool migration
As we said earlier, keeping track of your data is your best ally if you want a successful site migration.
You need to monitor where you were before, during, and after the migration.
And to do that, you must migrate your site tracking tool while keeping all your site data.
SEOs deal with this problem regularly. They’re used to setting up websites and moving them between Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts.
Before you launch, you might want to run one last analysis to make sure everything is in place.
An SEO will check the responsiveness of your website and make sure all the elements are loading correctly. They’ll also run a quick test to make sure your site speed is on point and identify any issues with it.
Once your SEO decides that everything is in place, they’ll help you update and submit your XML sitemap.
And you’re ready to launch!
If you’re looking to migrate your website so you can take your business to the next level, be sure that you’re not doing the opposite. Any mistake in the process can cause you to lose all your rankings and traffic.
That’s we always recommend hiring an SEO to handle your site migration.
Need help migrating your website? Operation Technology can assist you with that!