Sometimes, it’s more of a question: Is it worth it to migrate a website that already has satisfactory organic traffic results?
After all, it’s a resource and time-consuming undertaking, not to mention the possible loss of organic traffic and keywords positions. So it’s understandable when the site owners require a proper professional risk assessment followed by a recommendation.
However, quite frequently, the question – or a request – comes in after the decision has already been made, and now an SEO team must plan to prevent major negative impacts and ensure a sleek transition to a new domain or a CMS. In such cases, having a well-structured and comprehensive website migration SEO checklist is beneficial to ensure your plan has covered all the bases – and to save you some time and effort. With that in mind, we’d like to offer first-hand tips on a successful website migration.
Why Businesses Decide to Migrate Their Websites
Every plan should start with clear goals defining the priority and course of action. There are two major reasons for website migration:
- Technical reasons
- Business reasons.
The need for the website migration might stem from your current hosting plan restrictions. At some point, you’ll need faster hosting to ensure seamless site performance for consistently growing traffic.
Website migration might also be the case of switching from one tech platform to another for integration, performance, legacy modernization, or other reasons.
Business reasons are quite varied and could evolve as the business evolves. For example:
- Changing a root domain name for rebranding purposes
- Updating for regulatory and compliance reasons
- Scaling up, focusing on a new business direction (i.e., a new service or industry), or launching new products
- Increasing conversion rates by switching to a newer, responsive framework
- As a way to improve website performance in SERP due by updating the existing website structure and cross-linking between categories.
However, retaining the current traffic level and ensuring its further growth should be put first regarding site overhaul. And that’s why a website migration SEO checklist is necessary for the work teams involved.
3 Most Common Migration Scenarios
Let’s start with the purposes each type of website migration scenario is meant for.
Migrating From One Domain to Another
Domain transfers commonly occur in the process of rebranding or company acquisition. Changing your domain name might also be a good idea if you’ve come up with a more concise and catchy name for your organization – and it just happened to be free or not too expensive.
Additionally, switching from a regional domain extension to .com might drive additional traffic if you’re about to re-purpose your commercial website for global reach. According to HubSpot observations, users trust .com websites more than those with .net or .biz domain extensions.
From One Subdomain to Another
Subdomains enhance and diversify root website functionality. The typical situation when you might need to migrate website content from one subdomain to another would be:
- moving duplicating content parts between subdomains with localized content (for instance, nyc.yourshop.com)
- transferring sites from subdomains that start with www. to those without www
- moving your best-performing content-focused subdomain (i.e., blog.yourwebsite.com) into your primary www subdomain to increase its traffic.
From One Tech Platform to Another
Switching to a new CMS or framework can become a burning issue when your current platform reaches its usability limit. Website migration can solve the problem of recurring security breaches, lack of flexible UI customization tools, page speed, or consistent ordeal with updating external plugins.
The latter is a common reason for site owners to opt out of WordPress in favor of Webflow CMS. The case of DNSFilter eloquently reveals how reliance on WP plugins caused site crashes more than once.
In contrast, Webflow excludes such a reliance on third-party plugins as it provides built-in functionality for adjusting layouts, SEO, CMS, and forms.
3 Possible SEO Risks of Website Migration and 1 Solution to Avoid Them
The migration process usually implies radical changes in site structure, which may impact SEO performance.
#1: Loss of Keyword Rankings
URL structure changes when transferring a website to a new domain or subdomain. So to avoid ruining your existing keywords rankings, you must inform Google that the new page is the same as the old one. Redirecting with a proper 301 from old pages to new ones is the right way to ensure that.
That said, you should keep your new domain entirely blocked from search engines’ crawlers until you set the redirect rules. Otherwise, your new site might appear on SERP and start to compete with the old one or even cause a duplicate content issue.
#2: Loss of Rich Snippets
Loss of rich snippets might also occur due to website migration. SERP features are essential to provide users with definitive, concise, and highly relevant answers to their search queries. So retaining them is crucial to stand out among your search engine competition.
Unsurprisingly, proper implementation of 301 redirects will surely help you retain rich snippets. Additional Google bot recrawls after you set 301 redirect rules for new sites will speed up the occurrence of featured snippets in the SERP.
#3: Traffic Loss
There’s always a chance of organic traffic loss shortly after the site overhaul. It occurs mainly due to a loss of website visibility since it will take time for search engines to index and rank all new pages.
However, a thoughtful website migration SEO checklist allows you to account for every detail that underlies sustainable visibility. Before launching the migrated site, an SEO specialist should do the following:
- Optimize site taxonomy and implements logical URL structure with human-readable URLs
- Ensure proper cross-linking so both users and crawlers can navigate through the site easily
- Set up redirect rules (for changed URLs) for external links to preserve link equity
- Implements structured data markup for crawlers to indicate what the website is about.
Finally, experienced SEOs always remember to request a fresh crawl in Google Search Console so the Google Bot would scan all indexable pages. Thus, the renewed site would quickly regain its previous visibility levels. It might even get a significant boost if Core Web Vitals metrics (site speed indicators) improve, thanks to the new optimized tech platform.
Check out the example of one of our recent migrations, and we’ll delve into more detailed cases in the second half of the article:
Solution: Go Step-By-Step and Double-Check Changes That Might Impact SEO
As you can see, SEO specialists and content marketers can prevent and offset the negative impact on a site’s performance in SERP and traffic. But achieving that requires following a structured and consistent website migration SEO checklist.
Moreover, it’s crucial to break down the entire scope of website migration into separate stages – and double-check and assess their results after completion. See, when you implement too many changes at once, it will be tough to figure out what exactly went wrong and spoiled the post-migration SEO performance.