Are you planning on migrating your website? If not done right, a migration can harm a site’s rankings more than you think, in fact it can be quite catastrophic in some cases. Whether as part of a business move or you are simply implementing HTTPS, if you don’t take search engine habits into consideration, you could be at a loss.
Here are a few SEO basics to cover to ensure that you get the most out of your migration and avoid any mishaps.
Is migration the right move?
Google takes a little time to process changes like that of migration, so you can expect a small loss of traffic in almost all cases. You can minimise this fluctuation as best you can, and the best-case scenario would be for Google to treat the ‘new’ site as though it was the original. But there are really no immediate benefits to a site migration from an SEO standpoint, and it certainly doesn’t remove any penalties. Migration is only really worth it when rebranding is required or when HTTPS needs to be implemented.
Use a Testing Environment First (Sandbox)
Test. Test. Test. You should never make a major move, like a migration, without first using a test server to ensure everything will run as smooth as possible. Make sure to test your redirects to save yourself a headache later!
Migrate During Quiet Periods
Plan your migration around your business calendar, assuming there are some sort of seasonal trends to your website traffic. During or shortly after a holiday period generally isn’t advised!
Map Your New and Old URLS Beforehand
Have a clear and concise outline of all of your old pages and new ones, including their respective URLs. In an ideal world, the relative URL structure between the two should be identical to make for a far easier redirection.
Don’t Forget Your PPC
If you are running any PPC campaigns, make sure you have updated the relevant links to save any loss of attribution during the redirect from the old site.
Check for 404 Errors
It is important that you give you site a full crawl (especially during the testing stage) to verify whether there are any 404 errors. It’s a good idea at this stage to make sure your internal links have also been changed; try to avoid linking to the old website, even if a 301 redirect is in place that sends the user to the new page. You can use a tool such as Screaming Frog to crawl the URLs on your old site and verify that they all redirect correctly.