According to Episerver, 92% of buyers visit a website before making a purchase (Episerver, 92 Percent of Consumers Visiting a Retailer’s Website for the First Time Aren’t There to Buy, 2017). Hence, maintaining a strong online presence is of utmost importance to any business.
As most business to client interactions are shifting online, one of the biggest online challenges companies face is when they have to either launch a new website or shift to a new domain (i.e website migration). Issues that arise during website migration include loss of traffic, drop in keyword rankings as well as general downtime. The process of migrating a website often causes companies a downtime of about 24-48 hours as well as an average revenue loss of $5,600 per minute (Hongkiat, How to Migrate Website With Minimal or No Downtime, 2018).
At GO MO Group, we have conducted website migration for several hundred clients. Our in-depth research has helped us to create a methodology that companies can use to avoid common issues that occur during website migration.
The Types of Site Migration
Depending upon the nature of the migration different types of migration must be considered. Below mentioned are some of the major categories:
1. Site move migration
This scenario occurs when a site moves to a different URL altogether due to the following reasons:
- Protocol change: Protocol change is when a website moves from HTTP to HTTPS due to numerous factors.
- Subdomain or subfolder change: This happens when a company decides to move ccTLDs to subdomain or subfolders.
- Domain name change: Domain name change becomes necessary when a company opts for rebranding.
- Top-level domain name change: It is a must for companies when they decide to launch an international website for global exposure.
- Site structure changes: These are the changes made to site architecture that have an effect on internal linking and URL structure.
Replatforming migration is a process that involves a website to move from one CMS to another. This shift brings about more than one change to the website which results in changes in site design and URL structure.
3. Hybrid migration
The hybrid migration process enables migration of on-premises mailboxes to on-site. This type involves different forms just like site move migration. Though hybrid migration makes transfer of existing mailboxes to a new one easier, the rate of risks and complexity is much higher in comparison to other types.
Website Migration: The Three Phases You Can’t Afford to Miss
It is a common notion that website migration can result in a loss of traffic and keyword rankings, however, it is not always necessary, if adequate steps are followed. At GO MO, we have identified an optimal way through which migration can be carried out. Thus, leading to successful migration of your website. Following are the steps that you should follow:
Planning: The reasons for website migration may be various, but it is always ideal to plan well in advance. Here are some of the factors you could consider while prepping for site migration.
- Based on your requirements, you need to first determine which types of migration you need to conduct. You can refer to the different types of migrations mentioned above
- Once you have determined the type of migration, you need to explain the scope of work of this activity to your team and set an optimal time frame
- You should not only ensure that you have the IT and SEO expertise, but also sufficient capacity to carry out website migration in a smooth manner
Data Backup: If proper backup is not taken, you can end up losing all the information on your old website during the process of migration. Hence, data backup is one of the most important steps in this process. Here are some of the important elements you should take a back up of:
- SEO technical factors like:
a) Meta tags
b) Internal 404s
c) Broken links
d) Alt tags
e) Header tags
f) Response code
- All the goals set up in Google Analytics on your old site
NOTE: It is always recommended to take an entire site backup, front end & back-end, before migration to ensure no data is lost.
Redirection: Another important consideration before migrating your website is to ensure that after launch of our new website all your old URLs are redirected to the relevant pages on the new website. To ensure smooth transition, you should consider doing the following:
- Conduct URL mapping activity on the old website, to identify which URLs on the new website they should be redirected to
- Conduct 301 URL redirection to ensure there is no loss of traffic
- Once the list is created, redirect the old URLs to the new links
- Manually check a few URLs to ensure redirection has been successfully completed
Benchmarking: During migration, it is extremely important to measure your site’s performance by creating benchmarks. This will help compare the new site’s performance with the previous one, pre and post migration. However, in order to create an optimal benchmark measurement in Google Analytics, you need to store the following data before migrating:
- Relevant traffic
- Bonus rate
- Landing pages
- Performing pages
- Top exit pages
Final checks: Before initiating the migration process, conduct a final quality analysis on these pointers
- Check that all the UI/UX changes you have made to the new website have been implemented as per your requirements. You can check the following:
a) Spacing issues
b) Broken images
c) Site navigation
- Check that all the content, on page and internal blog, have been transferred optimally to the new website. Check for the following:
b) Font sizes
c) Flow of content
Implementation: This is the final step in the pre-migration phase. In this step you need to implement the following:
- Setting up Google Analytics and place the code on your new website
- Create new robots.txt in the root folder of your new website
Account setup: Much like a new website, the first action to take on your website is to setup the following:
- Google Webmaster
- Google Analytics
- Google Adwords
Check Links: Due to bulk redirection, it is very to keep a check on the URLs present on the new site. You should check for and fix the following:
- Check if 404 URLs are present and redirect them to relevant pages
- Check if any links from the old website are not redirecting to the new website
- Check that www. redirection has been conducted optimally for the URLs present on the new website
- Check if there are any HTTP errors and fix them by redirecting them to HTTPS pages
NOTE: For easy bulk redirection, you can use Simple 301 redirect plugin. However, this can be used for WordPress sites only.
Data Transfer: When the process of website migration is done, the final data transfer should be made. Data transfer is an essential step in the post-migration process as for making the new website to look just like the old one. For the replication to look seamless, the following should be checked-
- Re-install plugins which were used in your old site
- Create and update an XML Sitemap on Google Webmaster
- Re-conduct internal linking for all the pages present on your new website
- Update the URLs present in the goals with the new website’s URLs, via Google Analytics
- Execute and fix SEO technical factors like:
a) Meta tags
b) Internal 404s
c) Broken links
d) Alt tags
e) Header tags
Measuring performance: Once a website goes under the process of migration, it is extremely crucial to constantly keep tracking the performance. Tracking of the following factors is of utmost importance:
- Keyword rankings
- Number of indexed pages
- Organic traffic
- Organic conversions
- Goal conversions
- Bounce rate percentage
While we have created this list after a lot of research and experimenting, it is important to note that website migration is an ever changing process. To conduct this activity optimally, we encourage to always stay updated.
If you have some suggestions or comments for us regarding our checklist, please write to us! Till then, keep reading GO MO’s blog for tips and tricks on how to improve best use digital marketing.