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Daniel Bishop
Daniel Bishop

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How to Handle a Website Migration Without Losing Traffic

Migrating your website is not something that you should do lightly. In fact, it’s a risky proposition that could backfire if not done correctly. Make sure that before deciding to migrate that you’ve taken on a comprehensive decision-making process that covers all of the pros and cons. There are several legitimate reasons for wanting to make a switch. In most cases, it’s because the website is hosted on an old platform that doesn’t support everything you need for successful search engine optimization. However, it could just be that your site has major issues and requires an overhaul to be able to rank properly.

Website Migration Basics

Website migration can refer to either changing the basic setup of your site or changing the technology you will be using with it. It is not the same as updating your site. Migration means that your site will undergo extensive changes that will fundamentally alter its structure, content, design, or the location where it is hosted. Migrating comes with a ton of risks. You may lose the rankings you’ve worked for on search engines, or you could even end up losing pages and components of your site that you wanted to keep. Once you’ve made the choice you must do it right to find success and not find yourself in a bigger hole.

Here are some ways to mitigate the risk and make sure that you don’t lose your rankings and lose revenue when you migrate.

Plan It Out

You’ve probably heard the phrase that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. That’s especially true when it comes to site migration. You need to have a strategy mapped out from the outset so that nothing is missed and everything is considered. Run it past everyone who has a stake and some knowledge of website development and SEO to get feedback to make your plan as bulletproof as possible.

That said, there is no doubt that some things will not go as planned throughout the process, so you also need to be flexible. Build-in extra time for it in case you need to make changes you weren’t expecting. Everyone should be aware of the possibility of delays so that it is not shocking when it happens.

Make sure that you are not planning your migration during inconvenient times. This means waiting until after your busy season. You want to leave yourself enough time so that everything is up and running and well-tested before you get to your peak time. Otherwise, you could hurt your sales when you need them the most.

Testing

Speaking of testing, make sure you do a lot of it. Throughout the process, at every step, test to make sure that everything is working. A slight change may have a ripple effect on other components of your pages or your site, and it’s important you stay on top of them. Otherwise, you could have a big mess on your hands down the road. In fact, you can migrate your site in bit-by-bit with testing along the way. Testing should continue after the migration as well to make sure that everything is still working when the site is live. This can include using an online SEO tool to make sure that your SEO is still effective.

Changing Technology

If you are migrating your entire website, then there’s a good chance you will want to update the technology behind it when you do. Unfortunately, while new technology can be faster and come with bells and whistles, it may not be automatically SEO friendly. You might have to integrate tools and tailor your content to make sure you can maintain your SEO from the site before it was migrated. If you change the structure of your site, you could also lose regular users who may find the changes difficult to navigate because they were used to the old way. As you change, make sure you continue to check your SEO score online to make sure that things are still running smoothly.

One of the most important things when changing technology is speed. Website speed is one of the biggest factors for user experience and thus your SEO scores. If you are not considering this when you migrate, then you may lose some speed performance when making the change. This can drastically decrease your traffic. Of course, new technology may also help to improve your site’s performance, so make sure that you know what your technology can do.

Site Structure

Migrating a website means changing its basic structure. There’s almost no way around this. However, this can also affect your internal links in unexpected ways. You need to account for this when making your strategy. When it comes to long-tail keywords, you need the vital pages to be as close to the homepage as possible. There are online tools you can use to test how many clicks a certain page is from the homepage, so you can work to get them closer. Mapping out your site ahead of time will help with this process so that you aren’t making updates and changes on the fly.

Redirects

If you are changing the URLs of your site, then you need to make sure that users are redirected properly from the old ones to the new ones. If you don’t get the redirects right, you will lose a massive amount of traffic as users end up on dead pages. You will end up with very few visitors and the search engines will have a harder time discovering and indexing your new URLs. The association between the old and new will help you rank higher as rankings can be retained if the redirect is handled correctly.

Content

If you want to rank well, then your content has to be original, authoritative, and share-worthy. The more shares and engagement you get, the better you will rank. Migrating to a faster technology or one that’s more SEO-friendly does not mean that you can get lax when it comes to your content. In fact, if your content affects your site speed in certain ways you may want to make that tradeoff as long as it’s not devastatingly slow. Make sure that your content is geared towards your keywords, and also towards converting your visitors to what you want them to do. To keep up your traffic, then your content has to be as good or better than it was before, or else all the work of migrating will have been for naught.

SEO is not a simple process anymore. It involves taking into consideration many factors and weighing what works best for your site. The same goes for migrating your website. If you do not account for everything and test along the way, then you could end up with a disaster on your hands. Check your SEO score regularly after you launch your migrated site, and make any tweaks you need to keep your rankings intact. Most of all, remember that SEO is an ongoing process, and your site migration can be a success if you take all the right steps.

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