The SEO Fundamentals of Website Migrations

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The process of switching web hosting providers is typically tense. Due to the complexity, your hard work optimising your website for search engines may not function if you transfer it to a new server. This isn’t how things have to be, however. To help you maintain SEO best practices during the transition, we’ve put up a website transfer checklist. Continue reading to find out what I mean by that!

What Is a Website Migration?

Website migration takes place when a website goes through major changes that affect visibility on search engines. The motives for migrating might be as varied as the kinds of migrations that exist.

Why do you need to do a site migration?

The need to move your website might arise for a variety of reasons. Relocating to a more capable server might help you start over in many ways, including when rebranding or updating your site. Possible extra SEO gains from this step include making structural adjustments, switching to a more modern content management system, or upgrading to the more secure HTTPS protocol.

Existing domain migration

Domain migration is a process in which a website’s URL is changed but the domain itself stays the same. This is done in order to facilitate a redesign, a switch in content management systems, or other such changes.

New domain migration

Moving your website to a different domain name might mean switching to a different Top-Level Domain (TLD) or consolidating many sites into one.

How Does Migrating Your Website Affect SEO?

There are many hazards associated with transferring your website; these are the ones you should be most concerned about.

  • Visibility loss
  • Traffic decline
  • Domain authority loss
    Putting SEO best practices at the forefront of your migration process can help to reduce any negative risks to the SEO and website efforts you’ve worked so hard to preserve.

The site relocation procedure needs extra caution at three key times, each of which is equally important. We’ll go through what you’ll need to think about and what actions you’ll need to do during each of these stages.

Best practices before a site migration

  1. Explore your present website

First and foremost, you should scan your existing site to create a benchmark list of all your URLs and an assessment of how they are doing in terms of traffic, ranks, and backlinks. This will guarantee that you have a record of everything that’s already on your site, and assist you to set up the following phase.

  1. Make a redirect map.

Implementing 301 redirects on particular URLs will send users to the most relevant page on your new site, rather than a 404 error. It will always guarantee that you capitalise on the link equity and authority of your present website.

  1. Examine your legacy and staging locations

After your first scan, you may create a list of URLs to guarantee that nothing is lost and that they can be retrieved if necessary. This is also an excellent exercise for keeping track of any possible technical difficulties with the site as it is – common concerns include redirect chains, broken pages, or links going to broken sites. Dealing with them before the transfer may guarantee that your new site is both technically sound and has a good User Experience (UX), which is a major ranking factor.

Crawling your staging site before performing the migration is also critical, as you want to verify that technical difficulties are kept to a minimum when the site goes live. It is also critical to maintain track of your robot.txt and sitemaps.xml files throughout the staging site crawl by mapping out your previous URLs. By preventing user agents from crawling certain pages, you may help conserve your site’s crawling budget.

Similarly, the updated sitemaps with the new site’s URLs must be included in the robot.txt files so that search engines may locate, crawl, and index the pages. Failure to do so will result in indexation difficulties, perhaps resulting in the site not showing in organic search results and revenue loss.

Best practices during a site migration 

  1. Explore the new website

If no modifications were made to your site’s Data Source Name (DSN), migration to a new site should occur immediately. If not, you may have some brief downtime. Once the new site is live, crawl it to find performance issues.

  1. Examine indexability and crawlability.

Potential indexability and crawlability concerns with new site migrations must be addressed, therefore ensure that an updated.xml sitemap is mentioned inside the robots.txt file. After that, you should submit it to Google Search Console (GSC) so that Google may crawl the new site.

  1. Recognize problems with rerouting chains

During site migrations, redirect chains are fairly prevalent and may have a detrimental influence on speed performance. For example, if a page is ordinarily directed from A to B, a redirection chain caused by migration would indicate a redirection from A to B to C, resulting in a long time to properly present the page to end-users. This causes speed and performance concerns, as well as a poor user experience, thus it is critical to identify these issues as soon as feasible.

  1. Refresh your tracking analytics

To avoid data loss, it is essential to configure both GSC and Google Analytics (GA) for the new site. GA’s annotation tool is very useful for tracking your site’s performance before and after transfer.

Best practices after a site migration

  1. Carry out a technical audit

Following the migration of the site, it is critical to do a site audit to ensure that everything has gone over as intended. Common areas of investigation include:

Make certain that pages were properly redirected
Indexability
404 errors in crawlability
Broken hyperlinks
Site loading time
Chains of redirection

  1. Keep track of site performance.

Although temporary drops in traffic are usual after a site transfer, it is critical to maintain a tight check on your analytics to verify that there are no other serious problems impacting site performance. The earlier you detect an issue, the less harm it may create.

Website migrations may be a time-consuming and difficult operation, but they don’t have to be. Keeping SEO basics in mind will help make this process go as smoothly as possible. Contact our team at Hostnats if you need the support of an SEO firm to move your website according to best practices. And if you want assistance with the online side? Our knowledgeable Web staff will be happy to help you.