By Stavros Vichos
Migrating a website is tricky at the best of times; the process is incredibly time consuming, there is lots of pressure because business critical data is potentially at risk, and of course the larger the website, the more complicated and intricate the process will become. These tips should help make your website migration a success.
Stating the obvious, when you create a new site, the old one doesn’t just disappear, so it’s important not to forget about it. The main reason for this being that you will likely have naturally built some links to your old site which will have considerable SEO value. You can check, by running your old URL through an analysis tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer, which will show you all the links pointing at your website. You can also use your Google Search Console account (if you have one) and check the ‘Links to your site’ tab there too.
Once you have found all the links pointing at your old website, remember to redirect them to equivalent pages on your new website. If you don’t do this, any time one of those links is clicked on, the user will end up on a 404, and on top of this you’ll be losing all the valuable SEO juice that should be passing through those links.
A good way to solve this problem is to set up permanent redirects, or 301s, from your old site to your new one. If you do this, any visitor or search engine bot will be sent to the new location. Take a look at the information Google has put together on this if you want a little extra help.
Familiarize Yourself with the CMS
If you are migrating to a new content management system (CMS), then ensure that you and your team get to grips with it first. Often the website development team will be able to train you in CMS best practice which can help everyone pick up the key skills, allowing you to quickly add and edit content from the first day. CMS’s vary, and even if you have used one before, your new one may not be as simple to use as you think.
If the new website you’re migrating to is getting a visual upgrade, like the inclusion of more interactive features, better graphics or high resolution images it will be worth your time, making sure that these elements aren’t going to cause problems. Customers are very fickle and nothing is more infuriating than an interminable wait for a webpage to load. In nowadays market, it is very easy for consumers to find an alternative to your product, if your site isn’t working, your competitor’s will be, so you need to ensure you can be accessed.
Liaise with your development team so that they know which tools you are planning on testing your website with, so they can use the same tools to test as they go. A good one to get started with may be Google PageSpeed Insights which takes the content of a web page, analyses it and provides you with suggestions to help that page run faster.
Keep Things Ticking Along…
With a website, it’s never just a case of pushing it live and forgetting about it, so make sure to keep an eye on things going forwards. Below are some tools that will help you monitor your website; they are all free or have a free version.
- Google Search Console – Search Console allows you to mark up the structured data on your site by using the data highlighting tool. It also indicates duplicate content issues and potential errors to you.
- Google Analytics – Another free one from Google, this is paramount to any website migration. Analytics will help you identify any problems on your site, whether it’s a spike in traffic to a 404 or a massive drop in traffic since last month.
- Screaming Frog – Screaming Frog crawls your website and reports back to you on a bunch of important information, from broken links, to data on each page. without having to upgrade from the free version, you can crawl 500 pages at a time.
- Moz – This will enable you to keep track of how your site is doing from an SEO perspective – crucial for increasing organic traffic.
Website migration can be tricky, but there are lots of tools out there to help you through it. Remember that analytics is always going to come in handy and means that you’ll be on top of issues and be able to resolve them quickly.