Website Migration SEO: What to Do (and What to Avoid)
Website migrations naturally comprise a long list of technical challenges and logistical issues. Not least of which is SEO – i.e. how to maintain your site’s prior SERP performance, following the migration.
As is often the case, the worst thing anyone can do when planning a site migration is to adopt a trial and error approach. Preventing SEO issues from occurring in the first place is far easier than attempting to remedy them at a later date.
Forward planning holds the key to a straightforward migration, with all preservation of your site’s SEO performance. Hence, knowing what to do can pay dividends.
What to Do When Migrating a Website?
Key tasks to focus on where SEO preservation is concerned include the following:
- Make a full old URL inventory. Before getting started, you need to create a full list of all your existing URLs. Doing so will enable you to perform baseline comparisons when your new site is up and running – essential or picking up on potential issues and errors such as 400/500 status codes.
- Create a backup of the old site. Be mindful of the fact that something could go wrong along the way, with potentially catastrophic consequences. That is, unless you create a complete backup of the old site, giving you something of an insurance policy against the worst case scenario.
- Plan the new site’s structure and navigation. Carefully plan the structure and navigation system of your new site in advance, paying particularly close attention to page hierarchy to ensure effective SEO performance.
What to Avoid When Migrating a Website?
Of equal (if not greater) importance to the above, knowing what not to do when migrating a website can save you a lot of time and trouble at a later date. For example:
Do not erase your old site. For the time being, and for the foreseeable future,it’s worth hanging onto a backup copy of your old website. In the unlikely event that something goes wrong with your new site, you will be glad you have a full backup of your old site sitting on a spare hard drive.
Do not migrate at peak traffic hours. This can be tricky to co-ordinate if your website has multiple peak hours of various times of day or night. In any case, you need to be mindful of how disruptive a site migration can be for those looking to access your site at the time. If you would prefer to avoid a major traffic issue, albeit a temporary one, migrate at the quietest possible time. Don’t panic if you drop in the rankings. It is practically impossible to conduct a site migration without seeing at least some alteration to your site’s performance. You could even see a temporary fall in your SERP placement, but it is usually nothing to panic about. Google needs time to get to grips with your new site and index it accordingly, so hold back on hitting the panic button for at least a couple of weeks.