Digital

SEO Migration Checklist – How To Not Lose traffic

We’ve covered how to move and get the very best SEO outcomes, and we’ve likewise covered elements which are neglected throughout migrations, however this blog site intends to be a go-to resource for anybody going through a website migration.

This is a complicated job and there are much more moving parts than what can be covered here, however with this list in hand you ought to remain in an excellent position to maximize your site migration and to guarantee that any traffic losses are kept to a minimum.

There are a number of phases of migrations, and SEO needs to be a factor to consider throughout. It’s typically the case that SEO factors to consider will just be made from phase 2 onwards, however you ought to endeavour to be included as quickly as possible.

Stage One: Initial Considerations

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At this phase the concepts of moving will be up in the air, and you may not get any even more. It’s crucial to be included from the first day however, as SEO-wise it may be more useful to rebrand, just alter domains or redesign existing possessions.

  • Stakeholder Discussions – Involving everybody from the start is the very best method to raise issues and discover prospective problems.
  • Benchmarking – Through Google Analytics and Google Search Console (and any other tracking), make certain you understand how the existing website carries out in regards to traffic in addition to page speed.
  • Identify The Needs – Make sure that you are moving for a factor. As discussed above, a complete migration might not be required.
  • Discuss KPIs – How will these suit or alter the strategy around migration?
  • Set Timelines – These will alter, however getting a rough summary for style and advancement will assist prepare the SEO jobs.

Stage Two: Preparing On Staging

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This is the meatiest job for SEO, as it will be the basis of optimisations on the pages throughout your website, assisting the pages get indexed, ranked and keep existing traffic.

  • Site Structure – Make sure you go over the additional or gotten rid of locations on the website so that you can consider redirects, modifications in traffic, and so on.
  • SEO & Design Considerations – We typically see styles taking place in their own silo, however it’s important to get SEO factors to consider in early. Form over function might sway those making choices, however they can dramatically alter the efficiency of a website. Unless you are a home name, you will require this natural efficiency instead of a fancy and uncrawlable website.
  • Sitemaps – These require to be developed and upgraded routinely. Ideally they will be vibrant and follow your website structure. Most CMSs enable this and are integrated in, however custom-made tasks require to include these in.
  • Robots.txt – This will require to be in location to obstruct your staging website and make certain that just the best pages are crawled. You can eliminate inquiry strings from being crawled, however make certain this doesn’t impact other pages you wish to rank. On staging websites it is best to utilize Screaming Frogs custom-made robots.txt center to see how it will act as soon as live.
  • Redirects – If you are moving there will a minimum of be redirects from your existing to next version. More likely there will be previous ones too, so make certain you get these an plan redirects so they don’t clash or use needless steps. Rather than URL 1 to 2 to 3, you can just go 1 to 3 in most cases.
  • URLs – Similar to the site structure, you need to make sure the different sections follow logical paths and are both user friendly and informative.
  • On Page Optimisations – For most pages which have new equivalents, these can be copied over. This is preferable as you can see like for like, rather than adding more variables into your migration. If you are combining or splitting pages, these will need more work on titles and headers.
  • Structured Data – The basics of this can be copied, but you will need to update things depending on page rewrites and merges. FAQs may be rewritten and you can work new structured data into development plans to allow automated changes in the future.
  • NoIndex – On staging sites NoIndex can be awkward as it may be set across the site, but you can use other blocking of crawlers.
  • Canonicals – These can be done easily on staging by looking over the end part of the URL after your top level domain (TLD).
  • Internal Linking – If you are keeping a similar structure and content the internal linking should be updated to avoid needless redirects. If you are rewriting content then it can be a good time to upgrade your internal linking and make sure your best pages are easily accessible.
  • Tracking – At this stage you will be limited to sample data from testing, but you can make sure that events and goals are tracking correctly, ready to be switched over.
  • Security – This is straightforward from an SEO strandpoint, as you just need to ensure that the site will resolve to the HTTPS version.
  • 404 Pages – As well as styling and making sure a 404 page is working, you need to make sure that there is a strategy in place to deal with error pages when they occur. If you are running an online store, are you redirecting old products or keeping pages live and displaying out of stock?
  • Image Optimisations – Make sure that assets which are made for the new site are run through compression software to help with page loading times.

Stage Three: Pre-Launch

Making sure your hard work is actually working and visible on staging and ready to move over to live. This means audits and thorough checking of previous work.

  • On Page Optimisations – double check that all your rules and custom optimisations are in place and visible.
  • Accessibility – run your different templates through checkers, such as the built in Chrome version or different plugins.
  • Structured Data – Check against the schema.org validator as well as Google’s. They should be the same but it’s worth checking if there are any discrepancies.
  • XML Sitemaps – At this stage you can compare you XML sitemaps against what should be indexable from previous crawls, no index and canonical work.
  • Hreflang – Not an issue for everyone, but you can double check that best practice is followed to give the best chance of being displayed properly across the globe.
  • Page Speeds – Although staging environments differ from live, you can set a benchmark at this point regarding page speeds. Compare any issues against existing site benchmarks and you should still have time to work on the speeds if needed at this stage.
  • Redirects – You can simply crawl you old URL versions on staging to check for errors and any unneeded steps.
  • Analytics & Tracking – Review your tracking code and make sure that the switch over will be good by letting developers know of any code changes, such as a staging to live tracking ID change.

Stage Four: Launch Day

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This stage shouldn’t involve any changes – providing everything works! It’s basically checking the staging site transferred over correctly. This sounds simple, but the realities are much more complex.

  • Staging Site Crawl Comparison – Aside from staging URL differences, the crawls from staging to live should match. If you utilize Screaming Frog you can easily compare the two.
  • Robots.txt – Make sure you remove any blocking when ready. This is an incredibly simple step which is so often overlooked!
  • NoIndex Tags – Similar to the above, if you have specific NoIndex tags or other blocking across pages which you want indexed, make sure they are removed.
  • Server Responses – Ensure server responses are the same on different devices, both across mobile/desktop and different browsers.
  • Canonicals – Update these to the correct URL structure if needed.
  • Redirects – Another redirect check, but these are important! Crawl and check the old URLs from previous iterations.
  • Sitemap Submission – Once you are happy that the site is working and the server responses are good you can submit the sitemaps through GSC to expedite the crawling process.
  • GSC Settings – If you are moving address then you can submit a change of property request. Also claim different variants (https/http and www/non-www) so you can see errors is any arise.

Stage Five: Post Launch

This stage will be ongoing depending on the outcome of the previous stage. The focus is on continuity again but looking more at the pre and post launch live instances.

  • GSC Monitoring – This should be daily initially and then slowing down once most pages have been indexed. This is especially important if you are migrating to a new domain. It’s also a good idea to download the daily statistics for future reference.
  • GA Monitoring – Check for anomalies in the channels, sources, events, goals, etc. Errors could arise anywhere, but another one to check are the page titles to see where 404s occur which might not be reported in GSC.
  • Log File Analysis – The important part here are the hits from search engines. Look into any non-200 status codes as well as which pages are being crawled frequently. You may need to change frequencies and importance in your XML sitemap if your top content isn’t being crawled as frequently as others.

Stage Six: Reviewing

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This final stage can be set at a period after launch to suit – 6 or 12 months down the line to see how performance compares fully, rather than looking at short-term data (which can often be subjective).

  • Review KPIs – Compare your most important site metrics for pre and post migration. This can be rolling in terms of hitting goal and event conversions, as well as general traffic levels.
  • Review YoY – For more in-depth information, a Year-on-Year comparison would be best. Ideally with a whole years-worth of data so you can see how the site performed simply before and after the migration.
  • Review Organic & Non-Organic Stats – Don’t just focus on organic performance, particularly if you have ramped up your other marketing. If you move to a more user-friendly domain, you might get more direct traffic, or your social efforts could bring in more users.

Overall, this list should help you get through most situations regarding migrations. Obviously there are individual differences across sites which might not be listed here, however it ought to offer you a great starting point. For further details, examine out our SEO and SEO migration pages.

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Blake

News and digital media editor, writer, and communications specialist. Passionate about social justice, equity, and wellness. Covering the news, viewing it differently.

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