No matter how much you love your current website, or how much time you’ve spent pruning it to perfection over the years, there may come a time when you need a new one. Maybe you need to go from HTTP to HTTPS, update your content dramatically, or even switch domain names entirely due to a branding or company name change. Long before your website rollout, you must include thinking about SEO strategies. After all, website migrations can be like a suckerpunch to your existing SEO rankings if they’re not handled thoughtfully and expertly. So, here are some of our biggest website migration tips to help you plan for the big move – and keep the SEO mojo you’ve worked so hard to create.
Map out the goal
As with any marketing initiative, stop and consider why you’re migrating your website. Is it even necessary? In many cases, you can get away with making some tweaks on your site without changing anything structurally or significantly. But sometimes, you do need to take the leap. If that’s you, make sure all your stakeholders are clear about what the ultimate purpose is and how you plan to get there.
Before even taking a single breath on your site migration journey, map out the steps involved and what resources will be needed. How much will the process cost? Calculate your best estimate and then add 20% as a buffer. A wise person once said that everything costs more and takes longer than you think it will and, while we like to think of ourselves as optimists, we do agree with this… especially in marketing and even more in website work.
If the budget is too much of a stretch right now, is there a lesser project you can execute instead? A poorly migrated site will not only fail to keep your SEO in a good spot, but it can also mess up your customer experience and even impact revenue. Factoring in all of this proactively will help decide if you can move forward at this time and if so, prepare you for a successful migration.
Weigh UX vs. SEO
A site migration is defined as “any event whereby a website undergoes substantial changes in areas that can significantly affect search engine visibility — typically changes to the site’s location, platform, structure, content, design, or UX.” We want to draw your attention to the last part of that sentence: UX (user experience). There has to be a give and take between UX and SEO because what is best for SEO (e.g. tons of copy and keywords) can be alienating if not altogether damaging to UX.
So, consider the balance between the two. Have you struck the right balance with your current site? You can get some clues as to whether you have or not by looking at the volume of conversions you get as well as your SEO ranking. If one is high and the other is not, you may want to make adjustments to even them out a bit. For most companies, it’s important to prioritize both relatively equally. But let’s say you don’t get much inbound traffic and 95% of your clients come to you through word-of-mouth referrals. In this case, UX would matter more than SEO since you want your customers to enjoy using your site and don’t really need the inbound boost from strong SEO.
Look at your links
One of the most crucial SEO strategies to get right during a website migration is your linking strategy. If a backlink of yours on another site takes someone to a 404 error on your own page after you roll out your new site, the URL’s value is reduced and your SEO is weakened. We recommend pulling your site data through a tool like Moz or Google Search Console in order to review all of your backlinks. You can attempt to update them as you prepare for the new site, but only focus on ones from high authority websites. Otherwise, the payoff won’t be worth your time. Also make sure to have a plan for your own internal site links. All of your content URLs will need to be changed to reflect the new site, for example, and this takes time.
Finally, there are two steps we can’t endorse strongly enough: working with an experienced SEO partner and testing before the new website rollout. The former can help with the latter, and the combination is really the only way to make sure you’ve dotted all your SEO “i”s, and crossed all your SEO “t”s. And, we just happen to be such a partner who can help. Give us a call!