We’ve been featured on The Drum this week discussing our top 10 tips for ensuring your next website migration is a success. You can read the article here.

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Here is a helpful summary of our key tips below. We all know it’s a fine art, and one that needs plenty of planning. We hope this guide will serve as a useful checklist when you next need to embark on a website migration.

  • Clarify the scope of your project

Before doing any work towards the website migration, it’s important to clearly define the objectives of the project. Include all stakeholders, as each team will have some input into the migration, and will need to identify their own risks.

  • Plan ahead, migrate during a slow period

Build a buffer into the project plan for unexpected delays, and have resources in place to deal with any of these issues as they arise. As a rule of thumb, a buffer of 20% more resource than initially anticipated should cover fixing these issues.

It’s important to use your own historical traffic data to determine when is best to migrate. For example, if you are a retailer, launching around Black Friday and Christmas is generally a bad idea!

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel unnecessarily

Don’t change anything that isn’t strictly necessary, as the fewer the changes, the lesser the impact on overall rankings post-migration. As far as possible, try to keep keywords, URL naming conventions, and the creation of new pages to a minimum.

If you are planning to make multiple significant changes, then try and do these one at a time, and allow time for the previous migration to settle within the organic results before making any more.

  • Prioritise core traffic-driving pages

Allow core traffic-driving pages to continue driving traffic to keep organic rankings favourable. To identify these, firstly crawl the legacy site and identify all indexable pages, then focus those that convert well, generate organic visits, contribute to revenue, and have a good number of referring domains linking to them.

Ensure that metadata is transferred, even in the case of content or structural changes. If any of these top performing pages cease to exist altogether, a redirect should be put in place.

  • Iron out bugs and use a test site before launching

If you are changing the codebase of the website, take this opportunity to ensure you are getting the top page speed scores, so your site is faster for users when you do migrate.

Make sure search engine spiders can crawl all aspects of your website so that all the content is indexed correctly. Check your robots.txt has not excluded any key pages or scripts such as your Javascript and CSS files, and to make sure your canonical tags are setup correctly. If your website has multiple language variants, make sure your hreflang strategy is correct.

  • Redirects

To put redirects in place, firstly, identify the pages that will no longer exist, or are being changed, and create a map of the most appropriate page to drive to. If there is no equivalent page, then the best bet is to redirect to the parent category page.

When redirecting, you can get a list of your URLs through tools such as Screaming Frog or Deepcrawl. You should also consider using Google Analytics and keyword tracking software to make sure you capture your most visited, best performing pages.

  • Tags and tracking

Consider any custom goals and dimensions that may be set up through any tagging software. If you are tracking specific bespoke events, these may change if your triggers are tied to URLs, or certain elements within a page.

Finally, on the topic of tags and tracking, ensure any PPC ads you are running are redirected and tagged correctly to new pages if there are any.

  • Review internal linking

Internal links are the backbone of your website, and should be included in a natural and sensible way across main and secondary navigation, headers and footers, body content, links and to any international sites. Even when the content of pages changes, it’s a good idea to aim to keep as many of the same internal links within these pages as possible, as this will help keep the pages familiar for search engines as they index.

  • Measure site speed

Ensure your new site is loading fast enough across desktop and mobile, as this may impact rankings. Bear in mind, that third party scripts and resources will also have an effect on your website, so make sure you fully test your website to iron out any development changes you can to get the page loading as quickly as possible.

  • Measuring site performance

Track metrics over the period of a few weeks and months to determine the success, but keep an eye on a week by week basis. This will ensure you can respond to any issues that may arise from the migration such as dips in traffic or keyword rankings, or, in the worst case, goals not being completed.

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