Site Migration: A step by step guide Main image

Posted on 23rd March, 2020 by Green Ginger Digital

Site Migration: A step by step guide

Roughly a 4 minutes, 30 seconds read

A site migration can range from updating the structure of your site to launching on a new platform. From a complete redesign to an upgrade to enhance the security of your site. Essentially, it’s any large scale changes which may impact search engine visibility. A well-managed site migration can take a business to the next level, improving functionality and scalability. On the flip side, if not managed correctly a site migration can impact performance for a prolonged period.

Whilst most sites are likely to see a small, short-term drop in traffic. A poorly executed migration can have a negative long-term impact on a site’s performance. There have been many examples of well-known brands who have migrated their sites with poor implementation. The result is a 30%-50% drop in traffic which has lasted for many months.

At Green Ginger, we have experience of planning and delivering successful site migrations. Ensuring there is minimal impact to your performance. Read our short guide to understand the steps you should be taking to ensure a smooth transition.

Laptop and computer showing graphs and data

Pre-Launch

When considering a site migration, we would recommend planning at least 6-months ahead. This will give you enough time to analyse your site and landscape. Complete the required on-site actions and agree to a robust plan of action. Launching a migration without the recommended analysis will increase the risk of performance drops when the new site goes live.

Our top recommendations for a successful pre-launch are:

  1. Make sure the migration is right for you. Take the time to understand why you are considering a migration. Most site migrations result in a temporary traffic drop so it’s important to be clear on the rationale for migration before pressing ahead. A migration may not always be the best solution vs. your objectives. If you are unsure, speak to an expert

  2. Choose the right timeframe. Plan your migration for a period which will have the least disruption to your business. Review seasonal performance and select a time when demand is lower

  3. Crawl your site. Take the time to crawl your site to get a complete list of URLs which will need to migrate. Use this as an opportunity to discard or fix any broken links and remove blog content with poor engagement

  4. Benchmark analytics. Understand average performance including an expected performance by hour and by day. This will allow you to spot any performance anomalies when it comes to launching. It also allows you to forecast the commercial impact of the migration

  5. Complete a robust testing plan. Test your new site and test again. Set-up a staging site (ensure it can’t be indexed) and ensure the new site is working as expected

Launch

Dedicate time and resource to monitoring performance when you launch the migration. This will minimise the impact of any issues and ensure the migration launches as smoothly as possible.

Our recommended approach to the launch phase is:

  1. Pre-checks and launch. Take the time to complete detailed pre-launch checks on your staging site. Review your pre-launch checklist. Don’t launch until satisfied everything is in the best possible place

  2. Hourly performance checks. Following launch, monitor site performance closely. Look at all key metric benchmarks on an hourly basis to identify any issues quickly and efficiently

  3. Redirect checks. Check your redirects and resolve any issues

  4. Relaunch / Update other channels. Ensure other marketing channels reflect the new site. For example, your PPC activity will need to be directed to the correct URLs

  5. Full site audit. Complete a full audit of the site post-launch to ensure everything is as expected

Post-Launch

In the days and weeks following the migration, it is important to keep a close eye on performance. The key question will be ‘Has the migration been successful?’. It will take time to answer this.

We work with a range of different websites. Depending on the size of the site we would measure the impact of the site migration at different points. Check performance weekly to understand the impact and understand performance trends. The migration process is complete once performance trends have returned to expected levels. This need to be consistent for a prolonged period.

It is at this point you can review the migration and assess the success:

  1. Ensure key technical areas are up to date. Resubmit your site map through Search Console and ensure your robots.txt file is up to date

  2. Monitor performance post-launch. After the site migration is complete you should continue to keep a close eye on performance

  3. Resolve any links/page issues flagged post-migration. Focus your efforts on flagging crawl errors and monitoring engagement metrics. You should focus your efforts on top-performing pages

  4. Address any specific keyword drops. Use your target keyword list to ensure top-terms remain in competitive positions. Use other channels such as PPC to compensate for short-term keyword drops

Overview

Most businesses will have to consider implementing a site migration at some point. If done correctly, with the right support, performance disruption will often be minimal. If you are considering a migration you need to consider the wider SEO impact and get expert support if you are unsure. This is where an SEO or UX expert such as Green Ginger Digital can help.

If you would like to understand more about how we can help with a site migration – either on a consultancy or delivery basis – or any other aspects of SEO. Get in touch for a chat!


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