Getting Website Migrations Right

Getting Website Migrations Right

Getting Website Migrations Right

Episode 020

We’re looking at website migrations this week. We cover off the important considerations from an SEO point of view, along with an outline of the steps we take when migrating a website.

Getting your website migration right can mean the difference between maintaining or improving your Google presence or falling off the map all together, so tune in and pick up some tips and tricks.

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Local Digital 0:04
It’s time for the SEO show where a couple of nerds talk search engine optimization, so you can learn to compete in Google and grow your business online. Now, here’s your host, Michael and Arthur.

Michael 0:23
Welcome to the SEO show. It’s been a couple of weeks, but we are back. And today we’re in the studio again, for the

Arthur 0:29
first time in how many months? Five months about Yeah, since June, into June. Yeah, good to be back.

Michael 0:35
It is good. It’s kind of weird. Like, as you’re saying, we’ve got these mics in our face, we’re actually making eye contact and looking at each other right now,

Arthur 0:42
we did that with virtual online streams, I guess it’s yeah, it’s different.

Michael 0:46
It’s less, it’s less intense version of eye contact when you’re, when you’re doing it through the screenshare. That’s true. But hopefully, we sound much better today, with the nice mics and everything we’ve got here, because we’re talking about something pretty important. We’re talking about website migrations today. Because this is a minefield, if you don’t get a website migration, right, when you’re changing from you know, an old site to a new one, you can lose traffic, sales revenue, all sorts of bad things can happen. Right?

Arthur 1:14
Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. Lose your rankings. Yep, it can go pear shaped very quickly.

Michael 1:20
And it does happen enough to be a pretty common thing that we run into. So we thought today, we’d basically just walk you through the process we go through when we’re migrating a website. And if you stick to this, chances are you probably gonna have a pretty good experience.

Arthur 1:36
Yeah, actually have a few migrations on the go at the moment for a few clients. So successful, although they’re still on the go, basically. So were mapping out URLs and yep, halfway through so

Michael 1:47
well, okay, you’ll be able to talk really, from a place of experience and hope say, alright, well, look, what we’ll do is we’ll just sort of run through the process from where where to go or go to Whoa, I always get that saying the wrong way around. Which fun. Go to Whoa, I’ve never heard that say, I’m full of these old old man. Go to where it’s like, on when you ride a horse and you go, go, and then Whoa, yeah, never heard that one. Okay, well, anyway, we’re gonna go from go to work with the process we use. So let’s go from the start. You have a new website? Well, actually, let’s frame it. Let’s say you’re on a what your you’re on a really weird, your PrestaShop OpenCart. As a CMS, you want to move to Shopify? So in this case, you have your designs done for Shopify, you got the wireframes. What are we doing from an SEO point of view at that point, you know, from a, I guess, a migration and SEO point of view to make sure that the wireframes and the designs are okay.

Arthur 2:39
Basically, just making sure I mean, it’s still very early on in the migration process, but making sure that the have factored in licence for SEO content, making sure that the NAV is you know, set up properly. So just having a look at the designs and making sure that they take all the right boxes. It’s hard to tell with just wireframes and design, sometimes it’s better when you have a staging site, where that actually started building it out. But yeah, first stages is to have a look and make sure that all the SEO, you know, H ones, content boxes, or all that are included in the designs.

Michael 3:12
Yeah. And so the general thing we like to purchase, involve your SEO agency or consultant in the process as early as possible. If you’re going to be moving websites, don’t wait till the site is built, try and involve them because they might have input on what can be done to work in all of the stuff off as discovered off there. But I guess from a migration point of view, you know, let’s assume that the designs are done, you’ve got your new site already to be migrated. The first thing we’re going to do with SEO is is jump in our trusty friend Google Analytics and really audit it right and have a look at what’s going on there.

Arthur 3:43
Yeah, so one of the main questions I get from clients is which pages should I move across to the new site? And the simple answer is pages that get SEO traffic. That’s all we care about, basically. So using analytics to have a look at the last six to 12 months of traffic data and picking the pages that were driving the most traffic making sure that they move moved across, moved across using H refs, as well to see which pages have referring domains pointing to them to make sure that those pages are redirected somewhere to the new site, and having a look at which pages actually rank for valuable keywords. So I like to create an Excel document matrix type document where I have all the URLs, the organic traffic, the target keywords and the number of referring domains. And that way, at a glance, you can basically find which pages are valuable, and which pages you can potentially call during the migration. Yeah,

Michael 4:38
so that’s your sort of your must keep your hit list of stuff that you really want to focus on. I would add to that, you know, you look at analytics, you look at a address, you should crawl the site with Screaming Frog as well or tool like that and get a list of all of the pages on it. Yep. And sort of, I guess overlay that with the data that you’ve got with ranking domains and traffic and all that. Rest of it. And so you can sort of see here all the important pages, maybe there’s a whole bunch of stuff here that may not even need to be kept. And that’s something that you decide later on. But um, yeah, you want to be working in a spreadsheet, you don’t want to just sort of be looking in analytics and going, Oh, well, I’ll probably keep those ones. But yeah, really planning it up? Definitely to plan it out. Absolutely. And I guess what you can do that once you’ve got that spreadsheet, you probably need to do the same, or you probably want to export the pages on the new site, right, or the URL structure on the new site?

Arthur 5:30
Yeah. So even before that, it’s good to get a sitemap of sorts, or any, I mean, before that, they should know what pages are going to be creating. But if they haven’t provided that you’re crawling the staging site and getting a list of all the URLs on the new site, so you can start mapping them out.

Michael 5:47
Yeah. And see, with migration, sometimes when you change, that URLs will change. Other times, they don’t, you know, so you need to factor that into your planning, you know, if URLs aren’t really changing, it does make things a bit easier. But if you’re moving to a new CMS with a new domain with all new URLs, that’s when you really need to have all your ducks in a row and make sure that you’ve got it mapped out, you know, both sites. But we’re talking about mapping out what is the process there? You know, how do you like to do things in that regard?

Arthur 6:17
Spreadsheets? Yep. Yeah. So yeah, mapping, basically having a list of all the old URLs, and then another column, and then the old the new URLs, and just filtering out using different I guess, formulas and things like that to speed it up, and just finding the most relevant page to migrate the old URL to the new URL to URL?

Michael 6:39
Because it’s, it’s, um, it’s the process of because at some pages will have a like, for like, Yeah, that’s right. But if you’re calling some or whatever, you might need to redirect some of the pages. Yeah, like the most relevant one, like a product page to a category page, for example, if rid of that product on the new site.

Arthur 6:55
Yeah. Which is why I like to have them side by side to start off with and you can use different formulas, you can, you know, strip certain parts from the URL, just to find, you know, the right page. The little things that I do that speed it off for me that I’ve done, been doing for a long time, Chicago off the top of my head, how to explain exactly, but in my head, it makes sense. Oh, that’s

Michael 7:15
good. Glad it makes sense. What about metadata? Do you do that? Like before it goes up to the site? Do you map that out? And you’re mapping document

Arthur 7:22
in the mapping document? So I’d have the page title for the old? Sorry, yeah, for the old page, and then you’d want to move it across to the new URL you’re redirecting to? So keeping it more or less the same? Yep. Yep. Probably more the same. The mess, but yeah.

Michael 7:39
All right. So that’s so I guess that’s, that’s so the planning stage, right? It’s all done in the Excel Doc, you haven’t gone anywhere near a website server at this point. Right, what happens next, normally, in your process,

Arthur 7:54
um, what happens next. So basically, you know, once the site’s ready, you would make sure and review the site. So you’d make sure that all the metadata has been added to the website, page titles, or the right headings added to the pages that this copy on the pages, just giving it a thorough one server and making sure that it’s all there, basically, before they start, you know, putting in the redirects and flicking the switch. So making sure that it’s all set up ready to go. You don’t want to be like redirecting the site before all that’s added to the site, because then you’ll see a drop in traffic. So just going through the whole site auditing, making sure that it’s Yeah,

Michael 8:31
content, metadata, all that, all that stuff. The other thing you want to make sure your robots file, like, is ready to go for the new site.

Arthur 8:40
You know, what? Throw an interrupted big one there making sure that when you launch the site, you untick the block this website from appearing in the search results in WordPress, right? Yes, so many times I’ve had a client, migrate a site and forget to uncheck that box and the traffic would just tank because it’s being no index, basically. Yeah, sir.

Michael 9:00
Yeah. Well, that’s it, I guess that that sort of is the same point here is with the robot file, you want to make sure when you move to the new site, if there are parts of that new site that you don’t want Google finding. So things like maybe login pages or random pages on your website that are maybe more for internal purposes, or in terms of service, if you want to keep them out of the index, making sure that they’re blocked in the robots file, and that you have no index tags in place on those pages on the new site. Yep. Before you as you said, flick the switch. Because once you do flick the switch and Google comes to it, it will very quickly find all the pages and index them so you want to prevent it from finding stuff that you don’t want it to find. Exactly. So once that’s all in place, it is just a process of applying the redirects right setting up your however you going to do it HT access or whether it’s used on the

Arthur 9:53
plugin WordPress Yeah, exactly.

Michael 9:57
What I like to do you know, obviously with the mapping, it’s a one to one redirects, and then you might be mapping products to a category page, you know, doing some sort of a catch all redirect at the end where if a page hasn’t been redirected to another one, it gets redirected to the home page or something. Yeah, just to make sure that there’s no little gaps in what you’ve done any holes so that if people happen to find their way to an old page on the old site, they end up on the new site. So once that’s all in place, probably want to test at all make sure it’s all working, you know, from a visual or human base check. Yep. Then it’s time to get Google involved. Right.

Arthur 10:33
Yeah. So getting Google involved, which means basically, going into search console, re verifying the domain, adding the new sitemap and then just monitoring it to make sure that there are no crawl errors, no four fours and the issues that arise. So basically checking in every every day. Google will notify you if there are any issues, but yeah, just be I guess, religion. Make sure that’s all working.

Michael 10:56
Yep. And you’d like to crawl the website, right? Make sure the three ones are in place.

Arthur 11:01
Yeah. So having a list of all the OTRS going back into Screaming Frog into lists, mode, crawling them to make sure that the three ones are there. If anything’s missed, then we can address it ASAP. Yeah.

Michael 11:11
So that’s very comprehensive process really, like you’re doing a couple at the moment, they’re going to go without any hitch, right? They’re going to be perfect. Because if you do this, you’re not really going to miss anything. Yeah. The only thing really in this case, is what does Google think of the new site?

Arthur 11:26
Exactly? It’s yeah, control. No, you never know what can happen. I mean, if you get the fundamentals right, in theory, you shouldn’t run into too many problems. We can’t guarantee there isn’t going to be a drop in traffic, because there’s a lot of variables outside of our control. You never know how Google is going to react to the new code on a website. You know, the server different things that can impact load speed, my upload speed, yeah, exactly. So there is a small risk that rankings can drop. Usually, if we see a drop, we kind of see it. Rebound. So yeah,

Michael 11:59
yeah. So look, what we’ve covered here is basically it just gives you a solid foundation for migration, like the best chance of success. No one can guarantee what you know, it is a risky thing to migrate from one website to another,

Arthur 12:12
especially if you’re going from one domain. Yeah, different domains. So let people rebrand. And then they’ll change the site. So you’re not changing the URL structure, but the actual domain, yeah, which can be problematic sometimes.

Michael 12:23
Yeah. So it’s never, it’s never guaranteed that you’ll remain the same traffic loads, you might drop, sometimes you go better, you get more traffic. But if you address your migration in the way we’ve covered, they’re following that general process, it not going to be a problem at the migration that causes the job. It’s just Google, recalibrating with your thought and you know, maybe in a couple of months time with bit more link building or time for the dust to settle, so to speak, you normally find that the traffic comes back anyway. Exactly. So that’s basically the redirect flight migration process, redirect site migration, a site migration website, migration process that we like to go through. It is a minefield, there has been you know, sometimes, sometimes, you know, worst case scenarios, clients might just launch a whole new site without any of this stuff being done. Right. And that happens. Yeah, yeah, you’re scrambling because you don’t have the crawl of the old URLs. And you know, you got to try and do things retrospectively. Yeah, that’s not the way

Arthur 13:18
that ideally you want a couple of months notice. So you can plan everything out properly.

Michael 13:22
Yep, absolutely. Probably one thing we didn’t cover off, which we should have in making sure GTM analytics and everything is set up. Yeah,

Arthur 13:32
like making sure the carrier that was an old site is set up on the new site. Yeah, all the goals and things like that events

Michael 13:38
yet, because moving to a new site is a good opportunity to have a look at that site and think about the actions you should be tracking. So your main goals like you know, lead submission forms being submitted revenue yet, but then secondary goals, maybe people clicking on contact buttons on the side or downloading a brochure. You can sort of plan all that stuff out and make sure all the tracking is in place before you even move over to the site. So we didn’t cover that, but that’s something that should be done as well. But anyway, that’s about it. Let’s keep it short and sweet today for our first episode back. Hope you found that useful. We’ll be back next week with another episode of the SEO show. Until then, feel free to drop us a review or comment wherever you’re listening to this and I will see you next week. Bye.

Transcribed by

Meet your hosts:

Arthur Fabik


Michael Costin


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