Imagine that you are going through a rebranding process and are changing your website’s domain name. Your current website has great traffic, rankings in SERPs, and performance ratings. You launch your new website under the new domain name and then suddenly, your rankings and performance plummet. But, your website was doing great before! Why did this happen? SEO migration was likely not a top priority. We will discuss what SEO migration is, but first, let’s talk about site migrations.
What is a Site Migration?
A site migration is basically an event that takes place when a website goes under substantial construction that can affect your performance and search engine visibility. This happens when there are changes to the site’s structure, location, content, design, and UX (user experience). The result is significant traffic and revenue loss of your site if not migrated correctly. This could last anywhere between weeks and months.
There are many different types of site migrations, shown below.
A new website can be exciting, and it can be a beneficial change for your business. But, when you do not consider SEO migration, the opposite can happen. Migrating a website isn’t a simple task that can be done in a day, as it takes a highly skilled and knowledgeable web developer who knows the importance of SEO. Web design and SEO work together hand in hand, from development, design, and migration. So, what exactly is SEO migration?
What is SEO Migration?
SEO migration is the process of transferring authority, indexing signals, rankings, and other performance metrics when making major changes to your website. SEO migration ensures that you do not lose progress in all your SEO efforts.
Why You Should Consider SEO Migration
SEO takes time to show off results. It can take months before any of your efforts are seen. You have spent a lot of time building up your organic search visibility that has allowed you to obtain rankings for specific keywords your customers use to find you. When you make major changes to your website, you impact what search engines know about your website. This can have an influence on your search engine rankings. The goal with your site migration is to maintain your rankings, traffic, and conversions. In order to do that, you need to perform an extensive SEO migration of your website.
The SEO Migration Process
The process can be split into multiple phases. Each phase is equally important, and skipping steps within them could be detrimental to your migration success. These are the general phases of a site migration process:
Scoping and Planning
During this phase, you will set your objectives and manage expectations. You will also determine risks, growth opportunities, and forecasting scenarios. Developing a list of issues and opportunities relating to SEO, content, and UX, you will then create a site migration strategy.
After conducting an audit on your site, you will implement necessary changes during development. At the end of this phase, the new website’s SEO requirements should be met. Any major changes in the design or copy of the website should be reviewed for SEO purposes, such as keeping top performing pages easily accessible.
Certain content and user journey issues may be detected early. But, more technical components, such as redirects, XML sitemaps, and canonical tags should be tested in the final stages before the site is live. However, the earlier issues are detected and addressed, the better your site will do once it is live. You will also want to make sure your site does not have any mobile usability issues. Poor testing of your site and not allowing you time to fix issues will only have a negative impact on your SEO, and therefore, your rankings in SERPs.
This is the phase where you conduct all activities to launch your site. The live site will likely be temporarily down and provide search engines with a 503 (service unavailable) service code. This tells search engines that the website is down for maintenance. Search engine crawlers will come back later to crawl the site. Once the new site is officially live, you should take a look at technical aspects to make sure the website can be efficiently crawled. You will also need to upload the new XML sitemap to Google Search Console and use the “change of address” tool if changing domains.
Another round of in-depth testing is done to check for any issues. This phase isn’t any less important than the pre-launch testing phase. The main difference is that now, any issues impact the site’s performance in search results. Now, with the site being live, you can take full advantage of Google Search Console’s features and other SEO tools. You can also test your site’s page load speed using Google’s Pagespeed Insights Tool.
In the final phase, you want to measure your website’s performance. Of course you will want improved revenue and traffic, but there are other KPIs (key performance indicators) to measure. These metrics can reflect the user experience on your site. User experience is a top priority for search engines, so improving the performance of your users, you can improve your rankings. Below are some of the metrics you may want to measure after the launch of your new website.
- Desktop and mobile visibility
- User engagement (conversion rates, bounce rates, average time on page)
KPIs can be either quantitative or qualitative, and determine how successful your new website is. The KPIs can be determined in the scoping and planning phase.
It is a Long and Strategic Process
Even though the SEO migration process is split into only six phases above, each phase consists of many individual tasks that must be completed. But, for the purpose of this article, the general process is provided to give an idea of what makes a successful site migration. Stay tuned if you want a detailed process of a successful site migration that will allow you to transfer your existing SEO success.
Only experienced and knowledgeable web developers perform successful site migrations. If there is even an inkling of doubt or confusion with your web development or redesign, please contact us and share your thoughts. We recommend that you work with professionals in designing or redesigning your website to ensure it meets SEO standards.