17 May Common Website Migration Mistakes
-17 May 2018-
Website Migration Pitfalls
In SEO, a website migration is not an easy, straight-forward task. Mistakes are easy to make, and the repercussions of those mistakes can sometimes go undetected for weeks, even months, and cause a lot of damage in the meantime.
Website migration can be seen as an umbrella term referring to a considerable change on your website. A change that will impact how your site is seen by search engines and users. To liken the virtual world to reality, a website migration requires the strategic mindset and meticulous eye for detail one needs when moving house. With a plan, all goes smoothly, without it’s utter chaos. So, to save you some time, here are the common mistakes made in a SEO website migration that we recommend you avoid.
If you are migrating your website to a new domain, then the top, and easiest, mistake you could make is to neglect your redirects, both current and pending. This is a time when redirects should be your new best friend, don’t cast them aside or underestimate their power. A redirect will guarantee you retain your hold on any link equity that was passing through to the original URL. Since link equity will help boost the domain rating of your site, and how much Google trusts you, you will want those redirects in place pronto.
Say, for example, you run a small local business. Chances are, most of the traffic to your site is a direct rather than coming through other channels, such as paid search or organic. If they enter your old domain into the search bar, and you have not set up that 301 redirect to the new site, that is a visit lost. Instead, they are delivered a server error and likely to bounce back to the search results page. Loss for you, potential gain for your competitor. As User Experience (UX) is at the forefront of modern SEO, you need to ensure that the users are your priority when conducting a website migration. That means making sure they are able land on your target pages.
The good news is, this is easy to achieve! If you set up your 301 redirects in advance, there is no reason why your migration shouldn’t be a success. Setting up redirects is a task that requires you to be meticulous, you will need to redirect every URL on your old domain to the equivalent page on your new domain. Make sure you don’t neglect any current redirects live on your old domain either. Doing all of this will not only maintain the visibility of your site to users in search engines, but on external sites linking back to your old domain. Protect your bank of backlinks and ensure none of them are broken by your website migration!
Incidentally, if your migration is more changing your website protocol from HTTP to HTTPS, your redirects will have the added bonus of preventing any link equity being split between pages, where you would rather a single page benefit. Also, be aware of potential duplication issues when changing from HTTP to HTTPS. Without redirects in place, you could accidentally create a second, identical, version of your site. You might find your pages end up competing against each other in search rankings, which is never ideal. Ultimately, neither page would rank well in this situation and you run the risk of a Google penalty.
Whilst you’re sorting out your redirects, don’t forget to create a sitemap for your new site. Doing this will help Google find your new site that much quicker. Update it with your priority pages and when search engine crawlbots, such as Googlebot, come visiting, your site has a much better chance of ranking higher in a quicker time frame.
Monitoring (or hereby lack of)
When undergoing a migration, you want to be able to monitor the entire process, from pre-migration through to post-migration, so making sure you have access to Google Search Console and Google Analytics is very important! Being able to monitor your website’s data throughout the migration process allows you to see the full impact your migration is having on your levels of traffic, if any crawl errors are appearing and the ongoing health of your website.
Another frequent mistake we see in website migration is the neglect to monitor the website compatibility for mobile. When making any substantial changes to your website you do not want to have a detrimental impact on mobile page speed. It is important to accommodate to this user behavioural shift, with so many users now accessing the virtual world through their smartphones. In fact, Google now uses Mobile First Indexing, which crawls the mobile version of a website as the primary form of the website. The consequences of this can be that if the mobile version of the site is not well optimised, then a dominos effect occurs, impacting not only the site’s search rankings on mobile, but desktop devices too.
Biting Off More Than You Can Chew
Quite often, people will make website migration more laborious than it needs to be, by doing more than one form of website migration at the same time. We do not recommend this. One form of website migration is a massive change, to perform multiple changes simultaneously would be overwhelming, especially for users. There would be restricted familiarity and traffic would be more likely to drop in the post-migration stage for a time. The workload would also be staggering for you, or the SEO team, and you run a higher risk of missing out some of the details. Phasing out your forms of website migration is the advisable move forward, as the process becomes more manageable for you and you are less likely to have a negative effect on the site’s user experience.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”
Preparation is key, especially with a website migration. From an SEO perspective, disorganisation and lack of preparation are very often fatally made errors. It’s worth pointing out that there are three stages to consider when preparing: pre-migration, during the migration and post-migration. Each stage has its own set of points to focus on. Stay tuned and you might just get to check out our priority lists for a website migration in the future.
Making changes to your site, sizeable ones, is no picnic. Stay vigilant, stay organised and there is no reason why a website migration shouldn’t be successful from the get go.
If you want to know more or want to discuss a website migration potential, then please do get in touch, as always, we love to hear from you.