The Four Rules for a Successful Website Migration

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Unveiling your improved website is an exciting time, but any kind of site migration – no matter how big or small – comes with its pitfalls and could reflect negatively on your business. Manage the migration badly and you could end up, not only with broken links and ugly design flaws, but also becoming less visible to search engines and losing significant traffic. Here are four ways to help the process go smoothly

 Training

Not everyone likes change, so if you are migrating to a new content management system (CMS) make sure everyone in your team is trained in how to navigate within it. Chances are you have a number of employees who add content such as blogs on a regular basis. Leaving them to figure it out for themselves will likely result in delays and mistakes that undo all your hard work.

Your web developers will be able to explain the basics of the new CMS. Getting to grips with it before the site goes live means your team will be able to immediately add content quickly and easily, creating as smooth a transition as possible

Testing

Adding slick new features to your site can really improve the user experience, but not if they have to wait forever for fancy graphics, interactive features and videos to load. Attention spans are getting shorter, so an extra second could mean the difference between retaining a visitor and losing them to a competitor.

Work with your website development team to make sure you’re testing the pages as you go to avoid any last-minute surprises and redesigns. There are a number of different tools that will analyse the speed of a webpage and suggest ways to make it run faster. A great starting point is Google PageSpeed Insights.

Redirection

When migrating your website make sure you take everything with you. It’s easy to forget about the old, less shiny version but that also means forgetting about all of its SEO value. Don’t waste the hard work that went in to getting your website ranking by ignoring all the links that may still be pointing to the original site. Unless you redirect these links to equivalent pages on your new site, users will end up on a dreaded 404 page causing them to go elsewhere – and on top of this you’ll be losing all of the valuable ‘SEO juice’ passing through the links.

You can easily check links by running your URL through an analysis tool like Moz’s Link Explorer – this will show you all the external links currently pointing to your old website.

Now all you have to do is set up 301s (permanent redirects) from your old site to your new one and visitors and search bots will automatically head off in the direction of your smart new page. If you’re struggling, Google has some instructions and tips here.

Results

Sadly, when the site goes live you can’t just high-five each other and then walk away. To get the most out of it you will need to frequently monitor for errors, duplicate content, broken links and significant dips in traffic and keyword rankings.

There are some great tools out there to make sure your website is working as hard as possible. Moz can help you keep an eye on how the site is doing from an SEO perspective and help you increase organic traffic, while Screaming Frog will crawl your website and report back to you on everything from broken links to meta descriptions.

In terms of Google’s free tools, it’s handy to have both Google Search Console and Google Analytics set up to track your site’s search performance and stay in the know about any content issues or sudden drops and peaks in traffic.

Website migration can seem complex and overwhelming, but with the help of these four rules and the array of tools available to organise, test and analyse your site from the beginning to the end of the process (and beyond) you have everything you need to make it a success.

Jonathon Kofler, Head of Marketing, Access Self Storage

Jonathon studied business management at Sheffield Hallam University. He has worked in digital sales and marketing for 15+ years. He is currently the head of marketing at Access Self Storage and is responsible for driving growth across the business’ 56 nationwide stores.