How to Avoid a Website Migration Disaster


Website migration is an incredibly detailed process, involving weeks or even months of preparation and work. Your relaunch should be an exciting time for you, your colleagues, and your brand. Unfortunately, even small mistakes in website migration can cause a complete disaster. This can cause your organic traffic to drop significantly without ever recovering, especially if you do not approach migration with SEO in mind. Spending some time learning more about migration can help you avoid these costly mistakes.

What is a Website Migration?

Migration is a term used whenever any major changes are made to things like a website’s location, structure, content, platform, or design. These fundamental changes can have an impact on the website’s ranking, which is why it is so important to plan your migration carefully.

You may need to migrate your website for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you want to switch domains during a rebrand. Or you might want to start promoting your brand internationally and have to change the top-level domain. Migration can also happen if you want to switch from one content management system to another.

Should You Migrate?

The decision to migrate should not be made lightly, nor is it appropriate in all situations. For example, if you are simply switching your logo or changing your color scheme, you can probably stick with the same platform, domain, and user interface, making a migration unnecessary. This is particularly true if you are happy with your domain and content management system.

Migration can be incredibly useful if you want to do a total rebranding, change corporate directions, or branch out into other areas. It is also a useful strategy to employ if you are unhappy with limitations imposed by content management systems. For example, migration may be the answer if you started out with a site on a platform like Wix. As your company grows, you may find that you need more customization than that particular platform can offer. The key to a successful migration is to carefully plan ahead, take each step as it comes, and avoid rushing your relaunch.

What You Need to Do First

While the specific steps you need to take for your migration depend entirely on your reasons for relaunching, there are a few general steps that everyone should take:

  • Develop a Strategy.

    Think about why you are migrating and how you can best achieve that goal. This helps to keep you on track when you start the practice work involved. Keep the timing involved too. For example, never migrate a site during your peak periods, as this can push customers away.

  • Decide Who You Need to be Involved.

    If there are multiple people you need to work on the project with you, get them involved as soon as you can.

  • Speak with Stakeholders.

    Website migration does impact a lot of people. Company owners, marketers, and other stakeholders should be consulted early on in the process to be sure that any major disruptions to the business are minimized as much as possible.

  • Hire Professionals.

    There is a lot of specialized work that must be done whenever you migrate a website, especially when it comes to UX and SEO. Design changes can have a major impact on search engine result rankings, as well the site’s usability. It is also crucial for you to pay attention to the site’s SEO strategy, so your ranking does not drop. As a result, you should hire as many professionals as needed. Never try to take on a task you aren’t 100 percent sure on how to complete. Hire a pro instead.

  • Examine Your URLs.

    Spend some time making a list of existing URLs and new ones, setting up appropriate redirects in case any visitors have the page bookmarked. You should also make a list of all backlinks, so they don’t get lost in the migration process.

  • Keyword Research.

    Now is an excellent time to examine your keywords to see if they are still performing well.

  • Record Your Metrics.

    You should also take steps to record any metrics. This includes traffic statistics for each page, each post, and each link. You can use this information to compare historic performance to how the site performs once it is relaunched.

Preventing Disasters During and After the Redesign

Once you have a plan in place and have informed all relevant parties, you are ready to start the actual work involved. To avoid any migration errors, be sure to keep the following advice in mind:

  • Don’t forget to add web analytics to each page and test them before launching

  • Update all meta descriptions and tags on each page

  • Include any retargeting, remarketing, or affiliate codes that were present on your old site, such as Google Remarketing or an Amazon affiliate code

  • Examine your content for internal links and replace them with the new URLs

  • Test everything multiple times, on a variety of devices, with multiple browsers to be sure that your site works as intended

Website migration can have disastrous results if not implemented carefully. Spending time thinking about the project, writing out each step you need to complete in detail, and hiring the appropriate experts in each area is the best way to ensure this is done successfully.