Site migration is typically a stressful experience for business owners, especially if the majority of your business is run online. Besides the inconvenience of an inevitable downtime, the possibility of losing vitally important aspects of your site can cause many site owners to worry.
What Is Site Migration?
If your site is currently on domain1.com, but you’ve decided to move it to the more appealing betterdomain.com, you’ll need to migrate your site. This is the process of moving everything from the first domain over to the new one, including pictures, content and, somehow, all of your hard-earned traffic and backlinks.
For those of you that are some-what familiar with SEO, your first thought may be, “What about the SEO that you’ve done?” And, rightly so, this should be one of your most important considerations of when it comes time to migrate a site to a new domain.
Why Would You Want To Move To A New Domain?
There are multiple reasons why. Rebranding is one of the most common – if you’ve changed your company’s name a new website is very likely the next step in your rebranding process. Or maybe you originally built your site on a domain that didn’t have your company name or any keywords in it, or you might have just discovered that your preferred domain has just become available. Or maybe a domain with a high authority has just become available, and you want it simply to help you rank faster. Whatever the reason, many business owners will find themselves in the predicament of having to switch their site over.
The main goal of migrating your site is to ensure that there is no loss in traffic or Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rank.
Keep in mind that it is nearly impossible to avoid a temporary loss of search engine rankings. While Google is getting smarter and smarter, it still takes time to adjust to big changes like this. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable side effect of a site migration, but just remember that it is temporary and if everything is done correctly, you will see your search traffic return to normal in minimal time.
Keep in mind that the following is a very basic list of tips that can help you minimize the problems that are caused when migrating your site. Even if you carefully follow the tips below you may still notice a significant drop in your organic search traffic.
1. Perform A SEO Audit Of The Original Site
2. Map The Site Architecture Of Original And New Site
3. Keep The Original Site And Specify Canonical Links
4. Carefully Structure New Site
5. Notify Google And Users
6. Check For 401 Errors
Perform An SEO Audit Of The Original Site
Before you can implement your SEO on your new site, you must first understand your current SEO situation. This includes analyzing your current SERP ranks, reviewing the value of your ranked keywords and documenting what has been done to secure your rank. Make sure you have a detailed report of everything you have done on the original site. This is also a great time to identify any weaknesses the original site has, so you can avoid making the same mistakes on your new site.
Create a sitemap of every URL on your existing site. This should be a detailed document with every single URL listed. Then, you’ll want to create a sitemap of the URLs on your new site. This will help you determine where you will need to redirect all of your old URLs.
Keep The Original Site And Specify Canonical Links
This is very important: make sure you keep your original site. This is one of the biggest mistakes that webmasters can make. To ensure that your SEO is correctly transferred to the new site, make sure that the original site is kept intact. What you’ll need to do is set up canonical links that will tell Google which page is the correct one to index. This will avoid any duplicate content while maintaining your SEO efforts.
Carefully Structure New Site
While you are creating your new site, you need to ensure that it is properly categorized and well-structured. This allows for consistency and ensures that the factors that were working well on your existing site will continue you work for you on the new site.
Check For 404 Errors
Even if you meticulously map out the existing site and carefully implement your 301 redirects, it is still possible that you will discover some 404 errors. While these are not inherently bad for your SERP ranks, it can affect user experience and lead to a higher bounce rate. It’s important to frequently check for 404s using Google Search Console to ensure that your redirects are set up properly and that no detail was missed.
Notify Google And Users
The last and possibly most important step of the migration process is to ensure that you notify the world of your new site. You’ll of course want to give your users adequate notice before you change the site over. This can be done with site-wide notices, emails and social media. To notify Google of the switch over, Google Search Console is your best friend. Here you can submit a new sitemap, request indexing of all your new pages, review any errors and broken links, and submit your new robots.txt file.
As you can tell from our list above, there are many tedious steps that must be taken to minimize organic traffic loss. While it is entirely possible to switch to a new domain without experiencing any significant issues, if the switchover is not done properly it can cause huge problems and often a huge loss in revenue. We recommend taking the utmost caution, and if you have any doubts in your ability to do this properly, speak to an expert.
Warning: this is not a job for an amateur!
Thinking about moving to a new domain? Contact Accountable Communications for more information on migrating your site.