Website migration: 7 steps for the best SEO performance
Uncontrolled website migrations can cost you site traffic, leads, customers and more. Safeguard your SEO performance now.
May 16, 2022
Performing migrations can be costly to your site traffic, leads, customers and more. See Valtech's 7 steps for a successful and controlled site migration.
What we'll cover
- What is a website migration?
- SEO and organic search: What they are and why they’re important
- How can an uncontrolled website migration cost you 53% of your business?
- What can you do to prevent an uncontrolled migration?
- The 7 steps for a successful and structured website migration
What is a website migration?
A website migration is needed when a website undergoes substantial structural changes, such with the URL, information architecture, content, UX, design, domain, or platform adjustments. It can be as drastic as moving to a new domain or CMS or less impactful, like with a slight redesign or IA modification. Regardless of the scope, a website migration that’s not properly done may cost you a fortune. Before explaining why, check this list to see if you recognize one or more of these scenarios in your own site or platform.
Reasons you will need a website migration:
- Protocol: If you are changing your website protocol from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Subdomain: If you are moving your website to a subdomain (e.g. from yoursite.com to subdomain.yoursite.com - OR - from .yoursite.com to www.yoursite.com).
- Subfolder: If you are moving your website from one folder to another (e.g. yoursite.com/folder-1 to www.yoursite.com/folder-2).
- Domain: If you are changing your domain (e.g. olddomain.com to www.newdomain.com).
- CMS: If you are moving your content to a new content management system.
- Redesign: If you are partially or substantially redesign your website.
- Structural: If you are changing your information architecture and/or update the URL slugs (aka URL paths).
- Combination: If you have a combination of the above types of migration.
Are you anticipating or are currently in the process of doing any of the above? If so, you will certainly go through a website migration. Read on to find out how a migration can affect your site performance and how to make this migration as successful as possible.
SEO and organic search: What they are and why they’re important
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of optimizing your website for search engines in order to generate more organic traffic. In short: if you want to generate more organic traffic, you need good SEO.
Companies either hire in-house experts or external agencies to optimize their websites for search engines. In both cases, a solid SEO foundation needs to be established and consistently built upon. With the right approach, strategy, and tactics, a website will become stronger over time. You know that a website has achieved a well-performing and stable SEO presence when more than 50% of its traffic is organically generated via search engines.
According to one of the top SEO SaaS providers, BrightEdge, the share of traffic for organic search has increased to an average of 53.3% across all industries worldwide. Organic search usage and share outpaces growth in other channels. In B2B companies, combined search averages 76% of traffic and organic search generates two times more revenue than any other channel.
Source: Page 4 from https://videos.brightedge.com/research-report/BrightEdge_ChannelReport2019_FINAL.pdf
Here at Valtech, we see an organic search share of over 53% for most of our clients. These examples prove that organic traffic plays a key role in the marketing mix of every successful online business which relies on inbound marketing.
But there are also some considerations to be taken when it comes to organic search. According to the authoritative integrated publishing and conference company MediaPost, fraud has become an increasing concern in display. Some estimates show that 48% of impressions and clicks are fraudulent, making organic search quite an unreliable acquisition channel. Facebook has eliminated a staggering 2.2 billion bot accounts in 2019 alone. At the same time, paid search has proven to be a very unexpected and unsustainable traffic medium.
Nevertheless, organic traffic remains the most beneficial and sustainable acquisition channel which both customers and businesses prefer and invest their resources in.
“Consumers trust Google and rely on it even more and are using it at a rate that exceeds the growth of display and organic social.” (BrightEdge)
How can an uncontrolled website migration cost you 53% of your business?
The challenge with SEO and organic search occurs when you have to migrate your website. Over time, your website will have generated hundreds of search engine ranking, authority, and indexing signals which belong to it. All this excellent SEO performance may be partly or completely – GONE! Why? If the signals are not transferred to your newly migrated website, all will be lost. If this happens, you will most probably lose a significant portion of your organic traffic. Let’s look at a simple example:
If your ecommerce website generates 50.000 users per month and 53% of them are from organic search, this means that you generate 26.500 organic users (potential customers). If you convert these users with a 2% conversion rate, this means you generate 530 customers per month. If every customer brings you an AOV (Average Order Value) of $100, this is $53.000 of sales per month. Multiply this number by 12 months and you have $636.000 of annual sales. What if you lose this or more because of an uncontrolled website migration?
An uncontrolled migration can cost you not just traffic, leads, and customers, but also your expertise, authority, and time to fix issues. The time that could be better spent optimizing your online business performance would be wasted and delay the time-to-market for your new and shiny web product.
What can you do to prevent an uncontrolled migration?
It’s very simple: Trust the experts. Over the years, we at Valtech have established a robust and proven framework for website migration consisting of 7 quality steps. In addition to our structured website migration process, we have the expertise, tools, and templates to professionally execute it for our partners.
If you’re expecting to go through a website migration any time soon, think carefully about all the turbulence it may cause to your business and career path. Trust the experts and don’t take unnecessary risks which can cost you a fortune.
The 7 steps for a successful and structured website migration
#1 Scope, planning & coordination
This is the most vital step of the entire process. Before choosing a migration strategy, we need to understand the reason for the migration, what will change, why it will change, and what will happen with the old content. Gathering all the necessary information in advance allows us to be very effective throughout the rest of the process.
#2 Performance baseline documentation
During this step, we collect all essential performance data for the past 12-24 months, depending on the business and the landscape, in order to build a performance baseline. This is important to measure the impact after the migration. It is also important to allocate all key website areas (e.g. keywords, pages, sections), which constitute the largest share of organic traffic (typically 20% of the pages/keywords are responsible for 80% of the Organic Traffic) so we can prioritize all pre- and post-migration activities.
#3 Redirect mapping
Next, we will examine all existing URLs (working and broken, live or deleted) which will be migrated (or redirected) and map them to their new destinations. This is a very tedious but vital step as it allows us to avoid any dead ends for both users and search engines.
#4 Pre-launch testing
Through this step, we perform extensive technical SEO reviews in a controlled test environment to ensure that the website is SEO compliant with the best SEO practices overall. In addition, we test every single redirect (redirect type, new destination URL, canonicals, meta robots, etc.) to confirm that the entire old website is transferred and redirects are properly functioning.
#5 Launch testing
In preparation for launch, we continue with the extensive technical SEO reviews and verification of elements within a controlled test environment. We also perform additional activities, such as Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager, and Google Analytics setup adjustments to ensure proper crawling, indexation, and monitoring after the migration. This enables a smoother transition from the old to the new website and ensures a better visibility over performance.
#6 Post-launch testing
After the migration is completed, we constantly monitor the website SEO performance over the next 3, 7, 14, and 30 days to ensure that there are no keyword ranking or organic traffic anomalies.
#7 Post-performance review
The last reviews are performed two or three months after the website migration in order to give search engines enough time and resources to crawl, understand, index, and rank the content of the newly migrated website. This is essential for big websites, such as eCommerce platforms.
Be even more prepared for your website migration. Watch out for the next article in our series, which will give a detailed guideline and a template you can use for your own site.
Ryan Connolly, Director, Marketing Services
Tihomir Petrov, SEO, Marketing Services