A complete website migration changes your website’s design, URLs, and even the user experience. It’s an effective way of relaunching your brand, but it takes great effort and is not without risk.
Common reasons for a website migration include:
- Changing the structure of your site
- Changing the content management system (CMS)
- Making previously impossible tech upgrades
- Making the site more responsive to mobile
- Overhauling it to improve search engine rankings
As your business grows, your website just isn’t cutting it anymore. The site you designed a couple of years ago doesn’t correspond to how you run your business now. A migration helps you stay current, retain existing customers, and attract new ones. Read on for some website migration strategies tailored to growing businesses.
Freeze the Content Before You Migrate
Start by mapping out all of your current content before you move it. You need to decide which pages you’re moving, which ones you’re eliminating, and which you will redirect. This step can also help identify and resolve errors so you don’t move them along with the website.
Freeze your content at least a few weeks before you plan to migrate. Use a redirect 302 to send visitors to a new page while redesigning the site. You should only resort to the 302 if setting up new pages.
Check the New Wireframes
The wireframe is the basic website layout. It can be rudimentary or polished, but it’s dissimilar to the final design in every event. It’s analogical to the frame of a building: you can see the basic structure, but you don’t know how the building will look when it’s complete. You can’t see extras like walls, doors, windows, etc.
Before you start migrating content, assess the new website wireframes. You want to be aware of issues ahead of time. This will prevent carrying over problems with user experience, SEO, navigation, etc.
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Use a 301 Redirect
Use a 301 redirect if you’re changing your site to HTTPS or moving it to a new domain. This will ensure you retain the search engine rankings you’ve developed. A 301 tells search engines to associate your previous ranking with your new site after migration.
Your current clients should be aware you’re moving. Announce domain changes on your social media or in your newsletter if you’re emailing one. Post a “coming soon” message at the new URL’s location.
Crawl the Legacy Site to Prioritise the Best Pages
Crawling your existing website will show the best-performing pages or the ones getting the highest traffic. Save the crawl data because you might need it down the line. The quality and number of migrated pages will impact the transition.
You can prioritize the best-performing or converting pages during the migration. Use Google Analytics to see page views, site visits, revenues, etc. Consider the links to the top-performing pages and the number of recent clicks as well.
Check Redirect Quality
Make sure your redirects are working before migrating your site. It will save a lot of hassle. You don’t want a redirect taking a potential customer to the wrong URL. All kinds of technical issues can surface, like a redirect giving a server error message, redirecting back to itself, or URLs with invalid characters. You need to resolve these issues before your new site goes live.
Prevent Common Migration Risks
Common migration risks include increased bounce rates because the landing page is irrelevant and interrupted user experience. High-quality redirects can mitigate both of these risks. Make sure users are redirected to relevant content by evaluating content mapping while you are planning the migration.
Your existing customers are used to navigating your site a certain way. Changing its structure can interrupt user experience. To prevent this risk, detailed redirect mapping is critical. Make sure you implement redirects on all pages that got traffic during the last year. Your customers will be directed to the new corresponding page automatically.
Broken links are one final common problem. When your URLs change, your previous internal links and external backlinks will lead to a 404 page. You need to update and optimise all links on the new website.