3 Common Website Migration Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

3 често срещани грешки при миграция на уебсайт и как да ги избегнем - CreateX Blog

If you own a website, whether it’s an online store, a corporate digital business card representing your business, or a personal portfolio of projects and accomplishments, you will inevitably come to a point where you need to make changes. This could be improvements to the design, structure, content management platform (CMS) or even a domain change. 

You’ll often hear the term “website migration” summarizing these changes, as well as many scare stories about their detrimental impact on organic visibility, traffic, and SERP rankings. The fear of negative SEO consequences is often the cause of procrastination, preventing you from enjoying an efficient, modern and well-functioning site.

In this article, you will read more about the three most common mistakes that lead to unsuccessful migrations. You will also learn what are the steps to avoid them, and you’ll see that with the help of experienced professionals, your website can not only maintain its current position but also improve it.

What is site migration and how does it work

By definition, a migration is any significant change to a website that could affect its visibility in a search engine. What does this mean in practice? Here are some examples of actions that directly affect bot crawling, indexing, and ultimately, ranking for certain keywords:

  • Change in the structure of the site – “rearrangement” of the pages in a way that leads to the loading of their content at an address different from the one at which it was until now.

  • Change in URLs – if your product pages contained in their address, in addition to the site domain, a category and subcategory part, and now you have decided to remove them and only the product name remains, this is an example of such a migration. Another one is transliterating URLs from Cyrillic to Latin.

  • SSL protocols and www changes (www to non-www and http to https version) – this is effectively a change in URLs.

  • Redesign and new functionalities – most often changes to the site’s vision are combined with structural changes.

  • Moving to a new CMS – this is one of the complex migrations, which usually includes the changes listed above.

  • Different domain – if for some reason you change your brand name, for example, it’s very likely that your website’s domain will also change, and hence your website’s URLs.

These small or large-scale “renovations” mean a new place for bots and users to find content. Regardless of the scope of the migration, it starts with preparation, follows the actual realization of the “relocation” and ends with a post-migration stage, in which trouble-free and convenient access to all resources is ensured.

The three most common migration mistakes

Трите най-чести грешки при миграция - CreateX Blog

Knowing the danger is the first and most important step in preventing it, so we’ll take a closer look at what can threaten the success of a website migration.

Mistake 1: Launching without strategic planning

Questions that should be answered in a well-planned strategy include:

  1. What is the goal of the future changes to the website and in what time frame should it be achieved?

  2. Who will be involved in the implementation of the migration?

  3. What will be its scope and what resources are needed?

  4. When will it start, how will it run and when will it be finalized?

  5. What are the risks and how to minimize them?

Practice shows that in many of the cases where the renovation of a site turned out to be almost fatal for its organic performance, there was a lack of prior planning and a clear concept of the course of the process and the role of the participants in it.

How to avoid the #1 migration mistake

Как да избегнете грешка №1 при миграция на сайт - CreateX Blog

If you’ve decided it’s time to make some major changes to your site, think about how you would answer the first of the questions listed above. Armed with this important information, turn to experts to help you build a comprehensive strategy that includes:

  1. Determining the scope of migration;

  2. Formation of a team, including a Web Dev specialist and an SEO expert, to support the optimization of the new version at the development level and to monitor the correct implementation of the post-migration activities;

  3. Identification of potential threats to the site’s organic positioning and a plan to prevent them;

  4. Creating a list of specific tasks for each of the team for each step of the migration;

  5. Choosing an appropriate time to proceed and finalize the process.

Mistake 2: There is no need for SEO before the new site is live

Whether it is due to the lack of an SEO specialist to get involved at the planning stage, or because of neglecting the importance of the tasks that must be completed before the actual replacement of the old version with the new one, very often search engine optimization is left for an unspecified future moment. By the time this happens, the likelihood that traffic and positions have already been lost, or that the revamped site needs changes at a structural level (which is a re-migration in nature), is significant.

What can be done for your site’s SEO when migrating

Here are some of the most important tasks to be performed by the SEO specialist responsible for the optimization of your updated website:

  • The specialist will analyze user demand and intent. He will suggest an optimal structure option if necessary, ensuring relevant pages that rank well and drive quality traffic. This will save the need for changes soon after the new version goes live.

  • He will prepare an archive of all current resources on your site to provide a basis for the key in any migration redirecting old addresses to new ones – ensuring that visitors and bots don’t end up on broken pages.

  • He will prepare an analysis of organic performance – traffic and keyword positions so that changes after migration can be tracked.

  • He will apply all good On-page SEO practices in a test environment, optimizing URLs, Metadata, Heading structure and H1 headings, Alt texts for images, proper marking of canonical URLs, etc.

  • After the migration is complete, the specialist will check the technical status of the new website, the correctness of the robots.txt and sitemap.xml files, the correct functioning of the Google analytical tools, and the correct redirection of the addresses.

The intervention of an experienced expert will not only minimize the risk of permanent loss of organic visibility but will also ensure a good basic optimization for positioning in the search results, the basis for further deployment of a successful SEO strategy.

Error 3: Forgotten ban on crawling and indexing

After all the necessary developments and checks in the dev environment have been done, the actual migration follows, that is, the replacement of the old version of the website with the updated one. When the resources are successfully transferred, everything looks perfect and works fine. And here is the moment when an almost fatal mistake can be made – not to remove somewhere a directive telling bots not to crawl the site.

Why does such a ban even exist? While working in the test environment, it shouldn’t be visible to both users and search engines. There are more ways to restrict access – closing with a password, banning indexing via Robots Tag or Disallow line in robots.txt. Several methods are often combined, and if the unremoved restriction remains after the new site goes live, the consequences can be serious.

How to make sure our site is accessible to bots

Как да сме сигурни, че сайтът ни е достъпен за ботовете - CreateX Blog

After finalizing the migration, it is enough to make a few simple checks to make sure that the updated website can be crawled and indexed, and that all the improvements will be noticed and have a positive impact on traffic and positioning.

  1. Analyze in Google Search Console an address from the site, most often the home page – it must be accessible to the bots (Retrieving the page – Successful) and not have a message like “noindex was found in the robots meta tag”.

  2. Check if robots.txt is missing:

     User-agent: *
     Disallow: /

    Important! The directive above disallows access to the entire website for all bots.

  3. Test the server response code – it should be 200OK.

When an SEO specialist is involved in the process, the checks above are part of the mandatory post-migration audits.

Useful resources for an upcoming website migration

To be as helpful as possible and to help you decide to improve your current site by changing it in a way that meets the expectations and requirements of both users and search engines, here are some useful resources that CreateX experts have used many times in support of successful migrations:

Conclusion 

The fear of losing the results achieved so far in the case of large-scale or not-so-large-scale migration is not without reason. The mistakes that can be made are not few.

However, our practice shows that properly planned and carefully followed by experienced specialists, this important step in the development of your site can not only be carried out smoothly and successfully but also turn out to be a solid start for conquering high business goals. You will find an example in a case study of the work of the CreateX SEO team HERE

If the information in the article was useful and encouraged you to tackle those long-delayed improvements, please share it on your social network.

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