- Before and after website migration
- Tasks to do before migration
- Tasks to do after migration
- Tips for the Client Ambassador
Before and after website migration
Websites that attract a lot of traffic hardly ever remain the same for more than a few years. As technology progresses, there appear new and often better ways to present content in an interesting form. Some types of software receive new updates, while other solutions become obsolete and have to be replaced. Sooner or later, there will be a need for a fresh coat of paint, or even a total reimagination and reconstruction of an old website. Fortunately, the change doesn’t have to mean a total loss of all the content that was accumulated throughout the years – thanks to effective migration. But what about network traffic? Won’t a new version of our website negatively affect the number of visitors, the popularity and brand recognition we worked so hard to increase? Yes, it may – unless we pay attention to multiple Search Engine Optimization (SEO) aspects before and after the migration.
In this article, we would like to show you a sample of our SEO checklist, the things worth focusing on before and after the migration process, as well as some tips for the Client Ambassador regarding his part in SEO. Remember, we are providing you with practical information from our own case studies, where we operate as a digital marketing agency.
Tasks to do before migration
The following list is by no means complete. It is merely an excerpt from a more detailed document we follow when performing website migrations.
One of the most important aspects is to make sure the technical side of the website is sound. Here are some important points from our technical optimizations checklist:
- Work on loading speeds, content blocking resources, new-generation graphics formats (e.g., WebP, AVIF), lazy-loading, etc. Remember that Google pays a lot of attention to overall site performance, both on mobile and desktop devices. It is the first section in the company’s PageSpeed Insights analytics’ tool.
- Make sure that meta titles and meta descriptions are set correctly. Not only will you have to make sure they are present, but they also have to include the right information and be of appropriate length. Meta descriptions will not be displayed properly in search engine results pages if they are too long.
- Make sure that images’ alt tags (texts) are set correctly. They have a significant impact on image searching. Sometimes, when pages experience loading errors or when the connection is slow, images might not appear. That’s why it is important to provide a description, which is easier to load and will be displayed instead of the image. They also help people with impaired sight, as screen readers will supply them with info on what is displayed on screen.
- Make sure that there are no broken links on the website. 404 response codes will have a strong negative impact on your platform. Remove any broken links or add redirections. More on the latter further in the article.
- Make sure that there are proper headings on all pages. There should be only one H1 per each page but there can be more H2, H3, H4, H5 or H6 headings, depending on the content.
Make sure you have the same URL structure when moving your website to the new version. For example, if the blog page was at www.site.com/blog, it should be at /blog on the new version too. Do not change the address, your links might have already been shared in numerous places online. In many cases it would be impossible to change the addresses on external pages you do not own, but what you can do is to make sure the new version of your website has the same structure and links as the old one.
Both the old and the new version of your website should have a separate sitemap. If they don’t, they need to be created and compared. If some addresses changed, e.g., due to the new structure, content, page splitting or merging, then 301 redirections should be prepared.
Introducing internal links is a great way to keep user attention and redirect visitors to other sections of your site. It is good practice to put internal links in articles so they would redirect the user to, e.g., similar writing on the topic, or to the products’ page where the relevant item or service can be purchased.
The robots.txt file features important instructions for search engine spiders/crawlers responsible for site indexing. It provides information on those parts of the site that can or cannot be accessed by spiders. This is the first file the crawlers open when accessing a site. It is important to make sure robots.txt is present in the right place and that it is properly configured.
We’ve already mentioned broken links and redirections previously in the text, but here we also would like to highlight that sometimes we may want to permanently delete a subpage for some reason instead of migrating. The page might be deleted, but it can still be linked to from other sites. Therefore, it is key to set up a 301 redirection to an address from the new site, even if it’s just the homepage.
Furthermore, http sites should be redirected to https versions, as this is an important factor for Google. We should also decide whether the new domain is with the www at the beginning or not. There should be only one version.
Tasks to do after migration
Monitoring and testing are among the most important tasks to perform post-migration. Some issues may be visible the moment we visit the site while others will require a specific tool. Below you will find a sample of post-migration activities from our checklist.
Identify key issues with Screaming Frog and Ahrefs
These toolscan be used to scan a website for numerous issues, a part of which we mentioned in the pre-migration phase too. Here are some of the problems you can check with SF:
- 404 errors as well as other troublesome site status codes
- broken links
- issues with indexation
- missing image alt descriptions
- missing meta descriptions, page titles; it also shows their length
- missing headings and the length of existing ones
- sitemap contents with the status of the listed links
- image size, format and indexability
- canonical urls
- previews of SERP snippets for different device types
Spend some time with the Google Search Console
Another useful tool will be the Google Search Console. The software can be used, e.g., to check how well the website will be displayed on mobile devices – whether the font is clear and of appropriate size for smaller screens, if the clickable elements aren’t too close to each other, or if the content is wider than the screen. You can also check issues related to the security of your new platform and the overall site quality. GSC features a lot of information related to traffic – the number of people who have accessed your site from Google organic search results in a given time period, the keywords users use that lead them to your platform, the devices and countries they connect from, the number of clicks on your links, and more.
Use PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse to benchmark the site
These are among the most popular tools to monitor website status, and no wonder – they are owned by Google. Both provide a lot of useful information on overall site performance, accessibility, best practices, and SEO. Not only do you receive information on the issues troubling your platform, but you also get a brief suggestion on how to fix them. Of course, whether it is fast and easy to alleviate these problems is a completely different matter. All of the elements on the list are calculated into clear scores, divided into four sections so developers know which aspect needs the most attention. They are particularly useful to measure performance, providing information on such important aspects as:
- First Contentful Paint
- Largest Contentful Paint
- Time to Interactive
- Total Blocking Time
- Cumulative Layout Shift
- Legacy code that slows down the website
- Unused code
- Incorrect image sizes and formats
- Cache issues
…and many more.
Monitor positions in SERPs
Keep track of your positioning in search results pages and see how the migration affected your rank. If migration was performed successfully and you paid attention to SEO before and after the process, the situation should stabilize with time if the algorithm hadn’t changed recently.
Tips for the Client Ambassador
Before we wrap up this article, we have two tips for the Client Ambassador regarding his role from the SEO perspective in the migration process.
Communicate with the team
Be in touch with SEO specialists from the beginning of the process of creating the new website and throughout the entire project. Each element can be important for the future visibility in search engines, so it is worth confronting the solutions in terms of SEO right away. Later fixes can be much more costly and time consuming than an SEO consultation.
Monitor the rank and traffic
Make sure to monitor position and traffic as early as possible to have a good sample to compare SEO results before and after migration. Stay in the loop, and it will be easier for you to prepare a future report.
If any company plans longer online presence, sooner or later it will have to migrate its website to a new, modern version. This is true for both industry giants as well as small enterprises with just a handful of people.
The activities we highlighted above, are merely the tip of the iceberg – an excerpt from a bigger document. We analyze the site, highlight its needs, and implement the recommendations. If you’re looking for help with migration and quality SEO services, contact us and join the group of our satisfied customers.