A Whole New World: How to Prepare For Website Migration (Part 1)

April 24th, 2018

Are you setting sails in search of greener lands?

If you’re moving your website to a new host, it can feel like exploring a whole new world, and that isn’t always a good thing. While change is sometimes necessary, failing to prepare for a website migration can lead to plenty of complications that can have a major effect on your traffic, search engine rankings, and overall business.

But you don’t have to face these obstacles alone.

If you’ve been considering website migration, consider the following guidelines from your McAllen digital marketing professionals at Cobalt Digital Marketing.

Do You Even Need to Migrate?

Before even taking your first step, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Do I really need to migrate my website?”

If you answer “Yes” to any of following questions (or to multiple ones) then it might just be time to do so:

  • Are you wanting to rebrand your company?
  • Are you unhappy with your current host provider?
  • Do you want a newer website?
  • Do you need to meet security standards?
  • Are you looking to make your website mobile-friendly?
  • Do you want to keep track with new tech?

Website migrations essentially tell search engines that your old website (and web pages) has moved over to a new location. When done correctly, your website’s authority, SEO value, content, links, and traffic will all carry over to your newer and better site. This is essential because building a new website without all your old authority is the same as starting completely fresh, which is something you DO NOT want.

What To Do Before Migrating Your Website

These practices will still prove to be useful for any website design software you are using. To get started…

    1. Backup all your website’s files.

This is a best practice, in general, whenever you are going to be taking on any technical projects on your website. You’ll need to use a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) program to copy all of your folders to your local computer (including any hidden ones).

This process is likely to take some time, but you should be able to get started with the actual migration process itself.

    1. Figure out what the migration is for.

Having a set goal will help to keep the task manageable while also providing you a clear idea of what you need to do. During this process, you should also check for any issues with the old website that need addressing.

Consider your old website’s SEO, UX, content, and web design and prioritize to set realistic targets. It’s best to get these changes figured out prior to the new launch as doing so afterwards can be quite costly.

You’ll also want to take into account downtime. If you own an ecommerce site and plan on migrating it right in the middle of the holiday season, then you are asking for a loss of clients and money. Plan around peak periods of the year so that you don’t lose out on business. (And also plan for delays. Believe us…they happen.)

    1. Get your specs on.

Prepare a document with all the technical specs needed for your new website. These should be actionable items that cover the major areas of your site including:

      • URLs
      • Navigation
      • Copy & headings
      • HTML sitemap
      • XML sitemap
      • Meta data
      • JavaScript, CSS, and image files
      • Mobile optimization
      • CMS functions
    1. Creep and crawl.

Yes, we know that we have been discussing a lot about what happens before migration, but these steps are important to make sure nothing gets lost in transition.

Crawling your site before the migration is perfect for finding any errors, redirects, 404 pages, outdated and brokens links, or unusable pages. Think of it as trimming the fat.

    1. Check those analytics, and get your tracking tools in place.

In most cases, a new website is supposed to mean new opportunity and improved business, but you won’t be able to make an accurate analysis if you don’t have a baseline. You’ll want to export your analytics (i.e. Google Analytics) beforehand so that you’ll be able make a valid comparison between sites. You’ll also want to utilize tools to track the migration process.

Make sure to pay extra attention to top ranking pages and links. If you notice a decline in traffic on these pages then some hiccup might have occurred during the migration.

    1. Do your research on your new web host.

The Internet is huge and plenty of companies are trying to get their piece of the pie. This means plenty of web hosts who are more than willing to offer their services. Keep in mind, however, that not every host is built the same, and not everyone will be able to offer you the configuration you need (or meet your budget).

When doing research on a new web host, consider costs, space limitations, server configuration and speeds, number of (big named) clients, rankings of websites hosted on the server, and contract length, just to name a few points.

Do some comparison shopping to help you make a more informed decision.

    1. Use a staging (sandbox) site.

This is great tool to protect your site before going live. Staging sites (ex. WordPress) allow you to make all the necessary edits and technical changes all on a private server, protecting you from releasing a buggy site that can hurt your brand.

    1. Mapping the new world…of URLs.

You’ll want to use the same URLs for all of your high ranking and valuable pages when doing a migration. This way Google and other search engines will continue to see your new site’s authority the same as your old site.

In order to ensure that you are properly migrating and using the right URLs, you’ll want to track new and old URLs. This can be done easily with a simple spreadsheet.

Not only will you want to keep the same old URLs when it makes sense, you’ll also want to keep the same architecture to prevent having search engines thinking you have a totally new site. Make sure to redirect all your links to the new site.

    1. Watch out for duplicate content.

Google and other search engines really frown on duplicate content. When doing a migration, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t run across these types of problems.

You can handle this by doing a content analysis on your old website and making sure you don’t have any duplicate content, keyword-spammed pages, plagiarized content, ad-heavy pages, or any other issues. You should also have your content writer consolidate any pages that would work best together on a single page.

    1. Be the master of your (old) domain.

When migrating to a new site, you’ll still want to keep your old domain so that it links properly to the new one. You’ll need to set up for annual renewals, but they’re a relatively cheap cost.

So…we’ve covered quite a bit here, but there’s still plenty of things left to do. Make sure to check back in for Part 2 of how to migrate your website to a new server.

And if things seem a little too complicated already, remember that Cobalt Digital Marketing has got your back. We’ll make sure to handle the entire process and create an entire digital marketing scheme that is sure to bring plenty of leads and sales.

Get started today by choosing your very own Cobalt Formula™. Contact us today.