4 STEPS TO A SUCCESSFUL SEO MIGRATION
After reading our previous article on the good reasons to redesign your website . Do you decide to embark on the project to migrate your website? You will then have to migrate your old site to a new one.
Be careful, this operation is not trivial! If the migration is not done correctly, you risk damaging your SEO. Consequences: a loss of traffic that is difficult to recover… and therefore potentially a significant drop in turnover.
Do you want to succeed in your SEO migration and rely on your new site to achieve your business goals? Discover in this article the main steps of a successful website migration.
WHAT IS A WEBSITE MIGRATION?
We talk about migration when we subject a site to major changes that can affect the positioning of its pages on search engines. Generally, this term is reserved for the redesign of a site.
The following actions can be considered as migration actions:
- Change of URL: shorten, lengthen or modify the content of URLS.
- Content merger: bring together the content of several pages on one.
- Merger of several sites: bringing together two sites after a company merger, for example, to create a single and more “robust” one.
- Architecture change: add product categories, sections, etc.
- Design evolution: change the layout, the location of Call to Action …
- Change of CMS: switch to another content management software.
- Modification of the domain name (internal link to NDD change article): modify the structure of your URL following a brand renaming or to make it more SEO Friendly.
- HTTP to HTTPS migration: modify the protocol for increased security and better referencing.
- Change of host: transfer the domain name to another web host.
WHY IS WEBSITE MIGRATION A TRICKY OPERATION?
Migrating a website can have both positive and negative consequences on its visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs).
THE RISK OF LOSING SEO POSITIONS
. These are mainly based on:
- the structure of the website
- the code structure of each page
- editorial and semantic strategies
- popularity and notoriety
- UX Design
Discover two examples of SEO errors related to a site migration that can cause a loss of position in the SERPs.
NEGLECTING METADATA …
Metadata plays the role of communication between the content of a site and search engines. They are found at the level of the HTML code. The crawlers (indexing robots) crawl your page and give it an SEO score according to the quality of the information transmitted by its metadata.
The H tags (<h1>; <h2>; <h3>…) are used, for example, to identify titles and subtitles. The Alt attributes allow you to specify a text that can be displayed instead of an image. The <a> elements are used to notify hyperlinks, etc.
Example of SEO risk: when merging two pages, you place a title <h1> just after a subtitle <h3>… The structure of your page will then lack clarity for the visitor and for the crawlers.
FORGET ABOUT SEO FACTORS IN WEB DESIGN
The tree structure of your site and its internal mesh (links between the pages of your site) are important for the good crawling of spiders (another name for indexing robots).
A well-organized website makes it possible to index many pages, to reference them faster and with better results. Managing 404 errors, mastering depth levels or even creating a sitemap.xml file are an integral part of this SEO pillar.
Example of SEO risk: you decide to review the design of your website, but you incorporate images not optimized for the web … Your pages will then take longer to load. This factor may cause you to lose positions in the SERPs, and make the user experience deplorable …
THE MAIN CAUSES OF WEB MIGRATION FAILURE
When setting up a website, the web designer must never forget the user experience. A visitor must be able to quickly and easily find the information he has come to seek. The site must therefore combine good SEO and good UX Design ( User eXperience Design ) to gain visibility and better convert visitors into customers! We are talking about SXO – Search Experience Optimization… and forgetting it is a mistake in any migration project.
Other mistakes not to make, at the risk of completely missing the migration of a website:
- Not defining a digital strategy and clear objectives.
- Lack of technical and human resources.
- Do not perform tests.
- Underestimate the consequences of a premature launch.
- Lack of responsiveness in solving problems.
- Don’t plan.
THE 4 KEY STEPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL WEBSITE MIGRATION
In order to avoid any noticeable loss of referencing, the manipulations of each migration must follow 4 essential steps.
1. DEFINE THE MIGRATION STRATEGY
DEFINE THE OBJECTIVES OF SETTING UP A NEW SITE
Why are we migrating? This first question induces objectives which must not be lost sight of in the constitution of the project and in its implementation. The same human and material resources will not be used for a change of domain name as for a complete overhaul. Also probe the expectations and concerns of people who might be involved in the project.
IDENTIFY SEO RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Note the risks, both internal and external, of this migration project. The most important risks concern the impacts on natural referencing . Meeting them allows you to find solutions in advance to better bounce back. The team must also be made aware of SEO risks to better avoid them. Conversely, a migration project can be an opportunity to improve the natural referencing of the website; it is therefore also necessary to be interested in the opportunities.
BUILD A TEAM OF EXPERTS
A team must be set up for the website migration. Project manager, webmaster, developer, designer, legal specialist (IT law, GDPR, etc.), SEO expert, web editor… It is important that the roles are well defined and identified. An SEO checklist and a provisional schedule must also be drawn up.
2. PREPARE FOR PRE-MIGRATION
Your goals are clear and your team is built. You should now prepare for the upcoming migration.
REVIEW THE MODELS TO ANTICIPATE PROBLEMS
Mockups and prototypes are very important for SEO and SXO strategy. The design defines the presence or absence of a particular type of content or links, as well as their position on the pages of the site.
PREPARE TECHNICAL SEO SPECIFICATIONS
Developers should know the SEO specifications for the assignment. To do this, the project manager must clarify the following points:
- Titles and metadescriptions.
They must be readable, well informed and contain the main keyword of the web page.
- XML sitemaps.
This sitemap is used to tell search engine robots a list of URLs to index.
- The body of page content and titles Hn.
Each page must be well structured with its own coding.
- Structured data (Schema.org).
This information allows crawlers to better understand the content of your website.
- The page load time .
Ideally, it should be less than 3 seconds to properly reduce the bounce rate and avoid SEO depreciation.
- URL structures.
They must be readable for Internet users and contain the main keyword of the page.
PERFORM AN SEO INVENTORY OF THE SITE FOR COMPARISON WITH THE NEW VERSION
The content is king, but he must not be driven out of his kingdom. List all the content of your website so you don’t lose one on the road. You can export the list of your pages and media content from your CMS and list the URLs with a crawl tool like SEO Spider from Screaming Frog , for example.
IDENTIFY PRIORITY WEB PAGES
You can also use this process to assess the performance of your content before and after migration. Identify the content that drives the most traffic or converts visitors the best. For this, use Google Analytics , Google Search Console , Majestic , etc. After the migration, you can focus your efforts on this content as a priority.
MAKE SURE THE NEW SITE IS INVISIBLE TO SEARCH ENGINES
… But it can still be crawled for testing.
To verify that all the resources are in HTTPS, for example, you will have to launch a crawl of the site. It is recommended to do this before the migration, that is to say before indexing the new site and making it visible to Internet users.
To restrict access for visitors and search engine bots, temporarily place a robots.txt file at the root of your website to prevent indexing of pages on your new site. At the same time add an HTTP authentication which requires a username and a password to access the site.
3. PERFORM THE PRE-MIGRATION TESTS
Before starting the migration, test the new site on a test server. This step avoids dealing with unforeseen potentials once the migration has started, and losing traffic during this time.
TEST THE TEMPLATES
Check that the templates are functional and that the pagination is implemented according to the rules of the art. Check that they interact well with their content for each new page given.
TEST THE CONTENTS
Do all of your pages have content? Are the contents displayed correctly? If so, do they show up quickly? Do the page mergers follow the logical order of the <h> titles? Etc.
TEST INTERNAL LINKS
Check your site for broken internal links. Is the internal networking in line with your SEO strategy (for example in silos with an architecture by themes)?
TEST THE TECHNICAL SEO ASPECTS
Technical SEO is independent of content. During a migration, it is essential to:
- Check the absence of duplicate content.
- Optimize the “crawlability” of the site – robot access, sitemap, etc.
- Analyze the logs and manage the associated crawl.
- Maximize the technical performance of the site – speed, responsive design, etc.
Before uploading the new site, test the redirects. This procedure is used to verify that each old URL points to each new similar URL. You should also verify that the redirects are type 301 (permanent) and direct.
CHECK THAT THE ANALYTICS TOOLS ARE IN PLACE
The monitoring codes of the analysis tools must be correctly implemented to monitor the referencing and the performance of the new pages compared to the old ones, from the start of the migration. The analytics tag must be identical between the new and the old site to preserve traffic history and detect any possible loss of traffic.
Do you want to migrate to HTTPS? Go to Admin / View Settings and change to HTTPS protocol. Google Analytics will then take your new visits into account without losing the history of HTTP visits.
4. LAUNCH AND MANAGE THE NEW SITE
Launch the new site on a strategic date. For example, avoid weekends so that you do not have to work during the weekend in case of possible migration problems.
FREE ACCESS TO YOUR WEBSITE
Raise the barriers installed during the pre-migration phase. From now on, crawlers and visitors should all have access to your new site. Remove HTTP authentication and robots.txt which blocked access to the site to all spiders and Internet users.
CONFIGURE SEARCH CONSOLE
If you’re using a new domain name, register it in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to make indexing your web pages easier and faster.
CHECK THAT ALL CONTENT AND METADATA HAS BEEN PROPERLY MIGRATED
Make sure that the content (editorial, videos, images, etc.) has migrated correctly. Also make sure that the metadata (Schema.org markup, metadescriptions, titles, etc.) are present so that your page is well “understood” by crawlers.
Analyze the key performance indicators (KPI) of your pages using analysis tools such as Google Analytics, SEMRush, Ahrefs, etc. Monitor page indexing, search engine positioning, organic impressions and clicks, load time, bounce rate, conversion rate, and more.
An SEO migration requires rigorous preparation, expertise in many digital areas and mastery of technical tools. To avoid losing important traffic linked to a loss of positioning on the SERP, it may be wise to call on an SEO agency.