- A migration is a major shock, and can have a significant impact on a website’s search visibility if SEO is not taken into account.
- By implementing a well-crafted SEO migration strategy, businesses can protect their organic traffic and maintain their keyword rankings.
- Prioritizing SEO throughout the website migration process is crucial to maintaining a business’s online presence and protecting its search engine rankings.
- To safeguard against negative effects, it’s recommended that businesses seek the assistance of an SEO specialist.
Maintaining a strong online presence requires a coordinated effort and significant resources from a business. With this in mind, stakeholders may be hesitant to make changes to their website, such as a migration, for fear of negatively impacting their current keyword rankings, which can ultimately lead to decreased impressions and traffic. Abrupt changes can have a detrimental effect on a company’s pipeline, potentially resulting in lower sales and lead volumes.
When the organic channel is a major source of traffic and leads, safeguarding them during migration is crucial. Fortunately, SEO can be a valuable ally in this process. By implementing a well-crafted SEO migration strategy, businesses can protect their organic traffic and maintain their keyword rankings. These are some of the top reasons why SEO is your friend during a migration.
What is a website migration?
In simple terms, a website migration refers to a significant change made to a website that can impact how search engines perceive it. Any alteration that can influence how search engines rank and index your pages is considered a migration in SEO terms.
As John Muller explained during a Google Search Central session, whether you’re entirely rebuilding a website or merely eliminating a slash from the end of URLs, they all count as site moves. Here are some additional examples of migrations:
- Updating your website’s security protocol from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Updating your URL structure from https://website.com to https://www.website.com.
- Changes to the primary or sub-menu in the navigation.
- Changing a section of your website from a subdirectory to a subdomain or vice versa.
- Changing host providers.
- Changing CMS platform, ie changing your provider from Hubspot to WordPress.
- A website redesign.
- Changing your top-level domain.
- Acquiring a new business and merging its website with your current website.
In reality, most migrations involve a combination of some or all of these examples.
Tip from our SEOs
When considering whether your project constitutes a migration and whether you need an SEO specialist involved, it’s crucial to ask yourself and your team this key question: “Will any aspect of any URL on my website change during this project, or will any URL status codes change?” If the answer is yes to either part of the question, then it’s advisable to bring in an SEO expert.
SEO helps maintain search visibility during a migration
Migration is a major shock to a website’s standing within search engines, as any URL change can cause search engines like Google to view it as a new page. This can have a significant impact on a website’s search visibility if SEO is not taken into account. Therefore, it’s important to prioritize SEO throughout the migration process.
To maintain search visibility during a migration, SEO efforts should start well before the actual migration. This involves consistent optimization of the website and ensuring that it’s free from crawling barriers for search engine bots. By doing so, major changes to the website can be recognized by search engines. It’s also important to make sure that errors such as broken links are non-existent and that SEO best practices are being followed, such as using an XML sitemap.
On-page and off-page SEO play important roles in maintaining search visibility during a migration. On-page, SEO offers an opportunity to refresh poor-quality or stale content, especially given the proliferation of low-quality content from AI platforms. It’s also important to ensure that any content changes are reflected in meta tags and other on-page elements. The technical aspect of on-page SEO is also crucial, particularly in terms of redirect strategies. A good SEO will ensure that post-migration, there are no broken links or redirect chains on the website.
Off-page SEO teams can also help maintain search visibility by reaching out to authoritative websites that link to pages that have undergone URL changes. By asking these websites to update their links to the new URL, search engines can pick up on changes to the website more quickly. This is especially important in cases of rebranding or changes to a website’s top-level domain. Ensuring that backlinks with branded anchor text are updated to the new brand name can accelerate how quickly search engines understand the rebranding and display the search results for the new brand name when users search for the old brand.
Tip from our SEOs
To ensure a smooth website migration, it’s crucial to avoid redirect chains. This means making sure that the URL you’re redirecting an old URL to doesn’t already have a redirect in place. In addition, it’s important to ensure that your canonical URL matches the primary navigation URLs and the displayed URL on the address bar. This can help prevent confusion for both search engines and users and ensure that your website maintains its visibility in search results
SEO helps measure the results of a migration
Reporting to stakeholders that a migration was successful or that it completed the goal the organization had can be tough if the right reporting is not in place. This is another case where SEO starts well before the migration happens. Before any migration, benchmarking the entire website is crucial. An SEO expert can help with the benchmarking process and decide on the key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs can include tracking a group of keywords through migration, traffic, leads, or purchases.
An SEO specialist can also assist with ensuring the analytics platform is appropriately set up after migration. In particular, if using Google Analytics, SEOs can verify that all tracking scripts are correctly in place and all settings have been updated to reflect the migration changes and current tracking best practices.
An important factor to benchmark is website page speed since search engines, especially Google, place more emphasis on user experience and page speed. Hence, a key goal for the new version of the website is to perform as well or even better.
Benchmarking the website involves crawling it the night before migration and creating a digital copy of the current version. This way, in case a page does not perform well after the migration, the digital copy can be quickly viewed to check how the website looked and what crucial elements are possibly missing from the new version.
Tip from our SEOs
Don’t panic! After migrating your website, it’s natural to experience significant volatility in your search visibility during the first 30 days. However, if you’ve followed all best practices, your website’s search visibility should return to pre-migration levels, and even have the potential for higher visibility. Remember not to panic and trust in the process, allowing the necessary time for search engines to adjust to the changes.
We’re migration experts
Prioritizing SEO throughout the website migration process is crucial to maintaining a business’s online presence and protecting its search engine rankings. A poorly executed migration can have a significant impact on a business’s organic traffic, keyword rankings, and overall search visibility.
To safeguard against these negative effects, it’s recommended that businesses seek the assistance of an SEO specialist to ensure a smooth website migration and maintain their organic traffic and keyword rankings. Contact us to learn more.