Top Reasons Website Migrations Fail

application blur business code

There are many reasons to want to migrate your website but companies have devastated their SEO traffic and rankings thousands of times due to failed migrations. Does hiring a professional SEO consultant to help with your website migration make sense?

What is a website migration?

A website migration is the process of transferring a website from one server to another. This can be done for a number of reasons, such as changing hosting providers, upgrading to a new server, or simply moving the site to a new location. Website migrations can be complex and time-consuming, so it is important to plan and execute them carefully to avoid any disruptions or issues.

Here are the top reasons website migrations consistently fail.

Key takeaways:

application blur business code
Photo by Pixabay on

Disallowing the site from being crawled

One of the most common reasons website migrations fail is because of issues with the robots.txt.

It is considered best practice to disallow the search engines to crawl the staging and development websites by using a command called /disallow in the robots.txt

Often times, when porting the website over development teams will accidentally forget to remove the /disallow on the live environment which causes to stop crawling all of your new websites URLs.

Noindex, nofollow

Similar and even often time confused with the /disallow command is the <noindex,nofollow> meta robot tags. This command tells Google they cannot crawl or index any URL with that command.

Check your URLs to make sure they do not have <noindex,nofollow> in the source code.

404 errors and broken 301 Re-directs

Links that lead to pages that no longer exist are called 404 errors, it is vital to ensure each of your old URL’s have a place to live on the new website.

If you do not re-direct (301) those old pages to new pages, Google will run into a dead end and will have issues finding your new content.

XML Sitemap

What is an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the pages on a website, along with some additional information about each page. This information can include when the page was last updated, how often it changes, and how important the page is relative to other pages on the site.

XML sitemaps are used by search engines to help them understand a website and index it more effectively. They can also be used to provide information about a website to other online services, such as social media platforms.

Creating an XML sitemap is a good way to ensure that all the pages on your website are properly indexed by search engines, and that any other online services that you use are aware of all the content on your site.

Ensure your new site has updated XML sitemap

If your website URLs changed at all, you want to make sure Google is finding these new URLs as quickly as possible. You can jumpstart this process by re-submitting your old XML sitemap so Google crawls and finds all of the 301 re-directs as quickly as possible. Then you submit your new XML sitemap so Google finds new URLs that weren’t based off of previous URLs.

Changing URLs

The number one fatal flaw for website migrations is changing URLs in bulk, when you update many URLs at once Google has to re-learn your whole website. How fatal? There are plenty of case studies that show 30+% drop offs in traffic and rankings that can take months to even years to recover.

Why do websites lose traffic when changing URLs?

Websites lose traffic when changing URLs because they lose the history that Google has built with those previous URLs. Google considers something called E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) with your website. Through E-A-T they know what type of content you should rank for and have a certain level of trust in the content on those URLS. If you change URLs Google has to decide how much E-A-T your new URL has compared to your old one. Does your new content have the same type of websites linking to it to build the E-A-T?

Ranking and traffic recovery can take months or even years.

“Changing URLs during a website migration can result in 30-40% drop in organic traffic and rankings.”

-Shane Hampson, SEO Consultant

Hire a professional website migration consultant

When done properly a website migration can actually boost your organic traffic, keyword rankings and leads.

Proper website migrations require the SEO teams input early and often.

If you value your website’s organic traffic and rankings and you are contemplating a website migration I recommend hiring a professional website migration expert who can explain the critical issues to all teams involved.

After all, you don’t know what you don’t know. There is nothing wrong with learning from your mistakes but don’t suffer if you don’t have too!

Shane Hampson
Shane Hampson

Shane Hampson is a professional SEO consultant with 11+ years of experience. Data nerd. Fantasy Football Champion. Lover of dogs.

Recent SEO Blog Posts

January 2023 SEO
Last updated: 1/21/2023 The world of SEO is always changing, here is …
Subfolder vs Subdomain for SEO?
One of the most over looked elements of website architecture is whether …
5 SEO Tactics To Implement During A Recession
Simple and effective strategies to leverage in a tough economy The last …
Beginners Guide and Roadmap for SEO
Starting off in the world of SEO is super exciting but can …

Published by Shane Hampson

Shane Hampson has over 10 years of experience as an SEO consultant, thought leader and strategist.