When it comes to SEO one of the most risky things you can do as a business is migrate your website. Website migrations come down to a risk-reward conversation. There are a few things you want to avoid if at all possible to ensure you are mitigating traffic loss during a website migration.
Although there are valid reasons why you’d want to avoid migrating a website there are businesses who do have plenty of legitimate reasons they would want or even need to migrate a website.
Top Reasons Businesses Migrate Websites
- New Host
- New CMS
- New Domain (Re-Branding)
- Business Acquisition
- Going from subdomain to subfolder (sub-directory) structure
These reasons are legitimate but just because you had a legitimate reason don’t think that means the search engines like Google are going to take it any easier on you if you miss something.
Website Migration Expectations
A big part of a successful website migration is setting expectations properly with key stakeholders. Website migrations if done incorrectly can be absolutely devastating to your websites organic search traffic, keyword rankings and leads or sales.
How much traffic do websites lose during migrations?
If the URLs change you can expect to lose between 30-40% of all organic traffic to each URL that changed.
What does Google say about changing URL’s?
“if you’re lucky, it’ll end up in the same place.”-John Mueller, Google
How long will my SEO be impacted after migration?
The general consensus amongst SEO professionals is that you can expect volatility with your SEO for 4-6 months after a website migration. However, there isn’t an exact timeline available. There are plenty of examples of websites taking multiple years before they recover their lost traffic and keyword rankings.
Website Migration Best Practices
Migrations can be a daunting task with the risk of a severe negative impact if done incorrectly. However, if done right, they can positively impact your websites performance. At a high level there are a few rules you absolutely want to follow to ensure a successful migration.
- Do NOT change URLs
- Do NOT change title tags
- Do NOT change meta descriptions
- Ensure your website passes Core Web Vitals (CWV)
- Ensure your website’s site speed is equivalent or better than your previous website.
How To Get New URLs indexed After Site Migration
Ideally, you did not need to change your domain and were able to keep the URLs exactly the same from the old site to the migrated website. However, if you were unable to keep the URLs exactly the same, it will be crucial that you get the new URLs found by Google ASAP.
- Ensure every old URL has a 301 (re-direct) in place before migration.
- Ensure canonical URLs are in place before migration.
- Optimize robots.txt to ensure search engines are able to crawl appropriate pages.
- Before submitting the new XML sitemap with the new URLs, submit the XML sitemap from the old website. This will help the search engine spiders find those 301’s much quicker.
- Submit your most trafficked and important URLs to get crawled in Google Search Console (you can do 10 URLs per day).
If you are about to embark on a website migration and would like an experienced SEO consultant to assist or lead the migration process, please connect with me.