Getting Started with Site Migrations
The founder of Digital Rescue Rangers, Miranda Gahrmann joins the SEO Rant Podcast to share her love for site migrations!
We dive into:
What to consider before migrating a site
What to know if you're new to site migrations
How to handle traffic losses after a migration
Get an understanding of what to consider before migrating a site, what to know if you're first getting started with migrations, and how to deal with traffic losses after migrating a site from a leading expert on the topic!
What to Consider Before Doing a Site Migration
Before getting started with a site migration you want to set yourself up to see the impact of the migration itself over any content changes you may have made. This is important for being able to diagnose things like traffic losses that may appear after a migration.
So before you get going with your site migrations make sure you:
Migrate all of the content as-is
Keep the URLs the same to avoid using redirects (when it makes sense)
Do proper due diligence on the new CMS you are migrating to so as to ensure it aligns to sound SEO practices
Also, it's important to consider that there are search engines beyond Google. Each search engine has its own idiosyncrasies. Make sure your migration aligns with all search engines.
What to Know About Site Migrations If You're Just Getting Started
Site migrations are tricky and often come with unexpected problems. Nothing is going to be perfect and you can't avoid every problem that will arise when doing a site migration. The idea is to set yourself up to best handle any surprises.
Make sure you have a full scope of your URLs. Understand all of the URLs that are going to be a part of the migration. One way to do this is to connect Search Console to Data Studio. By doing this you have access to seeing all of the site's URLs (as opposed to the 1,000 you can export via Search Console itself).
After you migrate make sure your robots.txt file allows for crawling. Often, when you go from a test/dev environment to a live environment there may be a no-crawl directive established.
Carefully monitor the traffic after you migrate a site. Don't panic. If you see traffic issues in the week that follows a migration it is often related to the tracking itself being set up incorrectly. Make sure your analytics is connected correctly before doing anything else (all things being equal). If you start to see traffic issues in the 2nd or 3rd week after the migration then you might have some "SEO problems" to resolve.
What Should You Do If You See Traffic Losses After a Site Migration?
Be data-driven. As mentioned, use the Data Studio integration with Search Console to make a list of the URLs before you migrate and compare the data for the same time period before and after (so that you are working with data samples that are aligned).
If you then see traffic losses:
Check the traffic for each URL and the ranking for each keyword
Review the pages with the traffic losses and see if there are problems with the content compared to the original version
Make improvements to the pages as is appropriate
In general, you should crawl the site regularly in the weeks that follow a migration to see if there are any issues.
Think of a site migration as an opportunity to fix things on a site that you wouldn't have otherwise done. So if there are issues, embrace them, fix them!