SEO Cape Town Site Migration Guide: Reduce The Risk of Traffic Losses
In this SEO Cape Town Site Migration Guide, you will learn everything you need to know to ensure your migration is a success, in just 10 minutes reading time. We will discuss what website migration is, help you avoid SEO mistakes, and give you advice on performing the perfect migration.
SEO Cape Town Guide: The basics of website migration
Website migration takes a variety of forms. It could be a website rebuild, a merge with another site, a move to a new domain or server, a move to HTTPS, or it could be a mix of any of these.
Why migrate your website?
You need to know why you need to migrate your website, as, without a clear motive, you risk losing customers and revenue in the migration process. There is always a drop in traffic initially with domain migrations, as Google needs to recalibrate and crawl all your links with the new domain name. The risk that your migration may cause a traffic drop, may be mitigated with this guide but there is always a risk and that is why you should pay close attention to the steps mentioned here. The idea is that after some turbulence, the traffic comes back!
Common reasons to migrate your website include:
● To move from HTTP to HTTPS for added security.
● To move to a better server or web host.
● To improve the design and functionality of your website.
● To improve your SEO rankings.
Types of website migration
Below are some of the common types of website migration and potential SEO risks.
Redesigning or rebuilding a website
Change to a new domain name
This might be done when wanting to move your site from a local TLD to a global TLD – for example .za to .com.
To reduce the risks to your SEO, you need to have a strategy in place for managing redirects. You also need to let your customers know that your business is moving to a new web domain, and you should update your Google my Business and Google Search console configurations with your new URL’s.
This is something you might do if you acquire a new business or if you want to consolidate multiple websites into one for easier management and maintenance.
There are SEO risks here, as any mistake in the migration process can reduce rankings and thus traffic.
To reduce risk, you will need to workshop with your technical, SEO, and UX teams to cover every aspect of your website during the migration process.
Moving to HTTPS
To secure your website, this is something you need to do as a priority, for the sake of your reputation and the protection of your sensitive data but also because it is an actual ranking factor.
Rushing the migration process can create 301 redirect issues, you need to basically ensure that every http link and image link is now https. Some plugins can help, but creating a spreadsheet from a tool like Screaming Frog will help as a backup.
To reduce the risk to your SEO and website, you need to check which CA (Certification Authority) is trusted by your browser, and take the necessary next steps to make the migration process a success, as discussed here.
Changing to new hosting:
Here URLs and information architecture would remain the same. This would be referred as a hosting migration with no change in URLS.
SEO Cape Town Guide: Website migration steps
Strategies need to be put in place to ensure the migration process goes smoothly. In this section of our SEO Cape Town guide, we will take you through the steps you need to take to ensure the migration is a success. Trust the advice of an established SEO company.
Define the objectives, issues and advantages attached to the migration
Working with your in-house or outsourced teams, define your reasons for wanting to migrate your site, the challenges to your business, and the advantages that lie at the heart of the process. At the minimum, you should work with your marketing, SEO, UX, and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) teams to manage the migration together.
By working together, nothing should be missed in the migration process, and the time taken to migrate should be reduced.
Research expected issues in the migration process and work together to find solutions
These are some of the common questions that might need to be raised, for example.
● Can all pages and images be 301 redirected?
● Can all content be migrated at the same time?
● Can the meta content be migrated?
● Will there be an issue with the internal links?
● Will it be easy to add new content?
Think about post-migration
When thinking about the migration, work with the various teams in your business to consider how your site could be improved during and after migration. As examples:
● How will navigation be improved?
● How can we improve the page loading speeds?
● Can we improve our website content?
By outlining the issues that could be encountered, and by considering the way your website could be improved during and after the migration, you will be able to work together with your key teams to tailor the migration process.
SEO Cape Town Guide to identifying current issues with your website
Review your website as it currently stands, and identify any problems within the Information Architecture. Once you have identified any issues, you will be able to address them with your new site. A great tool is dreaming frog, and if your site is under 500 pages, it is 100% free. Below, you can see an example of the hierarchical site architecture.
Use Google Search Console or specific tools, such as Screaming Frog, to check your site for any crawl errors. You will then be able to fix them before migrating your site.
Remove or replace any broken or redirected 404 links and fix any other errors before migration.
Setting up benchmarks
Benchmarking is essential, as by using the tools at your disposal, you will be able to compare the performance of your new site with your old one, and you will be able to diagnose any problems that exist on the site you have migrated to.
Important benchmarks include those that measure page speed – you can use GTMetrix or Google Page Speed Insights to monitor this – and search engine visibility and ranking, which can be identified using the Google Search console and rank tracking tools such as STAT.
You should make a copy of your data from Google Analytics too, as you will be able to use this information to determine whether any traffic has been lost after the migration process. By using a side-by-side comparison, you will have the opportunity to identify which pages are causing you a problem.
Please note that in the weeks following the migration, you will see fluctuations in your traffic. Don’t fret, as this is normal. While any fluctuations should be investigated, it is important to know that any issues could simply be a symptom of Google coming to terms with your site migration. Your benchmarking tools will give you a better understanding over time.
SEO Cape Town Guide to prioritising indexable pages
Indexable pages are those that have the greater potential to drive traffic to your website. Consequently, it is important for you to prioritise them when migrating, as they should continue to perform well for you on your new website.
The Google search console will let you know what pages have been indexed, so use the URL Inspection Tool to make the necessary checks.
When you have identified these pages, you should consider using them on your new site. If you don’t want to use them, you should map out your URL redirects from your legacy site to the most relevant page on your new site to ensure your traffic and SEO rankings aren’t affected.
SEO Cape Town Guide to establishing a 301 redirect map
This is an essential part of your SEO migration strategy, as you will risk losing valuable traffic to your website if you don’t implement something correctly. A 301 redirect is a way to tell browsers that your pages have moved, so when a visitor clicks on a link to your site, they won’t be confronted with a 404 page, this also affects the calculation of PageRank and how it shred to pages, which will definitely impact rankings.
By establishing a 301 redirect, online search engines will know that your site has moved to a new home, and you will face less disruption to your organic traffic and ranking. At our site, we can do much to help you with the SEO on your new site, but you should still adhere to the 301 redirect instructions when going through your site rebuild.
You need to be thorough within this process, as the link equity you have attained over the years, and those keyword rankings that have helped to boost your profits will vanish if you don’t follow this essential migration step.
SEO Cape Town Guide to mapping your URL’s to the new site
When migrating to a new site, you should aim to keep your old pages on your new site. This will reduce the chances of search engine traffic being negatively affected, and you will cause less disruption to your regular site visitors. If you make too many changes, Google might assume that the new site is vastly different from your old site, and you might lose your rankings.
By keeping your site architecture the same, you will be able to use regex in your htaccess files to redirect, and this will save you time when redirecting the URL’s from your legacy site.
There is some useful advice on Google’s support pages on how to get started. You should always read through their advice to ensure you have covered your bases from their point of view as they own the system, after all.
SEO Cape Town Guide: Before you launch your site
Before launching your new website, you need to make a few important checks first.
Things to do:
Make sure that all of your internal and external links are still working. Your internal links should point to the pages on your new site and not your old one, so update them if necessary.
Check for duplicate content issues. Duplicate content is a common issue when publishing multiple versions of a URL, but this can be rectified by setting up various redirect rules in htaccess to ensure only one version of the webpage is accessible online.
Set up redirects for all of your embedded links.
Submit the change of website address to Google Search Console, and submit both your old and new sitemaps to clarify the message that your legacy site is being redirected to your new website. Use ‘fetch as Google’ to index your new site.
Manage your PPC campaigns to point them towards your new site.
Check for site errors, such as 404 and 501 codes, and update links to ensure they point towards the correct webpages.
Redirect your old image URL’s to the new URL’s to help Google find and index these new images sooner.
Make sure that all page titles, headings, and meta descriptions have been transferred from your old site to your new site. Make sure any new pages have been optimised.
Prepare a new robots.txt file to test pages for any errors. They might get de-indexed by Google otherwise, and this will seriously damage your SEO.
Ensure Canonical Tags have been set to direct search engine bots to the new versions of your webpages.
Upload XML sitemaps so Google has the most updated version of your indexable pages.
Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to search for any errors.
We have detailed most of the checks you need to do here, but continue your research online, or contact us for more advice.
SEO Cape Town Guide: Launch your new site
Here’s where your PR and social media teams come into play, as they will be able to shout about your new site from the rooftops (or on your social media pages and press releases).
Reach out to all of your old customers and clients to let them know about the site change, and have a ‘coming soon’ page set up on your new site while you’re still testing it for bugs and technical faults.
If you notice any problems with site traffic after your first few weeks of launch, go back to the testing phases to check for any faults. Double up on your marketing campaign too, and check in with our SEO Cape Town professionals for advice and support on giving your website the SEO boost it needs to succeed.