Is there anything more stressful than migrating your website?
Even those three words alone can send chills down the spines of your entire design and development teams.
Migrating your website can be extremely challenging, especially when trying to stay on top of the things you should and should not do as to not affect the performance of your online presence. Here at IMPACT, we recently redesigned our website and understand how important and stressful the process can be. While migrating our site, we felt that the most important element was to ensure the user experience was never interrupted, and that we offered a seamless transition.
If you find yourself in the midst of migrating your website – perhaps even to HubSpot ;) – be sure to refer to this list in order to avoid several critical snafus that commonly interrupt the productivity of your online presence.
To help you migrate your website, we developed a list of 7 things you should remember.
7 Things to Remember When Migrating Your Website
1. Develop a Plan
Whether you're someone that has to make a plan for everything or not, when it comes to the migration of your website, it is extremely important in order to avoid some common pitfalls.
Before you start, it's a good idea to know and understand what needs to be done for the migration to take place. A great way to know whats completed and what still needs to be done is to develop a checklist.
I don't know about you but I love checking items off a list, especially when it's the last item. If your company or brand is already established with your customers, it is important for you to consider breaking down the migration of your site into phases. There's nothing worse than overwhelming your customers by implementing too many changes at once, you don't want your customers or visitors leaving your site 6 seconds after arriving.
2. Take an Inventory of Inbound Links
Do you know what pages have the most inbound links or page views? If not, you should perform an inbound link analysis in order to see all of the links that are coming to your website from an external website.
If you notice that a site like The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times is linking to your site, you would either not want to change the URL of that page, or if you do, create a 301 redirect to the new page URL.
Who doesn't want to improve the SEO on their site by having inbound links, especially when they're coming from trusted sources? The answer should be no one.
If you do decide to change the URL, it's critical that you redirect those pages to keep your visitors from getting 404 errors.
3. Create 301 Redirects
How many times have you clicked on a link and it brought you to a 404 page? Unfortunately, this happens a lot. Most people don't realize that this one mistake can deter people from coming to your site if it happens frequently.
You can keep this from happening by creating 301 redirects while migrating your website. By using 301 redirects, you're telling the search engines you have permanently moved your site to a new server or domain. On the off chance that you do miss a page, at least create an entertaining 404 error page.
4. Don't Redirect All Pages to Your Home Page
Redirecting all of the pages from your old website can be tedious and time consuming, but PLEASE do not redirect all of those pages to your new home page.
You might be thinking why not? SUre, it take a lot less effort. But a site redesign is no time to get lazy.
Redirecting all of those pages will save you time and essentially your visitors will be directed to your new site, but they are not going to know where to go.
I know that it's probably happened to you, the link you clicked or page you searched for brought you to a sites home page. What did you do? Just like me, you probably left and never looked back. If a visitor is clicking on your old pricing page, create a 301 redirect to your new pricing page. It keeps the continuity and doesn't interrupt the user experience.
Redirecting pages to your home page does not create a good user experience, no one has 5 minutes to go searching through your site to find the specific page they were looking for. You don't want to lose traffic or visitors because you took a short cut.
It might take longer, but it will off in the long run.
5. Continue to Keep Possession of Your Old Domain
It is extremely important that you continue to maintain your old domain for at least 6 months after migrating your website. This might not apply to everyone, but if you're changing the domain of your website, it is good to forward the current domain to the new website, allowing your visitors to adjust to the change.
When you are ready to remove your old domain completely, let your customers and visitors know, considering sending an email or mentioning the change on social media platforms.
6. Do Not Drastically Reduce the Content on Your Site
Are you thinking about changing the structure and reducing the content on your site? You might want to reconsider.
While migrating your website, it might seem like a good time to alter the structure and content on your site, however, you might want to give it a second thought.
Is the current structure working for my site?
Will I be reducing content?
Will the changes effect your on-page performance?
If you can answer yes to the above questions, you should probably leave your website structure alone. Sometimes even the smallest change could affect your site. However, if your current structure is not making the cut and you need to make structural changes to increase the performance of your website, you might want to consider making structural changes.
Keep the following in mind:
Maintain the anatomy of each page; this includes your titles, descriptions, heading tags, meta keywords, and more.
Improve your current pages
Don't take away information, add content thats in line with your current products and services.
7. Never Switch Back to Your Old Site
Unless it is absolutely necessary, refrain from switching back to your old site after the migration.
If there are small changes that need to be made, make them directly on the new server or domain. Not only will switching back and forth confuse your customers and website visitors, but it will also directly effect your search engine rankings.
You don't want to drastically decrease the page ranking of your domain because you switched back to your old site.
It's all about the user experience. As long as your redesign improves it and doesn't interrupt it, it will all work out fine.