Website Migration

Moving your website can have big implications for your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. In the worst case, you risk losing all your visibility on - and traffic from - Google. Read on for 10 tips for the move.


Tips for moving your website

Read on for 10 practical tips for a successful website relocation (also called a migration), ensuring that the move does not compromise your SEO efforts. The tips apply to you who are moving your website to a new web server or hosting provider - but also to you who are making major structural changes to your website as part of a relaunch. You can read more about moving your website in our article on migration or download a copy of our migration book.

1) Moving requires a lot of time

First of all, you should know that when you move your website, it can take time for Google to be fully up to date with all the changes you have made. In practice, this means that you may lose rankings in search results and that it may take some time to regain the same positions. This is normal and to be expected when moving, but there may also be real errors that are holding you back and it is important that you catch these errors in time.

2) Think carefully before changing your domain name

Changing the name of a domain is not without significance. In fact, it is quite a complex maneuver SEO-wise, often resulting in loss of traffic.

First, Google has a clear preference for older domains. A new domain simply does not have the authority of an older domain, and even if all links from the old domain point to the new one with 301 redirects, rankings can be slow.

Second, users may also have a preference for a domain name. If they usually find you on a particular url or name, they may choose to ignore the new domain because they don't know it.

Both factors are something that resolve over time, but you need to be aware of the possible loss of traffic that can occur at the expense of domain change.

3) Remember to take a backup

It's rare for a relaunch to go completely smoothly, so it can be reassuring to know that you have a contingency plan in case things don't go to plan. So make sure you have a backup of your old website ready so you can switch back to it quickly until you get the problems with the new website sorted out.

4) Find out what needs to be migrated

In order to make a successful move, you must, of course, have complete control over what URLs and files to be moved. The complexity of this depends on how big your website is, and instead of approaching the task with an Excel sheet and good patience, you should use the tool called Screaming Frog SEO Spider. This tool can quickly, easily and efficiently crawl your entire website and provide a detailed overview of all the URLs and files you have.

5) Use a strategic approach

Instead of migrating your entire website at once, you can take it in smaller sections at a time. That way, you can start by moving a single section and checking that the migration works flawlessly, and that Google can figure out how to index the section correctly, and then move on to the rest of the website. By using this approach, you minimise the risk of fatal errors that could have been avoided.

6) Create redirects and monitor 404 errors

If the url structure of the website has been changed during the migration, it is important that you create redirectsas soon as you launch the new website.

Create 301 redirects from your old urls to the new ones to avoid losing too many links and users encountering 404 errorwhen they enter your site. Being greeted by a 404 error is never a good user experience, and so it is not in Google's interest to send users to such a page. You should therefore always keep an eye on 404 error trends and make your 404 landing page as user-friendly as possible.

After the migration is complete, you can use Google Search Console to keep an eye on your 404 errors, and as soon as you spot them, you should set up a 301 redirect that takes users to the right landing page.

7) Get the most important backlinks updated

If your website has a new name or url structure, you can also benefit from updating as many inbound links as possible. Depending on the size of the site, it can be a major task to find the links in question, contact the owners of the sites linking to you and wait for them to fix them. A good idea is therefore to start with the 50 most important backlinks and ensure that they are updated immediately. You can use tools like Ahrefs and Majestic to monitor and analyse your backlinks.

If you don't set up redirects and update key backlinks, users coming from these sources will be greeted by a 404 page and link juice won't be passed on to the right landing pages. The result could be that you lose positions on Google and get less traffic.

8) Update sitemaps

To update a sitemap is a quick and simple task, but one that can easily be forgotten in the process. Your sitemap needs to be updated if you have changed or added new URLs. Remember that you need to change the location of your sitemap in robots.txt-file as well as in the Google Search Console.

9) Keep an eye on traffic

It's normal to lose traffic after a relaunch, but does it seem more like your traffic has disappeared into a black hole? If so, it's time to take a closer look.

An obvious place to start is by checking your robots.txt file. The technicians could have mistakenly set noindex on the entire website. If this is the case, your new website will not be indexed and your organic traffic will dwindle to nothing.

If the problem is not in the robots.txt file, you should take a closer look at the tracking code for your analysis tool. It may be that the tracking code is not there at all, or that it is not collecting data from all pages of the website.

10) Raise awareness of the new website

Nothing is better for a new website than fresh inbound links. By getting fresh links, you can help yourself (and Google) well on your way to reclaiming those good positions in search results. Ideally, this activity should be planned first in the move, as it can take time to build these links. Indeed, it can be difficult to attract good links from relevant websites, but activities such as exciting competitions, a sneak peek at the new site or a launch party can all help to generate publicity, especially if you use your own network to spread the word.

Listen to "SEO tips for migrating websites" on Spreaker.

Field compressed

Mark Molgaard

Partner & Senior SEO Specialist

Se forfatter

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