Website Migration Checklist That Helped Our Client Regain 100% of SEO Metrics in Less Than Two Months
Oct 10, 2023
Website migration is one of the most time-consuming and complex SEO tasks. If done wrong, it can easily lead to the loss in traffic and revenue for the business owner. Luckily, it was not the case for our client – Profi.io. We managed to successfully migrate the website from awarenow.io to a newly-registered domain profi.io in April 2021. As a result, we regained organic positions, traffic and Domain Authority in less than 2 month.
This SEO migration checklist will walk you through the exact migration process we followed for Profi.io. We’ll cover everything from gathering URLs of the migration site to setting up the redirects to submitting a new domain to GSC. We’ve outlined the best practices you can follow that will help make your migration a lot easier. Let’s dive into the process.
Screenshot from Ahrefs on organic performance of the profi.io – destination site
Screenshot from MOZ domain analysis dashboard on the Domain Authority growth of profi.io – destination site
There are three stages of website migration that we’ve followed:
Website pre-migration stage
During the pre-migration stage we completed the next steps:
Before we started working on the new website, we created the backup of the current website. If anything went wrong during migration, we’d be able to recover and continue from where we left off.
We ran a technical audit of the migration domain to check the website for the broken links, meta title tags, meta descriptions, canonical URLs, etc. Screaming Frog crawl identified several critical errors on the migration site that had to be fixed before migration.
Next preparation step involved gathering all indexed URLs of the migrating website. We’ve enriched the list with number of clicks, impression, organic rankings, traffic, conversion rate, etc. This list can be of great value when you need to compare data after the migration. It helps you identify missing or broken URLs on the migration site.
Next stage covered prioritizing URLs of the migration site. Pages with the highest priority need more attention once the website is migrated. We added data from the Ahrefs, Google Search Console and Google Analytics including current keyword rankings, traffic, conversion rates. Based on this data, we sorted the pages prioritizing the following URLs:
Pages with the highest conversion rate in terms of lead generation and revenue (based on the data of the last 3-months period).
Pages that rank for the biggest number of keywords, have high keyword rankings and bring the largest % of organic traffic.
Pages that have the largest number of incoming links.
Pages with the highest number of impressions.
Later, we mapped out new URLs on the destination domain to existing URLs on the migrating domain. This step is crucial to successfully redirect a URL from the old domain to the corresponding URL on the new domain in any of the following cases:
– when we implement the new website structure on the destination domain which is reflected in the new URL structure. For example, in case of profi.io, the organizational structure of the blog folder was changed and the blog URLs were accessible via different paths after migration.
– when there is a change in the product portfolio, product positioning, etc. In this case the user should be redirected to the correct landing page on the new domain which corresponds to the specific use case and serves the user intent. E.g. initially profi.io focused on coaches as their target audience. After the migration, they divided their product into 4 distinct segments for each user persona – coaches, trainers, consultants and therapists. The homepage of the old domain was redirected to the coaches’ landing pages, not the homepage of the new domain.
– when we plan to merge or consolidate several pagesand move only one URL from each group of similar pages to the new destination. This ensures that you’re directing traffic appropriately without creating any unintended consequences like duplicate content.
– when there are pages we want to remove from the migration site and do not transfer them to the destination site. In this case, we need to 301 redirect this URL to its most related analogue on the new website. This way we can keep the link value of the page.
Finally, considering all the cases above, we created a 301 redirect map based on the relevant list of corresponding URLs, priority URLs and benchmark performance report. The 301 redirect map should strictly follow the 1:1 redirect rules. That implies that each particular page should only be redirected once. The redirect map should be reflected in the htaccess file.
Website migration stage
During the migration stage we went through the following important checklist:
First of all, we set up and tested the 301 redirects on a staging domain. Only after checking it on the staging environment, we’ve deployed it to the live environment.Testing means both checking the URL performance from the human and bots perspective, whether users and search engine bots are landing on the correct page after redirect.
We‘ve updated internal linkson the destination site and made sure there are no redirect chains or redirect loops in place that negatively impact crawl performance.
Website post-migration stage
During the post-migration stage we’ve finalized the steps below:
We checked and updated SEO details on the destination site. We’ve added SEO metadata such as self-referencing canonicals, hreflang, title, description tags on the new website.
We‘ve notified Google about the change of the website address within Google Search Console via Change of Address tool. For more information on this step you can also visit official webmaster guidelines. Apart from that we wanted to keep all the Google Analytics historical data and maintain the same GA property account. To achieve this we informed Google about the destination of the migrated content in the GA dashboard settings. This way you will be able to access any data from the account, stored in Google Analytics. You also need to double check if the tracking code is present on every page of the website and works properly.
We‘ve generated a new robots.txt file and updated XML Sitemap. We’ve submitted the new XML sitemap to Google Search Console and pointed a link to the sitemap in the robots.txt file.
After Google Search Console has crawled the website pages, we’ve checked them for crawl errors. Make sure to monitor the error reports in Google Search Console on a regular basis. Crawl errors identified in GSC can cause major issues with the website, including a loss of rankings, organic traffic drops and even site crashes. When you notice crawl errors on the page, it is important to take action immediately to avoid any further problems.
We’ve also performed a website lookup in search and made sure all the website pages are properly indexed. Please note that it takes time for Google to crawl and index all website pages after the migration. The number of indexed pages is one indicator that Google uses to determine the quality and priority of a site. If this number stays low for a long time or important website pages are not being indexed, look for an issue with the GSC Url inspection tool. After you fix errors, you can request indexing of a particular page that is important in terms of SEO and business value. You should also check whether pages that have been removed during the pre-migration stage are appearing in the search results.
Handle a website migration with ease
Website migration can be stressful, however, knowing exactly which pitfalls to watch out for can make it a lot easier. Reach out to the Quoleady team if you are still not sure where to start or worried about making a mistake that can cause you loss of traffic. We are always happy to help with your migration process. We know that this is a big decision and you may be feeling overwhelmed by what it takes to make it happen. But don’t worry – we’re here for you every step of the way.
SEO Specialist, Website Migration Expert, and Certified Technical SEO Professional