When your current platform no longer meets your evolving needs, it might be time to consider a website migration. Such a transition, though often necessary, isn't just about shifting to a new platform; it's about ensuring the process positively impacts your brand's online visibility and performance.
Migrating your website should be a strategic step forward, but without meticulous attention to every detail, it can become a risky endeavour. Changing your domain, updating your platform or even just switching to HTTPS – these aren’t just technical updates, they are big changes that directly influence how search engines view and rank your site.
In this blog, we’ll look at everything you need to consider when it comes to website migration SEO, guiding you in pre-migration planning and post-migration monitoring to ensure your website retains its search visibility and traffic. We'll also look at how ShopWired's migration services and guides can help those migrating to ShopWired from another platform.
Table of Contents
What Is a Website Migration?
Website migration is the act of relocating a website from its existing hosting platform or environment to an alternate one. This transition encompasses the shifting of site files, databases, and configurations, all while aiming to minimise any negative impact on the website's operational capabilities, search engine optimisation (SEO), and the overall experience of its users.
The term "website migration" encompasses a variety of changes, which might include:
- URL structure modifications- For example, updating your site from HTTP to HTTPS.
- Switching hosting providers- Transferring your site to a different hosting service.
- Domain changes- Moving your website to a new domain.
- CMS transition- Shifting from one content management system (CMS) to another.
- Website redesign- Implementing a new design or theme.
Each type of migration can have implications for your website's overall performance and search engine rankings. That's why you'll need to meticulously plan and carefully execute your website migration to ensure that your website remains stable and retains its visibility throughout the migration process.
Different Types of Website Migration
Here's an overview of the most common types of website migrations:
Transitioning to a new domain
Often a result of rebranding or securing a more suitable domain name, this migration requires shifting your website to a different domain. Key to this process is establishing 301 redirects from your old domain to the new one, a critical step to retain your website's SEO equity.
Overhauling the website's design
Undertaking a comprehensive redesign of your website is a significant task. This type of migration can impact your site's structure, content arrangement and visual elements. For SEO preservation, it's vital to maintain consistent URL structures where feasible, efficiently redirect any changed URLs, ensure all vital content and metadata are transitioned properly and update internal linking strategies.
Changing your website's platform or CMS
Whether it's moving from a platform like Wix to ShopWired or any other CMS transition, this migration involves shifting the foundational system on which your website operates. The key here is to maintain continuity of SEO elements such as meta tags and URL structures to avoid losing organic search traffic. Platforms like ShopWired offer both expert guides and a migration service to make the process as straightforward as possible.
Revamping the site structure
This involves substantial changes to your website's architecture, including alterations in URL patterns, internal linking, site hierarchy or the navigation system. Strategic planning is crucial here to implement redirects accurately and ensure search engines can effectively understand and index the new structure of your site.
Migrating website content
This process entails transferring content from one website to another, which can occur during site mergers or while moving blog posts to a new platform. Typically, content migrations are successful, especially when they involve adding substantial new content or enriching existing material on a site.
Moving from subdomain to subdirectory
This migration type involves transferring content from a subdomain (like blog.example.com) to a subdirectory (example.com/blog). Often undertaken for SEO advantages, it's based on the notion that content within a subdirectory may carry more SEO weight than that on a subdomain. However, the effectiveness can vary depending on several factors.
Adapting for international audiences
This migration caters to multilingual or multi-regional audiences, often involving the implementation of hreflang tags or transitioning from a generic top-level domain (gTLD) to a country-code top-level domain (ccTLD).
Switching from HTTP to HTTPS
Moving your site to HTTPS, known for enhanced security, is increasingly common. Since Google recognises HTTPS as a ranking factor, this migration can offer SEO advantages. Nowadays, most new websites default to HTTPS.
Remember, regardless of the migration type, it's essential to back up your website fully before initiating any migration process. Meticulous planning, careful implementation and ongoing monitoring are key to navigating the complexities of each migration type successfully.
What is SEO Website Migration?
An SEO migration involves transferring a website's existing search engine rankings, authority and indexing signals when you migrate your website or make changes to the URL structure.
The primary objective of an SEO migration is to safeguard and maintain your website's current search engine visibility during and after the transition of a website migration. By meticulously planning and executing an SEO migration, you can effectively mitigate the risk of losing valuable search engine presence when updating or overhauling your website.
Pre-Migration Planning: Laying the Groundwork for SEO Success
Before embarking on the actual migration process, you'll need a thorough pre-migration plan in place to safeguard your website’s SEO integrity. This phase is all about preparation and strategy, ensuring that the transition will have minimal impact on your site’s current SEO.
Let’s explore the key steps you need to take to ensure you don’t damage your SEO during the migration process.
Conduct an SEO audit
Begin with a comprehensive SEO audit of your existing website. Identify your top-performing pages, keywords and any current SEO issues. This audit will serve as a roadmap for what needs to be preserved and improved during the migration. Tools such as SEMrush and Ahrefs let you perform in-depth SEO audits. If your SEO is handles by an external agency, ask them to perform a full audit before the migration process starts.
Map your URLs carefully
One of the key aspects of maintaining SEO during migration is URL mapping. Every URL from the old site needs to have a corresponding URL on the new site. This step is crucial in planning effective 301 redirects, which are vital for preserving link equity and user experience. This is especially important for high-traffic pages.
Benchmark your current performance
Your pre-migration audit should document your current website’s performance metrics, such as organic traffic, keyword rankings and conversion rates. These benchmarks will be invaluable in post-migration analysis, helping you measure the impact of the migration on your SEO.
By meticulously planning and addressing these pre-migration elements, you set a solid foundation for maintaining and enhancing your website’s SEO performance during the migration.
Content audit and optimisation
A critical component of website migration SEO is the evaluation and optimisation of your site’s content. This stage involves a careful review to ensure that your valuable content continues to perform well and aligns with your new platform’s capabilities and SEO best practices.
Review and update key content
Examine your site’s content for relevance, accuracy, and SEO effectiveness. Update any outdated information and optimise key pages for current SEO standards. This includes refining meta titles, meta descriptions and alt tags, and ensuring high-quality, keyword-rich content. If you update any information on the website, make sure to update the date, as this can benefit your SEO.
Optimise for user experience
Consider how your content will be presented in the new layout. Ensure that it remains user-friendly, with clear navigation and readable formats. The goal is to retain engagement and reduce bounce rates, which are crucial for SEO performance.
Preserve valuable SEO elements
When updating content, make sure to retain elements that have contributed to your current SEO success. This includes metadata, structured data, alt tags on images, and any inbound links within your content. Retaining these elements will help maintain your search rankings during the transition.
Address duplicate content issues
Check for and resolve any duplicate content issues. This can include canonicalising pages where necessary or merging similar content to create more robust, singular pages.
By thoroughly auditing and optimising your content before the migration, you can ensure your website not only retains its SEO value but is also positioned for improved performance in its new environment.
Technical SEO Considerations
Technical SEO plays a pivotal role in website migration, ensuring the new site is not just aesthetically pleasing or functionally better, but also optimised for search engines. This stage focuses on the behind-the-scenes elements that significantly impact SEO.
We've already covered some of these in the sections above, but let's take a closer look at the technical SEO considerations you need to make when migrating your website.
Maintain site architecture and mobile responsiveness
The structure of your website, including its hierarchy and link architecture, should be maintained or improved in the new site. There are plenty of tools to help you visualise your website structure on a visual sitemap.
Additionally, ensure that the new site is mobile-responsive, as mobile-friendliness is a key ranking factor for search engines. Most modern website builders and ecommerce platforms, like ShopWired, have a range of responsive themes you can choose for your website. This ensures your website looks and functions great on both desktop and mobile devices.
Update and test internal linking
Internal links help search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your site. Ensure that all internal links are updated to point to the new URLs and test them to avoid any broken links. Broken links can negatively impact your SEO, so making sure they work is paramount.
Preserve metadata and structured data
Meta titles, descriptions and structured data like schema markup should be accurately transferred to the new site. They play a crucial role in how search engines understand and display your pages in search results.
Handle staging environments with care
Use a staging environment to test the new site before going live. Make sure this environment is blocked from search engines to avoid indexing duplicate content. This can be done using a robots.txt file or by using noindex tags.
Launch and Immediate Post-Launch Actions
The transition to your new website can be exciting but daunting. Here’s how to ensure your launch is as smooth as can be:
Going live with strategic timing
When launching your new site, carefully choose a time that typically sees lower traffic, like late nights or weekends, as this will minimise disruption to your visitors. This also gives your team time to address any immediate issues without high user traffic. For example, if your analytics show that user activity dips on Sunday mornings, this could be an ideal time for the transition.
Immediate site crawl
Immediately after the site goes live, use tools like Screaming Frog or SEMrush to perform a detailed crawl. This is crucial for identifying issues such as broken links, missing pages or incorrect redirects. If the crawl reveals broken links on key product pages, these need immediate attention to prevent loss of sales and SEO impact. A crawl report can also help you verify that all old URLs properly redirect to their new counterparts.
Verification of redirects
Check all 301 redirects meticulously. This step is vital for maintaining search engine rankings and ensuring a smooth user journey. For high-traffic pages, manually test each redirect to confirm it leads to the correct new page. Redirects not only preserve link equity but also guide users to the right content, preventing frustration and bouncebacks. Remember, even a single failed redirect on a high-value page can significantly impact your SEO and user experience.
Update Google Analytics and Search Console
Ensure that Google Analytics and Google Search Console are tracking the new site correctly from the start. These tools will be your primary source for monitoring the site’s performance and identifying any issues post-migration. It's crucial that they're capturing data accurately to inform your SEO strategy going forward.
Immediate SEO health check
Beyond the technical crawl, conduct a focused SEO health check. This includes verifying that meta titles and descriptions accurately reflect the new site's content. Check whether the new pages have maintained the structured data or schema markup from the old site, which is essential for rich snippets in search results.
Monitor user feedback
In the days following the launch, pay close attention to user feedback across social media, customer service channels and on-site feedback tools. User reactions can quickly highlight issues that were not caught during testing. For instance, if multiple users report difficulty in using the site search feature, this should be prioritised for review. Also, observe the behaviour flow in Google Analytics to understand how users are navigating the new site. Sudden changes in bounce rates or exit pages can indicate areas where the new site might be falling short of user expectations.
By taking these steps during and immediately after the launch, you can significantly reduce the risk of SEO disruptions and set the stage for a successful migration to your new website.
Post-Migration SEO Monitoring and Adjustments
After successfully migrating your website, diligent monitoring and ongoing adjustments are key to maintaining and enhancing your site's SEO performance.
Comprehensive tracking of key performance metrics (KPIs)
Utilise Google Analytics to closely monitor crucial metrics such as traffic patterns, user engagement and conversion rates. If you observe a sudden decline in organic traffic or an increase in bounce rates, it could signify issues that need immediate attention.
Assessing search rankings
Regularly monitor your site’s rankings for key search terms using tools like Moz or SEMrush. Be prepared to quickly address any unexpected drops in rankings. This could involve reassessing your keyword strategy or refining the SEO elements of specific pages.
Continual site audits for technical SEO
Conduct regular technical SEO audits to track the website's performance in the post-migration months. These audits help identify issues such as broken links, missing alt tags or slow-loading pages. For example, if an audit reveals that several high-value pages are taking too long to load, this could negatively impact both user experience and search rankings, necessitating prompt optimisation.
Implementing user feedback
Actively seek and incorporate user feedback to enhance the website experience. Remember, users won't hold the same biases towards your website as you, so their input can be invaluable. Use feedback tools and analyse user behaviour patterns to identify areas for improvement. If users report difficulty in finding information or navigating the site, consider redesigning those elements for better usability.
Adapting SEO strategies based on insights
Based on analytics and user feedback, continually adapt and refine your SEO strategies. This might involve updating content to better align with user search intent, optimising for new keywords based on emerging trends or enhancing the internal linking structure to improve site navigation and page authority.
Monitoring Core Web Vitals and site performance
Regularly check your site's performance against Google's Core Web Vitals using PageSpeed Insights. Address any issues related to loading speed, interactivity, and visual stability to ensure a positive user experience and potentially improve SEO rankings.
Re-evaluating backlink profile
Post-migration, it's important to assess and maintain your site's backlink profile. Use tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to analyse your backlinks for quality and relevance. Engage in strategies to acquire new, high-quality backlinks and disavow any toxic or irrelevant links that could harm your site's credibility.
By vigilantly monitoring and adjusting your SEO strategy after migration, you can ensure that your website not only maintains its current search engine visibility but is also positioned for future growth and success.
Long-Term SEO Strategy Post-Migration
After the initial post-migration phase, it's crucial to establish a long-term SEO strategy to continue driving growth.
Ongoing content optimisation and expansion
Regularly update and expand your website content to keep it relevant and engaging. This includes refreshing existing content, adding new blog posts and creating resources that align with your audience's interests and search trends. If an emerging trend relates to your industry, creating content around it can attract traffic.
Building and nurturing backlinks
Continue to develop a robust backlink profile. This involves not only acquiring new, high-quality backlinks but also monitoring existing ones for relevance and authority. Engage in guest blogging, collaborations and PR strategies to naturally build links. Regularly audit your backlink profile to identify and disavow any harmful links.
Adapting to algorithm updates
Stay informed about the latest search engine algorithm updates and adjust your SEO strategy accordingly. This might involve focusing on certain types of content, changing your keyword focus or modifying technical aspects of your site. For example, if a new algorithm update prioritises user experience metrics, you might need to further optimise your site's speed and mobile-friendliness.
Monitoring user experience and engagement metrics
Use analytics tools to continuously monitor user behaviour on your site. Metrics such as time on page, click-through rates and conversion rates can provide insights into user engagement and satisfaction. Based on these metrics, you might need to adjust the layout, content or navigational elements of your site to improve user experience.
Regular competitor analysis
Keep an eye on your competitors' SEO strategies and performance. Tools like SEMrush can provide insights into your competitors' keyword strategies, backlink profiles and content marketing efforts. Understanding what your competitors are doing can also help you identify opportunities and gaps in your own strategy. For example, if you notice a competitor consistently ranks high for certain keywords, analyse their content and SEO tactics to inform your approach.
Focusing on local SEO (if applicable)
If your business serves a local market, local SEO should be part of your strategy. Local SEO includes optimising your Google My Business listing, acquiring local backlinks and creating content relevant to your local audience.
Investing in advanced SEO tools and analytics
As your website grows, consider investing in more advanced SEO tools and analytics platforms to gain deeper insights and automate more complex tasks. Tools like Ahrefs, Moz Pro or advanced features in Google Analytics can provide valuable data on keyword performance, backlink analysis, and user behaviour. For example, using these tools, you can track the ROI of specific SEO campaigns, conduct detailed keyword research, and perform in-depth competitor analysis.
Regular SEO training and learning
The world of SEO is constantly evolving, so it's important to stay updated with the latest trends, best practices and algorithm updates. Encourage regular training for your team and attend webinars, workshops or online courses. Staying informed ensures that your SEO strategies remain effective and your team is equipped to handle new challenges.
Evaluating and updating SEO goals
Evaluating and updating SEO goals is essential. Set clear, measurable goals and regularly assess your progress. For instance, if your aim to boost organic traffic shows only modest improvements, analyse and adjust your keyword strategy or content approach to target higher-traffic opportunities. Similarly, for local search rankings, if results are not as expected, refocus efforts on increasing local backlinks and engaging more with community-specific platforms. Adjust your strategies and tactics based on the outcomes you are achieving to ensure continual improvement.
By focusing on these long-term strategies, you can make sure your website not only adapts to the ever-changing landscape of SEO, but also continues to grow and succeed in attracting and engaging your target audience.
Seamless Website SEO Migration with ShopWired
As we've explored, there's a lot to consider when it comes to website migrations and SEO. But migrating to the right platform can make a significant difference to the ongoing success of your SEO efforts.
ShopWired understands the critical importance of maintaining search rankings and visibility during the migration process. If your website currently enjoys a good position for search rankings then a well-planned migration to ShopWired will result in the current rankings being maintained and, in some cases (depending on which platform you are migrating from) even improved. Users moving to ShopWired from another platform can also benefit from our tailored migration services.
What SEO benefits does ShopWired have?
- Fully responsive themes that are free to use and optimised for SEO.
- Reliable hosting on Amazon Web services (AWS) to guarantee 99.9% uptime.
- Easily add meta titles, meta descriptions, image alt tags and other technical SEO elements to your pages with ease.
- Add a blog to your website to increase traffic and become a respected authority within your niche.
- Tailored SEO packages from ShopWired's marketing experts to help your store grow.
Want to try ShopWired for yourself? Sign up for a 14-day free trial today.
Want to migrate to ShopWired from a different platform? Get in touch with our friendly support team for more information.