How often do you hear from clients who want to migrate their websites to another hosting provider? While migrating sites is a common task, it can also be complicated and time consuming. And, more often than not, website migration mistakes can occur. If you don’t plan ahead or follow certain steps correctly, you might end up wasting valuable resources.
Migrating a site means moving its files and database to a new server. Not only that, this also means transferring settings, transferring existing SEO attributes so that you don’t lose traffic (which can be very complex and demanding), and ensuring that you arrive at the other side of the migration successfully without rankings or traffic loss.
This usually requires changing some settings on the old host and configuring the new host accordingly. The process can take hours or even days depending on the complexity of the project.
There are several reasons why you should consider migrating your site before launching into a major redesign. Here are a few of them.
1. You Can Save Money
If you have been running your website for years without making any changes, chances are that you will need to upgrade your web hosting service at some point in order to keep pace with current trends.
For example, if you are using PHP 5.3, you may need to switch to PHP 7.0. In addition, you may need to update your MySQL version to support more features.
This process could cost hundreds of dollars. However, by migrating your site to a newer platform, you can save money because you won’t need to pay for upgrades anymore.
2. Your Site Will Be More Secure
When you move your site to a different hosting provider you can rest assured that your data is safe. As long as you make sure to transfer all your files and databases properly, there is no risk of losing sensitive information.
In fact, when you migrate your site, you can use an automated tool like Migrate DB Pro to import your data directly into the new system. This way, you don’t have to worry about manually transferring everything.
3. It Is Easier To Upgrade
When you migrate your site to a new hosting provider, you can easily upgrade your software later on. For instance, if you decide to change your CMS (content management system) to WordPress 3.5, you can simply install the latest version on the new server.
You can also add plugins and themes to your site without having to wait for updates to come out.
But, even with a website migration, there are situations that can turn disastrous due to mistakes. The following includes more common website migration mistakes we run into frequently.
You Ignore Important Pages While Migrating
The move from one site to another is a massive undertaking. It requires careful planning, lots of work and patience. Although there are many things you can do to make sure the whole process goes smoothly, there are certain steps you absolutely must take to ensure that you don’t end up losing everything along the way.
One thing we see people doing all too often is ignoring certain pages while moving over to a new domain. This usually happens because they think those pages aren’t important enough to migrate. However, this could prove to be a costly mistake.
Why? Because the pages you decide to skip over will become orphaned. This means they won’t receive any updates. They won’t show up in search engines. And they won’t continue to bring in revenue.
So what should you do instead? Well, here are three ways you can avoid making this mistake.
1. Transfer Everything
If you want to keep your visitors and customers happy, you’ll need to make sure that everything stays put. So start by transferring everything over to the new site. This includes images, videos, text, etc.
2. Make Sure Your Old Domain Has Some Value
Even if you transfer everything over, it doesn’t mean you have to lose your old domain. In fact, it might still have value. You just need to find out how much.
There are several different ways you can figure this out. For example, by plugging your domain into Semrush or AHREFs, you can figure out how much traffic it is getting, along with its domain authority. For both numbers, the higher the better. You have already spent time and effort getting value for this domain, so unless it has to do with changing it into an entirely different brand, you will probably want to keep that domain.
3. Don’t Forget About Pages That Are Important To Your Business
Now that you know what pages you want to keep, it’s time to go through them one by one and decide whether they’re worth keeping.
You may not realize it, but there are a lot of pages that are important to your business. These include:
- Contact page
- Pricing page
- About us page
- Terms & conditions page
- FAQ page
- Social media profiles
You also need to consider the type of content these pages contain. Do they provide information about your products or services? Or do they offer tips and advice?
Once you’ve decided where you want to keep these pages, you can either leave them as they are or add links back to your old site.
You Changed The URL Structure On a Whim, When It’s Not Needed
There are many reasons why you shouldn’t change the URL structure on your site. From creating duplicate pages accidentally, to poorly optimized URLs, you can introduce problems inadvertently just by changing the URL structure.
1. Duplicate Pages
One of the biggest problems that you’ll encounter during a migration is duplicate pages. If you’re moving a lot of content around, chances are there will be duplicate pages. A good example of this is a blog post that gets moved from one category to another. When you move a post from one category to another, the same article will show up twice — once in each category.
Duplicates are never a good thing. They make your crawl budget go up, and they increase the amount of work that needs to be done by our indexers. In addition, they can cause issues with rankings. For instance, if a page ranks well for both “how to move a blog post” and “blog posts,” it could be penalized for duplicating content.
2. Poorly Optimized URLS
Another problem that you’ll face when migrating a website is poorly optimized URLs. While you don’t necessarily need to worry about optimizing all of your URLs, you should definitely pay attention to those that link to specific pages within your site.
For example, let’s say you’ve got a product page that has an image on it.This isn’t bad because it provides enough detail for users to understand what the page is about. However, if you only have one image on the page, it won’t rank very high.
If you’re going to migrate your entire site, you’ll probably want to optimize all of your images. But if you’re only transferring a few pages, you can save yourself some time by focusing on the pages that have the highest-ranking images.
3. Broken Links
When you start a new project, you usually spend a lot of time making sure everything is working properly. This includes broken links.
When you transfer a site over to a new domain name, you’ll need to check every single page to see if any of the links are broken. If so, you’ll need to fix them before you launch.
4. 404 Errors
While we’re talking about broken links, you might also run into 404 errors. These occur when someone tries to access a page that doesn’t exist anymore.
404 errors aren’t always a big deal. Sometimes, they just indicate that a page was removed. Other times, however, they mean that something went wrong while you were transferring the site.
Where 404 errors are a big deal, however, is when you have hundreds of them and you only have a few working pages. In these cases, you want to make sure that you redirect broken pages that 404. And, just to be on the safe side, redirecting 404 pages to their nearest working pages is a good practice to implement.
5. Page Speed Issues
Page speed is important. It affects how quickly a user can navigate through your site. And since Google wants us to provide fast experiences, it’s important that we do everything possible to improve the performance of our sites.
Page speed is especially important for mobile devices. Users expect websites to load quickly, and slow loading speeds can lead to lower conversions.
6. SEO Problems
SEO (search engine optimization) is a huge part of running a successful online presence. The more SEO problems that you can correct and get a handle on, the better your results will be.
You Ignored SEO In the Early Stages Of The Project
The reason why SEO is such a big deal during a website migration is because the process itself is very complex. There are many moving parts involved, including redirecting old URLs, updating internal linking, creating 301 redirects, etc. But what happens when you don’t think about SEO during the whole process? What happens when you just start migrating without involving anyone else?
You will end up spending more money than expected, and you may even lose traffic as a result. So before you begin your website migration, make sure that you involve a professional SEO company in order to get the best results.
Although most webmasters might be able to do a migration on their own, they are not seasoned professionals, so some things can get overlooked during a migration. Especially when it comes to SEO.
You Allowed the Staging Environment to be Indexed
A common practice among webmasters is to allow the URL of their staging environments to be indexed by Google and other search engines. This allows them to test changes without having to wait for the code to go live. However, there are some drawbacks to allowing your staging site to be indexed. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t do it:
1. Your staging site could end up showing up in search results
The most obvious reason why you might want to avoid letting your staging site show up in search results is because it looks like your live site. If someone searches for something on your site, and sees a link to a page that doesn’t exist, they might think that your site isn’t working properly. They could even try to access the nonexistent page, thinking that it’s just another error on your site.
If you don’t want people to see your staging site, you should either make sure that it gets removed from search results or prevent it from getting indexed in the first place.
2. Your staging site could become a duplicate of your live site
When you change something on your live site, you want to make sure that everything works correctly. When you work on a feature, you want to ensure that it works well enough to deploy it. A good way to test things out is to stage your changes. By staging your changes, you give yourself the opportunity to check whether what you’re doing is correct. For example, let’s say you add a new product to your store. Before you publish it, you can put it into a staging environment where you can test how it performs. After you’ve tested it, you can decide whether you’ll push it live or not.
This approach helps you figure out whether the new product is ready to launch or not. If you find that it’s not ready, you can take steps to improve it. In addition to testing features, you can also use staging sites to test out different designs. As long as you keep your staging site separate from your production site, you won’t run into the same problems that you did with your previous design.
3. You could lose links on your old site if you’re not careful
One thing that you need to consider when you migrate your site is that you could lose links to your old site. If you have any external links pointing to pages on your old site, those links could break if you move them over to your new site. It’s important to note that this problem only affects links that point to pages on your old website. Links that point to content on your new site will still work fine.
You can solve this issue by making sure that all of your old URLs redirect to your new URLs. That way, visitors who click on links on your old site will automatically be redirected to your new site.
You Redirected Many Pages to the Homepage
We see webmasters take shortcuts every day. Sometimes it’s due to lack of knowledge or experience. Other times it’s because they don’t know better. Either way, it’s never a good thing.
In our experience, one of the most common mistakes that we see is companies rushing redirects. They do this by pointing all their pages towards the homepage. This sounds like a great idea, as you are probably saving a ton of time that would have had to be invested in managing the redirects. However, there’s a catch. You are losing out on a lot of link authority that used to exist on those pages.
Your old pages will now have no authority whatsoever, since all incoming traffic will be redirected to the homepage. And while it may seem like a quick fix, it can actually have serious consequences on your site’s overall SEO performance.
The biggest issue with these irrelevant redirects is link authority. Every single page on your website will lose some of its link juice if you redirect everything at once without a plan in place. This is why it’s important to make sure that each of your old pages still has some value. If you don’t, you’re just wasting resources.
You Did Not Submit New Sitemaps to Google Search Console
A new sitemap means a new website structure. If you are creating a new site for a specific purpose, such as launching a new product, offering a new service, or rebranding, it is imperative to submit a new sitemap to Google Search Console. Otherwise, Google won’t know about your new URL. This could cause some serious issues because if Google doesn’t find out about your new URL, it might miss out on crawling and indexing it.
If you already have a sitemap that works well for your site, you can continue working with that sitemap. However, if you are creating a new sitemap for a specific purpose, like launching a new product, providing a new service, or even rebranding, it makes sense to submit a new sitemap to GSC.
You can submit a sitemap either via the Google Webmaster Tools interface or directly through the XML format. For example, if you’re making changes to your existing sitemap, you’ll want to update the file name in the “urlset” element to reflect the new sitemap. Then, you can upload the updated sitemap file to GSC.
You Used 302 Redirects Instead of 301 Redirects
A 302 redirect is a temporary redirect. When you use a 302 redirect, you’re telling the search engine that the current URL is no longer valid and that you want it to move to another URL. You do this because sometimes, things change on your web server, like your DNS settings, and you don’t want the search engine to think that the original URL is still valid.
However, there are some downsides to using a 302 redirect. For example, if someone visits your page via a bookmark or via a link on social media, they’ll likely see a broken link. If you use a 302 redirect to move a page, the same thing happens: they’ll see a broken link. So, what’s the solution? Use a 301 redirect.
301 redirects are a permanent redirect, meaning that once the search engine indexes the new page, it won’t remember the previous page anymore. Therefore, you can rest assured that the search engine will always show your new page, even if people bookmarked or shared your old page.
Web developers often make the mistake of using 302 redirects instead of 301 redirects. Ideally, 301 redirects should be used. Especially when you are moving a site permanently to new URLs.
You Misdirected Rel=”Canonical” Tags
The rel=”canonical” tag tells search engines what version of a web page to use, for crawling and indexing purposes. This allows you to specify which versions of a page are considered equivalent.
For example, suppose you have a blog with multiple posts about a particular topic. You might want one version of each post to be crawled and indexed, while another version could be used for displaying to visitors. In this case, you would set up separate URLs for each version of the page, and add the rel”canonical” attribute to the link pointing to the preferred version. When a visitor follows that link, the browser sends both URLs to the server, and the server chooses the most appropriate version based on the value of the rel attribute. If there isn’t a match, the default version is chosen.
A common mistake made during migration of sites is not updating the canonical URLs to reference any updated URLs, especially when changing domain names. This will send mixed signals to search engine crawlers, as they prefer to know whether to crawl the current version or the previous version.
You Did Not Migrate Page Level Noindex Nofollow Rules
While we are talking about small changes that can make big impacts, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly overlooked page-level noindex/nofollow issues. Here are just a few common situations where you want to add noindex no follow rules:
1. Private login pages
Private login pages are usually used to prevent visitors from being able to access parts of your site without logging in. These pages often contain sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc. If someone finds out how to bypass login forms, they could potentially gain access to this sensitive data. As a result, it is very important to make sure that these pages do not show up in the search engines. This way, people won’t accidentally find them.
2. Low quality internal pages
These types of pages are generally considered low quality because they don’t provide much value to visitors. They are mostly there to collect leads, promote products, or offer support. However, since these pages aren’t really useful to anyone, they shouldn’t rank well in the search engines. By adding a page-level noindex/nofollow rule, you will ensure that these pages don’t appear in the search results.
3. Pages with no indexable text
If you have a page with no indexable text, that means that none of the words on that page are visible to Google. For instance, if you have a page called About Us, you probably don’t want to include the word “us” anywhere inside the page. Even though you are trying to describe yourself, the crawler doesn’t understand what you are describing. So, you need to use a page-level noindex/nofollow rule to avoid showing those pages in the search results. You can easily check if a page contains indexed text by looking at the URL bar.
You Removed Important Pages From the Navigation
Site hierarchy plays a huge role on how well a web page ranks on search engines. If you’re looking to optimize your site for SEO purposes, it’s best to start by thinking about what the most important pages are.
During a site rebuild, it’s very common for businesses to make changes to the navigational structure of the site. These changes could include moving categories around, adding subcategories, changing the category name, etc.
Whenever possible, we would recommend keeping changes to the site’s hierarchy at a minimum. Ideally, you would want the page to remain where it is in the site’s navigation structure. This way the page will still rank highly even after the site migration.
In some cases, there may be instances where it makes sense to move certain pages out of the main navigation menu. For example, if a customer has purchased something from your store and is now browsing your products, it might make sense to put those items in a separate section of the site. However, if the page is part of the primary navigation menu, it’s best to avoid making major structural changes to the site.
You Do Not Have a Post-Migration Checklist Or Monitoring Process
After migrating your site, it’s important to keep tabs on how things are doing. There are many different ways to do this. Here we’ll look at some of the most common ones.
Monitoring Your Traffic & Analytics
Analytics tools like Google Analytics are great for keeping track of what’s happening on your site. They can tell you where people come from, how long they spend on your site, what keywords they used, etc.
The problem is that they won’t always give you complete information about your visitors. For example, they might show you where someone came from, but not where they went next. If you want to find out exactly where those visitors go, you’ll need to use another tool.
Another aspect to consider is whether you want to use a third party solution or build something in-house. A lot of companies offer solutions that allow you to monitor your traffic and analyze trends. These usually require monthly fees though.
If you decide to build something in-house, you will need to set up a system to collect data. This could involve using a third-party application, Google Analytics, or Google Search Console. Once you have collected all the data, you can then run reports and see which pages are performing well, which aren’t, etc.
You should also think about how much time you want to invest into tracking your traffic. It takes time to set up these systems so it’s worth considering whether
it’s worth investing the effort. Is this something that you need to check once every six months? Then just using Google Analytics or Google Search Console themselves might be the answer.
Do you have a situation where you might be creating comprehensive, custom reports every month for many clients? You might want to look into creating your own custom process for this so you can automate some of the more tedious tasks.
Identifying Leftover Technical Issues and Tracking the Success of Your Migration is Important
There are situations where leftover technical issues can rear their ugly heads. If you don’t have a method of tracking these, you could inadvertently cause significant ranking problems later.
By making sure that you have the correct systems in place to monitor and track your site migration efforts, you mitigate the damage that these issues might cause.
You also help tip the ranking scales in your favor.
When do you plan on doing your next website migration project?