Welcome to part two of our guide to migrating a website from an SEO perspective.
In this article, we’ll look at the final four phases which you’ll need to think about, including the all-important live launch phase.
If you missed part one, go back and make sure you’ve got the initail steps correct before you read on!
Our 8 step guide to an SEO focused website migration: Parts 5-8
Step 5 – Build
During the build it’s mainly over to the developers, however, it’s best to join any meetings during this period as there is nearly always a slight tweak here and a slight tweak there, which could all affect SEO performance.
Whilst the site is being built, you’ll aslo want to make sure the development site is not crawlable. Do this by blocking crawlers in the robots.txt.
Step 6 – UAT and pre-launch checks
This is where us SEO’s can get into the nitty gritty and perform all the necessary checks before a site goes live. Below we’ve listed out a basic checklist of items (but by no means is this an exhaustive list):
1. Conduct a full audit of your website. Including looking at the below:
- Take a crawl of the UAT website
- Search for broken links
- Crawl errors
- Render the site as Googlebot for both desktop and mobile. Do this for all templates
- Conduct lighthouse/page speed reports
- Check technical elements such as canonicals, robots, structured data etc.
- Check for orphaned pages
- Check the site is not duplicated on http:// or www. Vs non-www.
- Check SEO elements are in place
- Check for soft 404s
2. Make sure analytics codes have been migrated and any other event/on-click tracking you had on the previous site is working
3. Test your redirect mapping
4. Migrate SEO elements
5. Check all URLs are listed in the XML sitemap
Just before the launch you’ll want to benchmark your traffic, annotate your analytics platform and benchmark your ranking. You can usually use visibility from tools like SEMrush to get a good gauge of how well your migration has gone, but it’s still beneficial to collect as much data as possible so you can perform bespoke analysis post-migration.
Step 7 – Launch
The day has arrived and you’re finally ready to launch the site!
Once you’ve launched, you’ll want to conduct a lot of the same checks that you did on the UAT site to make sure everything has been migrated properly.
Conduct the following:
- Crawl the site again and conduct a similar audit of the site as you’ve done for UAT. This can be slightly less thorough than your UAT check as you’ve likely found and fixed any issues that you had previously and hopefully these fixes have migrated.
- Submit the site to GSC and add/update your XML sitemap references
- Fetch and fender the site in GSC and check for any errors
- Re-check your redirect mapping
- Check your analytics and event tracking is working (watch out for incorrect reporting such as incorrectly attributed traffic or duplicate sessions)
Step 8 – Post launch
Now that your site is launched and has had a while to bed in, it’s time to do some reporting.
Keep an eye on your Google Search Console over the first few weeks, checking for any issues and errors. These might include crawling problems, mobile usability issues, core web vitals, structured data errors etc.
Try to correct or resolve these issues as they occur. Some are likely to be more important than others so set a priority list if you need to.
Wait a few weeks (depending on the size of your site) before benchmarking. This will give Google and other search bots time to crawl your site and re-align rankings. It’s also helpful to wait a few weeks so you can get a true reflection of what’s happened to your search traffic.
If you’re unsure when to start reporting, look at your website’s coverage report and make sure the majority of URLs have been crawled.
Using the data you collected previously alongside the new data that you now have, benchmark your new site’s performance against the old site.
Conduct the following analysis:
- Ranking analysis: compare old rankings to new
- Traffic analysis: compare how traffic has been affected by the migration
- Take a look at visibility tools
- If conversion rate is within your remit, you’ll also want to look at conversion and user experience metrics
There you have it, a rather long migration process summarised into a (reasonably!) short two articles.
If all of that is a bit overwhelming, feel free to reach out – we’re more than willing to help.