How to Manage a Successful SEO Migration – Checklist
What is an SEO Migration?
An SEO migration is transferring search engine ranking, authority, and indexing signals to reflect a critical change in your website.
In a website migration, a website can undergo everything from updating the layout of your website to changing the URL structure, or moving your website to a new domain or content management system (CMS).
When you change your URLs, content, and website, you change what search engines know about your website and the metrics they’ve applied to it to give you your rankings.
SEO migration ensures that you don’t lose your search engine rankings, traffic, and conversions when conducting a website migration.
Here is a checklist that makes a successful migration possible.
SEO Migration Checklist:
- Crawl your website
- Record your benchmarks
- Map your URLs
- Migrate meta content
- Ensure Google Search Console and Google Analytics are implemented
- Submit Sitemaps
- Monitor Performance
- Update your backlinks
- Update Google My Business
- Focus on mobile-friendliness
1. Crawl your website
Crawl your site to pull all URLs that live on your domain. You can use Moz Pro or ScreamingFrog to crawl your website to get a full URL and content inventory of your site.
You can decide which content pieces and internal links to be prioritized to reflect the new URL structure. Take the extra time to prioritize URLs so that your most important content performs out of the gate in your migration. You can create missing content or update outdated content to get the most SEO visibility possible.
2. Record your benchmarks
Sometimes analytics data can get erased during a site migration. These historical benchmarks can be valuable and it’d be best to retain them.
Review your analytics to see your most valuable pages and how visitors currently navigate your site. This context can help inform your redesign and site architecture decisions.
3. Map your URLs
When you’re making big changes to the URLs on your site, you’ll need redirections to guide Google and your website users from your old URLs to your new URLs.
To improve the user experience, you need to guide your users to the page that has taken the old page’s place instead of a 404 status code error. Inaccurate redirects are a big hit against your SEO. Search engines and visitors understand that a page has changed, whether it’s been removed, or no longer exists.
You wouldn’t want to lose all of the history, backlinks, and authority the old page built up.
A redirect tells Google where to attribute those signals instead. You need to strategize by mapping your URLs. You can build a spreadsheet with two columns: one for the old URL and one for the corresponding new URL.
However, only having a list of URLs isn’t enough. Each URL needs to be mapped against a relevant location on the current site.
4. Migrate meta content
You need to ensure that, for any pages that are migrated, meta content is also pulled across to the new site. This includes both page titles and meta descriptions.
In addition to migrating meta content, you may also end up creating several new pages. It is important to make sure that these are updated to include optimized page titles and meta descriptions.
5. Ensure Google Search Console and Google Analytics are implemented
You should have a Google Search Console profile set up and implemented on your website. Google Search Console is an essential part of migrating a site. That’s how you can get insights into how Google is crawling, indexing, and ranking your website.
You need to make sure Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are correctly installed on your website and collecting data. The fastest way to do this is to leverage the Real-Time Analytics report in Google Analytics because it gives you real-time insights into those on your website right now.
6. Submit sitemaps
After the migration, search engines will use the XML sitemaps to quickly identify all the new pages. Make sure your XML sitemap has no errors. You can then submit the sitemap in Google Search Console to invite Google to crawl the new implementation.
7. Monitor performance
You should be keeping a pulse on your analytics to ensure nothing big was missed that could be affecting performance. After your migration, you need to follow a post-migration plan of monitoring traffic and ensure that your redirects are in working order. You can determine the success of your migration by metrics such as user engagement, user retention, keyword rankings and traffic coming to the website.
8. Update your backlinks
Go to your Search Console, or Moz Link Explorer to see which pages in your website are collecting backlinks. Then reach out to the websites linking to your own website and have the backlinks updated so that you can collect all that backlink equity. It is important that you keep track of these backlinks, cover outreach, and annotate in Analytics when a backlink is updated.
9. Update Google My Business
When updating your domain, make sure to also update your website link to the new domain in Google My Business. Optimizing your Google My Business listing is an important aspect of your local SEO strategy as Google uses this data to verify your business and what searches to rank you for.
10. Focus on mobile-friendliness
Google looks at your website’s mobile experience first before indexing your website. Building a mobile-friendly website guarantees that your website ranks properly.
If you are not sure your website is mobile-friendly, check out Google’s Mobile-Friendliness tool which assesses your website and provides you with recommendations to improve the mobile experience. However, you shouldn’t build an entirely different mobile website, Google wants a responsive design.
An SEO-friendly website migration isn’t easy. It takes meticulous research, measurement, planning, and execution. A tiny mistake can result in drops in organic traffic and conversions. You can end up with a negative impact on SEO performance and website visitors. Take the time to complete the checklist above and you’ll get the most visibility out of your SEO efforts during your site migration.
At Response DGA, we provide Web Analytics Consultancy & Services and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Services. See our successful campaigns.
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