Preparing for a website migration and looking for tips to help you migrate seamlessly, without losing hard-earned search engine rankings? Here’s a website migration SEO checklist to help you get started. But first, why use an SEO checklist for website migration? In this article, we’ll discuss how an SEO checklist can help you reduce traffic and ranking drops, act as a guide to help move through the process and ensure everything happens consistently, from an SEO perspective. There are more moving parts in a migration than you may realize. Using an SEO checklist will improve your chances of successfully migrating your site, and allow you to set the stage for growth and success in the future.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Why should I use an SEO checklist for website migration?
  • See how an SEO checklist can keep you from losing traffic or rankings
  • See why it’s important to maintain consistency of all SEO elements when migrating a site

What is Website Migration?

Website migration is a broad term used to describe any significant changes to a site that can impact search visibility. This can include technology, design, content, or other structural changes that might affect how search engines crawl and index the site.

Common Types of Migrations

Some common kinds of website migration are:

  • Domain Change: When the domain name or URL structure of a website changes.
  • Platform Change: When a website moves from one content management system or web hosting platform to another.
  • Content Restructuring: When you’re wholly or partially reorganizing the informational architecture and content hierarchy of a site.
  • HTTP to HTTPS transition: When you migrate a website from the older, less secure HTTP protocol to the more secure HTTPS protocol.

Risks and Challenges of Website Migration

Migrations can be a bit tricky from an SEO point of view if you don’t do it right. Oftentimes the goal is to improve user experience, upgrade technology, or rebrand, but this can result in traffic and visibility loss if you don’t do it correctly. Common mistakes include poor planning, not enough resources, and involving SEO experts too late in the game.

Keys to a Successful Migration

The key to a successful website migration is all in the planning, testing and post-launch review. Here’s how:

  • Set clear objectives and scope the project
  • Create detailed technical SEO specs for devs
  • Identify and prioritise top pages to migrate
  • Properly set up 301 redirects to preserve link equity
  • Test, test, and test some more for technical and content issues
  • Monitor performance and make adjustments post-launch

With this advice, you’ll be migrating a website without losing rankings and organic traffic, and you can get the changes you’ve always wanted.

website migration comparison laptops

Benefits of Using an SEO Checklist for Website Migration

Website migration is a scary thing for any SEO. But if you have a good SEO checklist, you can reduce your risk of lost traffic and rankings to nearly 0%, by making sure you’ve handled all the SEO elements properly during your migration.

Minimizes the Risk of Traffic Loss and Ranking Drops

Website migration is a delicate process – if not executed properly, it can lead to a temporary dip in rankings and organic traffic. An SEO checklist helps make sure you’re covering all your bases, with tasks including proper URL mapping, setting up redirects, updating internal links and more, so you don’t miss a thing as you make the switch, and your traffic and rankings remain unaffected.

Provides a Structured Approach to the Migration Process

Website migrations can be complex, with lots of moving parts to coordinate. That’s where an SEO checklist comes in handy—it’s a structured, organized way to guide you through each stage of the migration, so you don’t forget anything important, and so you can make sure every critical task is completed.

Maintains Consistency Across All Aspects of SEO

When you’re migrating a website, you want to do a consistent approach to SEO best practices across on-page, technical setup, and content. An SEO checklist is just a list of things to do so you don’t forget. That way, you can be sure to be consistent with everything so you don’t drop your organic visibility and search engine rankings.

Facilitates Better Communication and Coordination

When you migrate a site, a lot of different individuals are involved—developers, designers, content creators. An SEO checklist is a single point of reference that makes it easier for everyone involved to work and communicate better together. That way, everyone can work towards the same goal.

Allows for Easier Tracking and Troubleshooting

An SEO checklist will provide you with a simple list of things to watch to gauge your progress through the migration. It’s a way to catch issues early and ensure that things are moving in the right direction, plus it’s a handy tool for monitoring and post-migration troubleshooting if you notice things aren’t looking as expected.

Serves as a Valuable Reference Point

The SEO checklist is a great reference to have on hand through the migration, and for all future updates and maintenance of the site—setting best practices in place, and ensuring you’re covering the items critical to success in evolving your site down the line.

Using the SEO checklist as part of your website migration strategy can help you prepare for and execute a smooth migration, retain your organic visibility, and give your site the best start possible for success in the future.

Pre-Migration Planning and Preparation

Getting ready for a website migration is a crucial step in making sure your move goes off without a hitch, and you don’t lose any SEO performance. Here’s how to tackle pre-migration planning and prep:

Conduct a Comprehensive SEO Audit

Before you begin the migration process, take stock of how your existing website is performing in search engines. This means looking at your keyword rankings, your organic traffic, and the technical health of your site overall. By learning what’s broken, you can fix it before you launch your updated website.

Create a Detailed URL Mapping

Documenting all current urls and planning their corresponding destinations on the new site is an important step in the migration process. Completing this exercise in URL mapping will help ensure you have proper redirects in place so you don’t lose search engine visibility, and can retain your website’s authority.

Benchmark Key Metrics

To gauge the impact of the migration, monitor key metrics such as organic traffic, keyword rankings, and conversions. Establishing a benchmark allows you to accurately assess how effective the migration was and make any tweaks needed to improve the results.

Develop a Content Migration Strategy

Consider how your existing content will be migrated, updated or merged on the new site. This may involve things like content structure, optimization and the retention of any existing back links or user engagement.

Set Up a Staging Environment

Create a test version of your new site and test the heck out of it before launching it. This staging environment helps you catch issues and resolve them prior to launch so users and Google never notice. By completing the steps in the pre-migration planning and pre-migration checklist you’ll be well on your way to a successful website migration that’s effectively invisible to SEO performance, and your users.

Technical SEO Considerations

The secret to a successful website migration lies in nailing critical technical SEO considerations. With careful planning and execution, you can enjoy a bump in rankings, and an improved user experience, without tripping up on your site move.

Implement Proper 301 Redirects

When migrating a website, you want to make sure that all of your old URLs redirect correctly to the new ones so you don’t lose link equity, and so you don’t disrupt the user experience. Have a comprehensive 301 redirect plan in place to minimize disruption to your site’s real visitors and search engines as they journey through your site.

Update Internal Linking Structure

As you update the URL structure be sure to update all internal links to point to the new URLs. That way, you won’t have a redirect chain, which can affect crawl efficiency and page load times. Go through your site with a fine-toothed comb and update internal linking across your site to create cohesive, efficient navigation.

Configure Robots.txt and XML Sitemaps

Be sure to update your robots.txt file and XML sitemaps for the new site structure so that search engines know where to go, making it easy for them to index everything and easy for you to avoid indexation issues. Keep these files updated to help search engines navigate and understand your site easily.

Preserve Metadata and Structured Data

During the migration process, be sure to transfer and update key on-page elements such as title tags, meta descriptions, schema markup to retain the valuable context and structured data search engines rely on to understand and surface your content in search results.

Ensure Mobile Responsiveness

Mobile-first indexing is becoming the norm, so it’s more important than ever to have a truly mobile-friendly site. Responsive design and a great user experience across all devices can help you maintain—and even improve—your search rankings.

By completing these technical SEO to-dos, you can lay the groundwork for a successful website migration that preserves your current search visibility, and paves the way for more SEO growth and improvement.

Content and On-Page SEO

When it comes to SEO, content and on-page optimization are the most impactful. Good content that’s well-structured and aligned with your target keywords can improve your site’s visibility and get more traffic flowing in—organic traffic, that is!

Optimize Content for New URL Structure

As your site grows, it’s a good idea to check that your content is still aligned with the new site structure and URL hierarchy. This means reviewing and updating your content to reflect your new URL structure so that search engines can understand and crawl your site hierarchy.

Update Internal Links and Anchor Text

Another important element of on-page SEO is optimizing your internal links and anchor text. When you change your URL structure, you’ll naturally need to update all of your internal links to the new URLs. But this also presents an opportunity to optimize the anchor text of these links, making them more relevant and more optimized for SEO.

Preserve High-Performing Content

When you’re migrating a website, you’ll want to be able to identify the high-traffic and high-converting content you have, so that you can prioritize migrating it to your new website first. This means pulling it from your existing site, and ensuring that the most valuable parts are smoothly transferred to the new site structure.

Address Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content can be a big challenge when you’re migrating a website. Making sure to have appropriate canonical tags in place, and that content is not duplicated across multiple URLs is key to maintaining your site’s content integrity and not risking potential penalty from search engines.

Optimize for Featured Snippets

In today’s search landscape, featured snippets are an increasingly important way to increase your website’s visibility and authority. By honing these characteristics of your content and on-page SEO, you can rest assured that you’ll maintain a well-optimized, visible website through any migration or a redesign.

Post-Migration Monitoring and Optimization

To ensure your website migration is a success, you need to keep an eye on things and keep optimizing to make sure your site’s organic search visibility and SEO performance don’t go off the rails. Here’s a plan you can follow, step by step, for after your site migration.

Monitor Search Engine Crawling and Indexing

Use Google Webmasters to check how Google is crawling and indexing your new site to see the crawl rate, indexation, and if anything problematic happened during the migration. Monitoring closely will let you quickly address any issues. The clearer a path you can make for the Google spiders, the better.

Track Organic Traffic and Rankings

Keep an eye on organic traffic and keyword rankings for any drastic visibility changes. Keep an eye on your top landing pages and top keywords and be prepared to act if you see big drops. A little bit of effort now can mean a proactive fix before you ever notice it become a problem. And believe me – it’s a lot easier to fix an issue before it is a problem than after it’s actually a problem!

Conduct a Post-Migration SEO Audit

Do a complete SEO audit to capture anything we may have missed during the migration, including but not limited to a close look at technical elements, content optimization, internal linking and overall site structure to catch and fix any lingering issues that could negatively affect your site’s search engine performance.

Address 404 Errors and Broken Links

You’ll also want to check and fix any broken links or 404 errors that may occur after the move. They can harm user experience and search engine crawling and indexing, so you’ll want to ensure you maintain a clean, well-structured site.

Optimize Site Speed and Performance

Always strive to improve page load times and overall site performance to maintain good user experience and SEO performance. Site speed is a ranking signal, and improving your site’s performance can have a beneficial effect on your organic visibility and traffic.

By following these post-migration monitoring and optimizing steps, you can ensure your site continues to perform strongly in search engines and provide a seamless experience for your users.

Website Migration SEO Checklist Table

CategoryPre-MigrationDuring MigrationPost-Migration
SEO AuditReview everythingURL mapping & bench-markingKeep Google happy
Content StrategyPlan migrationKeep winning contentMake sure Google still thinks it’s winning
Technical SEOSet up dev environmentImplement 301sFix 404s & broken stuff
On-Page SEORe-optimizeUpdate internal links & contextReview everything again
User ExperienceResponsive?Keep metadata & structured dataFaster, faster, faster
Search ConsoleBenchmarksUpdate robots.txt & sitemapsReview everything

Enhancing Website Migration Success

Website migration sounds complicated, but it’s just a fancy way of saying “making big changes to your website that could affect how your website appears on search engines.” Things like changing domains, platforms, moving from HTTP to HTTPS, etc. These sorts of things carry a lot of risk! And you can really mess up your SEO if you don’t plan and test very thoroughly. That’s where an SEO migration checklist comes in so you can make sure you don’t lose traffic/rankings in any SEO area. Things you need to before you go to your new site include: doing an SEO audit, devising a very detailed URL map, benchmark metrics, devise content strategy for the new site, and create a staging environment so that you can test everything. Technical SEO things to consider are: 301 redirects, internal linking, metadata, and ensure your site is mobile responsive. Content and on-page SEO: make sure you have content for every single URL your migrating over, update internal links, prioritize which content to migrate over, make sure you don’t have duplicate content, and make sure you’re optimizing for featured snippets. Things to do after your migration are monitor and optimize for search engine crawling, organic traffic, do another SEO audit, 404 errors, and how fast your website is loading. If you do all of these and you are thorough, you should be able to maintain organic visibility and user experience after your migration.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: What is the importance of having an SEO checklist for website migration?

You need an SEO checklist for website migration to minimize your traffic/ranking drop by ensuring you don’t miss any SEO elements. It gives you a plan to follow during your migration, a complete list of everything else SEO, a tool that you and your team can use together to work better and communicate better, something that you can monitor and fix more easily, and a resource that you can use for future updates and maintenance.

Q2: How can pre-migration planning and preparation contribute to a successful website migration?

Before you start migrating, it’s important to plan and prepare in order to ensure a smooth process. To do this, you’ll want to conduct a comprehensive SEO audit, create a detailed URL mapping, benchmark key metrics, plan for content migration, and set up a staging environment. These steps will help you to address existing SEO issues, ensure that redirects and content transfers are set up properly, measure the impact of the migration and identify and resolve issues before you go live.

Q3: What are the critical technical SEO considerations for a website migration?

When migrating a website, you will want to make sure that 301 redirects are in place, update internal linking, configure robots.txt and XML sitemaps, check metadata and structured data, and make sure you’re mobile-friendly. This will help ensure a smooth transition, maintain your rankings, and offer a good experience to searchers visiting your site on desktop or mobile.

Q4: How does content and on-page SEO play a significant role in the success of a website migration?

Content and on-page SEO is key to a successful website migration. Optimize content for new URL structure, update internal links and anchor text, preserve high-performing pages or posts, address any duplicate content issues, and optimize for featured snippets. Tackling these elements will help you ensure that your optimized content continues to be crawled and indexed, and continues to rank during your migration.

Q5: What is the importance of post-migration monitoring and optimization for a website migration?

Monitoring and optimization post-migration is key to ensuring your organic visibility and search engine performance stays intact following a site migration. By monitoring search engine crawling and indexing and tracking organic traffic and rankings, conducting a post-migration SEO audit, fixing 404 errors and broken links, and optimizing site speed and performance, you can rest assured that your site will perform well and your visitors will have a positive experience.

Q6: What are some common types of website migrations?

Typical website migrations involve changes to domains, platforms, content reorganization, and HTTP -> HTTPS. Each is a huge change that can definitely affect how a website appears to search engines, and how users will experience the website.

Q7: What are the risks and challenges associated with website migration?

Website migrations are risky for SEO traffic and visibility if not completed properly. This typically comes down to poor planning, inadequate resources, and SEOs being brought in very late. You need to navigate through the process carefully and plan appropriately in order to mitigate those risks, and have a successful migration.

Q8: What are the keys to a successful website migration?

The keys to a successful website migration are good planning, good testing, and post-launch review. That means setting clear objectives, preparing good technical SEO specs, finding top-performing pages, doing good redirects, having a good testing process, and looking at post-launch performance.

Q9: How can an SEO checklist enhance the outcome of a website migration?

An SEO checklist can turn a website migration from a gamble to a walk in the park. It minimizes the risk of traffic loss and ranking drops, provides a step-by-step plan for the migration, ensures everything goes according to SEO plan, ensures everybody knows what they’re doing and why, makes it easy to track and troubleshoot, and serves as a handy cheat sheet for the next time you update or migrate.