What is Website Migration?

You can have the best product on the market, a perfect understanding of your consumers, and strategic marketing techniques, but none of that matters if your website is poorly designed. If your site is stunting your business growth, you need to consider an immediate upgrade. That doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch.

Website migration aims to boost search engine rankings with design, content, or platform changes while keeping the best parts of the existing site intact. A successful transition pulls in a broader audience and increases your revenue with minimal disruption to your bottom line.  But a poorly planned change can cause permanent traffic and profit loss.

Website Migration

Why is the website migration process important?

Doing migration right is crucial because it means all your old links will continue to work. You won’t lose traffic or revenue. All your old clients will carry over, along with your authentic SEO rankings, content, testimonials, and brand presence. But this will only work with a company that knows what they’re doing and has experience in the field.

You don’t want to entrust such an essential task to any run-of-the-mill programmer. There is a huge difference between designing a website from scratch and moving an existing site. Many business owners even consider abandoning their previous site to avoid the hassle. But at Web Design Depot, we make sure you don’t lose any customers or money. Our Website Migration department can help you move to a new domain or host, manage SEO, and any other changes you want to make.

Website migration is not a one size fits all formula. The Web Design Depot approach is based on customer satisfaction, which is why we want to help you make the most educated decision when it comes to site migration. So, what are your options?

Types of site migration

1.   Site location changes

Site relocation is the most common type of migration and usually includes a URL change, although that is not always the case. That means you can alter your site’s protocol, subdomain, domain name, or TLD.

  • Protocol changes are when you shift from HTTP to HTTPS
  • If your mobile and desktop sites sit on separate subdomains, you may want to upgrade to a responsive design format that allows a single URL for all devices. This will save you money in the long run because you’ll only need to create one set of content.
  • As your company grows and you start thinking of ways to expand your reach, you’ll consider rebranding to appeal to a larger audience. That can mean changing your domain name.
  • Top-level domain change or TLD is when you decide to convert your local business from a country level to an international level site. 
  • An experienced designer will take steps to change your site’s structure by merging different sections, changing internal linking, or URL structure.

When you’re hiring a website migration service, make sure you’re clear about what you want and list your deliverables before the project starts. To do this properly, you need to know what to ask for.

2.   Platform changes

The second most common reason business owners choose to move their site is because they want a platform change. Often new business owners will try and save money by setting up their site using a web builder. This “do it yourself” option can seem appealing initially, but soon you realise how limiting it is in terms of design, layout, plugins, loading times, and SEO optimisation strategies.

If your business is stagnating and you want to break past your site’s limitations, you’ll have to hire a design agency to give you a complete overhaul. They will work with you through the brainstorming, strategising, planning, and testing phases till you see visible changes in your traffic and revenue metrics. That can mean moving to an entirely new platform or upgrading the existing version.

At Web Design Depot, we recommend WordPress because it gives our designers the freedom to customise your site according to your business and customer needs. But we also understand that businesses today don’t always function on a single platform, and sometimes integrating multiple systems is what a client needs. Once you tell your experts what you want, they will help guide you through the easiest way to building your dream site.

3.   Content changes

Content Changes

As you move through the website migration phases, you may realise you want to update your site in one or more ways. This isn’t an either/or question. The only purpose of breaking the system down into “types of migration” is to empower you. So when you walk into a design agency, you know exactly what you want and how to ask for it.

Part of running a successful business is recognising the major impact of minor changes. Content updates like adding, removing, pruning, or consolidating pages and content, directly impact your website’s visibility and rankings. And these changes fall under the ambit of site migration because they require changes in internal linking, SEO strategy, and navigation.

The primary goal of website migration is to refine, revamp and revive your business. You want to be bigger, reach more people, gain a larger following, and sell more products, making this the perfect time to consider how you want your brand to be perceived. So spruce up your content and watch those numbers soar.

4.   Structural changes

One decision impacts another, and when you alter your site’s content and platform, there is a ripple effect. Changes in the website’s taxonomy mean you need to make structural changes to optimise your page. These can include content organisation, site hierarchy, overall navigation, internal linking, categories, and tags. While often overlooked by less experienced designers, structural changes are the foundation of your website and necessary if you want to see results.

5.   Design and UX changes

Understand that these website migration steps will impact the user experience. UX design makes decisions based on how each change will make customers feel. Ease of use is the number one priority. One type of site migration deals solely with the client end side of the website, such as performance, aesthetic decisions, and media.

What are the website migration phases?

There are six steps to the website migration process and knowing what they are is the key to a successful transition. It isn’t enough to entrust your business to an agency and sit back. Having the information before you start the process will help you identify if they’re hitting the necessary benchmarks and also understand your role in the process.

Step 1: Define your goals

The only way to get what you want is to ask for it. This is not just essential for site success but also to manage expectations and cost. For example, a protocol change from HTTP to HTTPS is a lot simpler and cheaper than a site overhaul. Some essential website migration questions you’ll want to ask yourself are:

  1. What are your objectives? Do you want faster loading times or a platform change? Is your goal increasing traffic and revenue? If so, by how much?
  2. What are the possible risks? Will you lose traffic or search engine visibility? Are there precautions you can take to avoid these losses?
  3. Can you include other stakeholders in the process? For example, your content creators, SEO managers, and analytics team.

Gather information, analyse the resources at your disposal, prioritise your tasks, identify the most critical aspects of the project and then openly communicate and discuss these decisions with your site design team.

Step 2: Upgrades

The site migration process has certain stages that help you pre-empt and avoid problems further down the line. Reviewing the wireframe before starting development allows you to spot issues only a business owner can see. If high traffic pages are missing or there are issues in the navigation or design, only you will be able to identify them immediately.

After you approve the wireframe, you need to list down what you want in terms of SEO specifications. When designers know what you expect, they can give you an accurate time and cost estimate. Your requirements can include points like:

  • URL structure
  • Metadata
  • Internal linking
  • HTML and XML sitemaps
  • Navigation and redirects
  • Loading times
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Javascript, CSS, and image files
  • Page titles, meta descriptions, tags, and headings

You could work your way through the entire site migration process with zero issues and still not see positive traffic and revenue results. That’s because the success of your site depends on the quality and quantity of content. You need to identify priority pages by crawling the pages and reviewing your site’s analytics to highlight the portions of your site that are actively converting leads to sales.

Step 3: Testing

You need to test your site at each stage in the design process and on multiple levels. The content review can start early. Technical review only happens once all the changes have been implemented. This includes redirects, SML sitemaps, and all the requirements you listed out at the beginning of the design process. Redirect testing helps ensure old URLs lead to the correct pages on the new site. Also, check for analytics tracking, loading times, mobile responsiveness, and Javascript crawling.

Thorough testing helps encourage SEO and UX growth once the site is launched. But you have to make sure search engines cannot access the site at this stage. During testing, limit site access to specific IPs and use password protection. You should ask your design agency for details of their testing process, so you know all your bases are covered.

Step 4: Launching

●     Site launch actions

The time between taking down your old site and launching the new one is critical. If you want to protect your SEO rankings and visibility, you need to ensure that all the server requests receive a 503 (service unavailable) response. This lets the search engine crawlers know you’re down for maintenance purposes and won’t result in any long-term damage to your site’s visibility.

●     Live site testing

Once your site is live, you need to test your top page’s redirects, tags, and responses. Also, look into the robots.txt files, so you know search engines are free to crawl your site. There are any number of tests from XML sitemaps to domain and international targeting that your design team will take care of.

Website Launch

Step 5: Post-launch review

While your design agency will run multiple tests before and after launching the site, you shouldn’t rely on them entirely. Website migration tools are easily accessible, and many are even free. The difference between launch day and post-launch checks is simply the amount of data you have to work with.

Gathering metrics and using them to make changes are resolve errors is the best way to ensure site migration success. The first site migration tool you need is Google Analytics. As a business owner, you’re probably already using this tool to track traffic and revenue. If you’re running into issues post-launch, simply go to analytics and identify the most requested 404 URLs. This shortcut will help you identify the most crucial bugs to fix.

Monitoring performance by checking crawl stats and errors is the best way to resolve issues quickly and thoroughly. Deep Crawl is an excellent resource for large sites, while Screaming Frog works great for small to medium businesses. Other tools like Google Lighthouse and Pagespeed Insights can help you test your site’s loading speed in real-time.   

Step 6: Performance review

The final stage is running your new website through a comprehensive performance review. So, when can you expect to see the positive effects of your site migration? The recommended period is 4 to 6 weeks for smaller sites and 2 to 3 months for larger ones.

Traffic and revenue may be the big 2 when it comes to performance review, but there are multiple factors to check. For a detailed site migration performance report, you need to look into:

  • Site visibility across devices using tools like SEMrush and SearchMetrics
  • Search engine rankings on desktop and mobile platforms
  • Customer engagement through metrics for bounce rate or average time spent on site
  • Pageviews or pages per session in comparison with numbers from the old site
  • Conversion rates separated by page type and device
  • Site speed measured using tools such as Google Analytics or PageSpeed Insights
  • Submitted and indexed pages with Search Console