Will migrating your website affect your search engine rankings? Here’s the short answer: It depends. The implementation of the new domain must be handled skillfully, or the results can be catastrophic.
The most prudent thing to do when contemplating a migration is to hire a professional SEO company to handle the process for you. This is especially important if your website drives a significant part of your revenue or serves as your main communication channel in reaching out to customers. Migrating a website is a difficult process, best left in the hands of real experts.
If you have already tried migrating your website and failed, don’t worry—it’s not hopeless. Contact site migration experts to diagnose the situation and salvage your rankings. Below are just some of the most important moves these experts use when migrating a site or righting a migration strategy gone wrong:
When it comes to site migration, planning is indeed half the battle. A good strategy will integrate the following pre-migration preparations:
- Baseline Metrics – Document your site’s current performance so that you have numbers to use when assessing whether your migration strategy was successful. Document the top search rankings and traffic sources, traffic Levels, current backlink profile, and other such data. Having this information ready prior to migration will later allow you to compare current and post-launch performance and gauge impact.
- Keywords Strategy – This is a critical part of migration planning that is often overlooked. The strategy should cover page titles and keyword targeting, as well as outline your internal link plan.
- 301 Redirection Map – A 301 redirection strategy is crucial if your URL structure will drastically change. You will need to list the general URL construction patterns at varying levels of the new website’s content hierarchy. With a clear 301 redirection map, it is easier to construct pattern-matched based redirects, and therefore, catch dreaded 404 errors.
- Content Mapping – When possible, build a ‘map’ showing the old URLs and the corresponding destination URLs.
During the actual migration, following factors have to be carefully implemented:
- Navigation Optimization – Changes to navigation can typically cause large fluctuations in ranking because internal navigation links are crucial to ranking algorithms. Experts can ensure that the links in the new navigation template point to the same content as the old ones did.
- Titles and Meta Data Optimization – The same holds true for your page titles as well as META data. Migration experts can ensure that old titles and META descriptions are transferred to the new pages.
- Site-Wide Review – A good migration strategy will include provisions for fixing any indexing or technical problems, such as URL structures that cause duplicate content. A spider simulator may be used to ensure that all the new website’s content and page templates are visible to search engines.
- Redirect Strategy – You need someone who is technically skilled in coding the content map into your server’s redirect mechanism. Trust only qualified professionals to code your redirects and ensure that all redirects are 301 permanent (not 302 temporary).
- Updated Sitemap – This needs to be submitted to Google Webmaster. The ‘change of address’ function must be used if you are moving to a new domain. Old URLs must be kept in your XML sitemap, as Google needs to crawl those links when processing the changes in their index.
- Ongoing Quality Assurance – Site migration experts will never assume that everything has been executed correctly. They will continue to use http header check functions to validate that old URLs are in fact redirecting using 301 redirects. When everything is routing correctly, they monitor all baseline metrics to ensure that the process has been smoothly completed.
Migration—when done right—can have positive impacts. It can improve search rankings, link connectivity, and user experience. The key is to give search engines clear instructions of where to find your content as it moves; otherwise, they will have no way of migrating link metrics pointing to your original URL to your new one.
Link metrics are important in search rankings, so without a solid SEO migration plan, you can lose rankings and traffic. You will also frustrate people who have previously bookmarked your pages. Be sure to hire experts in site migration at SEOValley™ for optimum results.