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Website Migration Checklist

Site Migration - A Detailed Checklist

Website Migration from any other x platform to OPS – a checklist. If you manage to get all the points in the checklist right then you have a good chance of not harming the SEO performance.

Website Content Planning

Traffic driving content is available on the website.

One of the most important influences of website traffic is content. If you remove the content from your website then driving new traffic will be a hectic task, thus reducing the overall search traffic.

  • Do not remove any important content from your website.
  • Check the SEO traffic-driving content on your old website using the web analytics tool and in Google Search Console or the webmaster tools.

Inbound links and backlinks

Inbound links are the links from other websites that point to your website, often referred to as backlinks. They are one of the most important elements required for the ranking of any website.

The relevance of the backlink is passed on from the linked page to pages this page links to. Thus, it is important to ensure all the inbound links relevant to the content should be in place as they are useful to the visitors and have a positive impact on the ranking singles.

Optimize the new content as per the previous content

If the old website’s content has been optimized then for better search engine rankings it is important to migrate these content optimizations to the new website.

  • Optimization contains changes to headlines, links from certain words on a page to another page, use of keywords, alt tags, and more.
  • You can check your SEO history to get a good understanding of the optimized content before making changes to your content or before deleting some elements from the new content.

Right keywords at right place

All the keywords from your previous website should be present in the right places.

Use tools such as Google Search Console and ranking tools to get the keywords information. They will inform you about the keywords that are currently driving traffic to your website. Make sure the new version of these pages is optimized with the same keywords after the relaunch.

Maintain the title tags and meta tags

Title tags and meta descriptions play a crucial role in the ranking of your website. The preview snippets of the search engines are formed using these elements.

  • Make sure to keep all the titles tags and meta descriptions on the new website.
  • Use resources to strengthen your meta tags and descriptions.

URLs and redirects

Keep as many of your old URLs as possible on your new website.

Try to keep as many as URLs from the old website into the new one, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • Keep the old URLs.
  • Only change URLs if you have to.

One URL per content – keep no duplicate content

When creating a new website, pay keen attention to the URL structure of your website. Duplicate content is produced when the same content is accessed by different URLs.

    Address the problem of canonical URLs

Old URL redirection to the new URLs

Every old URL that does not exists redirects to a URL that is available in the new website structure.

  • Create a good equivalent of each old URL so that every old URL could redirect to a new page very similar to the old page.
  • If there is no equivalent URL set the redirection to the new URL that best matches the old content.

No backlinks point to error pages after your relaunch.

To preserve your SEO performance pay special attention to the URLs that have backlinks from other domains.

  • Compile a full list of all backlinks.
  • Set up a redirection to a good destination.
  • If no URL is found for redirection create a new page that satisfies the need for old content.

Use 301 status codes for permanent redirects.

It is a strong recommendation to use 301 status codes for permanent redirects.

Indexing and crawling of new links

Check for robots.txt file that could prevent your website content from being crawled and indexed by search engine bots.

After launching the website make sure no command from the robot.txt file prevents your website from being crawled.

  • To exclude certain pages from being indexed using “noindex” meta tags.

Check for missing internal links

Make sure that the pages driving traffic lose a big number of internal links after the relaunch.

  • Losing internal links can create a loss in organic traffic as they are an important contributor to overall SEO performance.

Other Technical Look about

Check for canonical implementation as per the old website.

If your website has canonical tag implementations, then make sure that it is not lost on the new website.

  • Canonical tags can be useful for signaling to search engines which version of a page should be indexed.
  • Don’t let your website generate duplicate URLs, but sometimes the implementation of canonical tags is feasible.
  • Pay attention to the 301 redirects to set for canonical and non-canonical URLs.
  • All 301 redirects for URLs from your old website should point to canonical URLs on your new website.

Check for website XML Sitemap as it makes it easier for search engine robots to discover new URLs and schedule them for crawling.

An XML sitemap helps search engine crawlers interpret the structure of a website better. This will make it easier for the search engine bots to discover new URLs and schedule them for crawling.

  • Use the XML Sitemaps in Google Search Console to monitor how well your website is indexed.
  • Create XML Sitemap and format it correctly such that it contains all pages that you want to be indexed.

The new website should have a secure connection – https.

With https ensure your website visitors know that their data is safe. It also has several other SEO and web analytics benefits.

  • If your website has a domain switch, you might as well switch to https at the same time.

Images’ alt tag migration.

Image alt tags not only help in organic search ranking, but also for the accessibility of your website for users that depend on screen readers.

  • They help the users and machines that cannot see the content of images understand the images.
  • If you are using image alt tags on your old website, make sure you migrate them to your new website.
  • Removing alt tags can result in losing image search ranking, as well as “normal” search ranking.

For Domain Switch

Set up and verify the webmaster tools (Google / Bing / Yandex)

When you change domains, set up, and verify the webmaster tools. This might take a few days until your property shows data and you start monitoring errors and developments after the website relaunch. Inform the webmasters' tools.

Inform webmasters for domain switch

Search engines allow you to inform them about the domain change via webmaster tools. This will speed up the process of replacing all URLs from the old domain with URLs from the new domain in the search engine indexes.

Check for the old SSL certificate.

After you set up redirects from your old domain to your new domain, the redirects will only work as long as the old domain is still registered under your ownership. Also, if you had https URLs on your old website, you need to have a valid SSL certificate.

Other requirements

Create a user-friendly error 404 pages. The 404 pages should be implemented correctly from a technical perspective.

Relaunching can lead to a bigger number of 404 errors, thus make sure to create a user-friendly 404 page for your website. From the technical perspective look for the following implementations –

  • Do not redirect faulty URLs to a 404 page.
  • All 404 pages should return a 404 status code.
  • Set up a report for tracking 404 errors in Google Analytics.

Check page load speed metrics.

For the better user experience and SEO success, it is very important to check the page speed. Top ranking in organic search and page speed metrics go hand in hand, and if do manage your website to rank with slow pages a very few visitors will have the patience to wait until the page loads.

  • Check the page speed metrics of your website before the relaunch.
  • Make page speed your top priority.
  • Nobody accepts an excuse for having a slow website.

Not neglect the mobile version of your new website.

In the mobile world, it will be foolish if you ignore the mobile versions of your website. Audit your new website to make sure it is crawlable in the mobile versions of search engine crawlers.

  • “Mobile-first indexing” is yet another reason why you should not neglect mobile crawling before relaunching your new website.

Post-launch requirements

No pages to be crawled are blocked by robot.txt

Check if the pages you want to crawl are not blocked by the robot.txt file. Check the resources needed for complete rendering of your websites, such as CSS or JS File, make sure they are not blocked by the robot.txt file.

Use the crawl error reports to keep track of new errors, to fix them as quickly as possible.

Use the crawl error reports from search engine webmaster tools to keep track of new errors, to fix them as quickly as possible.

Monitor and fix website and server errors.

Error 400, 500, and others are experienced by users and it becomes very much urgent to fix them. Monitor all the website and server errors caused by users in your web analytics tool.

Monitor the number of organic search landing pages and fix if they are dropping.

The number of pages that receive organic search traffic is a metric that can help you evaluate the ranking and indexing problems. Monitor these numbers as a significant change is often caused by internal factors instead of external ones.

Crawl the old URLs to make sure the redirection is working correctly.

After your new website goes live, it is advisable to crawl all the old URLs and check if all the redirections are working exactly as they are supposed to be.

  • Every old URL should continue returning a working page with a 200 HTTP status.
  • It can also return 301 redirects directly to such a page.
  • Check for 404 and 5xx errors and redirect chains.