As your business website continues to evolve, you may find yourself eventually needing to migrate it to another web host. If not done properly, you risk damaging your Search Engine Optimization ranking. You may face a recovery period of many months to even get close to your pre-migration traffic levels. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to avoid this pitfall.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the website migration process without sacrificing your SEO. We’ll show you how to prepare a plan to overcome Pay Per Click and SEO implications. Let’s jump into it!
Why It’s Important to Migrate Your Website Carefully
The term “migration” can cover a number of different events that result in significant changes to your website. In addition to changing web hosts, migration reasons can include changing protocols, domain names, content migration, restructuring, or any combination of these.
Regardless of the exact type of migration you’re undertaking, there’s a real possibility that your SEO will take a hit. Broken links, missing pages, and duplicate content all negatively affect SEO and are potential results of mismanaged site migration.
In addition, these types of errors also contribute to poor user experience (UX). It’s important to remember that all aspects of the migration process are linked, and disregarding one has an impact on the rest.
How to Migrate Your Website Without Impacting Your SEO Ranking (5 Tips)
Now that we’ve covered how important it is to migrate your website correctly, let’s get into some tips for doing it. Below are five tips for making the jump, starting with arguably the most vital.
1. Have a Plan in Place Before Starting
A site migration isn’t something you want to rush into. It can be a complicated process, and there are some steps you can take beforehand to help it run smoothly.
An excellent place to start is by determining the best time of year to migrate your website. If possible, try and avoid the peak season for your business. Instead aim for a slow time of year. For example, if you’re in retail sales, you’ll likely want to avoid making major changes to your site during the holiday shopping season.
Next, you’ll want to have a list of all of your URLs prior to migration. This task can be time-consuming, especially for large websites, so you may want to use a tool such as Screaming Frog to crawl your site:
Another preparatory step is to make a simple copy of your analytics reports. You can use this data post-migration to compare traffic and rankings.
2. Update Your Pay Per Click Campaigns
A PPC ad that doesn’t lead to a landing page can result in unsuccessful conversions and lost revenue. During migration, you might review your active PPC campaigns to be sure they’re pointing to your new site.
If you’re using Google Ads, keep in mind that the URL you link to must match the URL displayed on your ad. Since you can’t edit the display URL, you may have to create new ads if you’re swapping to a new domain:
Keep in mind that you may want to create new PPC ads after your switch. These ads may help to make up for temporary dips in organic traffic.
3. Avoid Duplicate Content
Especially if your migration involves the significant restructuring of your site, you may end up with duplicate content. For the uninitiated, this is content that appears on more than one web page. Not only does it look unprofessional to human visitors, but it can also seem spammy to crawlers. Furthermore, Google may select the wrong version of the page to index.
If you plan ahead and stay organized during the migration process, you should be able to avoid creating duplicate content. However, there are less obvious reasons why duplicate content may be present besides just accidentally creating an identical copy of a page. For example, if you serve different versions of the same page based on the device used to access the site, it will likely be seen as duplicate content by crawlers.
There are a couple of ways to navigate duplicate content issues. Arguably the best way is to self-canonicalize the entirety of your site. Self-canonicalization makes it clear which pages you want to be indexed. To do this, you or a developer can place a canonical tag to the code of each page:
<link rel=“canonical” href=“https://new-website.com/about” />
In this case, you’re letting crawlers know that the page bearing this tag is the version of the new-website.com About page you’d like to index. Note that you don’t have to add this tag to pages you don’t care about indexing. If your migration is due to changing from HTTP to HTTPS, you’ll want to be especially careful to use the correct protocol when adding the canonical tag.
If you’ve consolidated your site’s content, you may have also removed some pages to avoid repetition. You can set up redirects for these missing pages, so your visitors don’t end up frustrated. If you’re using WordPress, you can edit the .htaccess file or use a plugin to set up these redirects.
4. Update Sites That Link to Yours
During migration, it can be easy to get caught up in how much there is to do on your website itself. However, don’t neglect inbound links from other websites.
Probably the easiest place to start is with your own social media accounts. Be sure to check each of your profiles as well as any pinned tweets or posts that may need to be updated.
Next, you’ll want to handle inbound links from other sites. Reach out to important websites that backlink to you and ask if they can make updates. You may also want to check on any guest posts you’ve done that contain a link to your website in the writer bio.
To be safe, it’s wise to set up a custom 404 page in case customers do end up on a page that no longer exists. This way, visitors can easily find something useful even if it’s not quite what they were looking for.
5. Carefully Monitor Analytics After the Migration
Keeping a close eye on your analytics in the weeks following migration will help indicate how successful your efforts have been. Be sure that any tools you use to gather this data are appropriately set up as soon as your migration is complete. You’ll also want to create and submit new site maps if necessary.
Monitoring traffic daily at the page level after migration can help you to identify and address any problems. Using the data from your old site should reveal if there are any pages that aren’t performing as they should.
The thought of losing your hard-won SEO ranking certainly isn’t a pleasant one. However, if you take your time and the proper precautions, you should be able to migrate your website without a hitch.
Do you feel confident going ahead and migrating your website to a new host? Leave us your questions in the comments section below!