Creating a new website from scratch, or restructuring an existing one, is a little like moving into a house without any furniture in it. You’ve got the structure, the rooms and the space, but without any beds, sofas, bookcases or dining tables to fill the place up with, things just won’t work like they should.
The same goes for a website that’s gone live without proper content and SEO migration. Forgoing this vital process means your search engine rankings, traffic and conversions will all take a knock after you’ve pushed live – leaving you struggling to get back to your former glory, which is never ideal.
And much like furnishing a house, content migration takes time and effort. It can also come with its fair share of risks too, but then, that’s why you’re here reading this. Over the course of this guide, we’ll walk you through the process to make sure your website maintains its SEO performance once you go live. We’ve even created a downloadable checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything during your content migration.
Deciding on Website Priorities
With some luck, your old site will already likely be set up with tracking within Google Analytics or a similar analytics suite. This provides you with a bevy of data to pore over, that’ll be packed with all sorts of insights regarding your most (and least) trafficked and engaged pages – as well as those which best convert visitors.
With this to hand, you’ll know which pages and content to prioritise – as well as those legacy ones which may now be surplus to requirement. This should provide you with focus around what is actually worth migrating, streamlining the process and resource required.
Additionally, there’ll be certain reasons driving your site migration. Whatever these are –whether they’re to improve your website journey or to reach new audience segments – the content you keep should align with the new priorities that you’ve identified.
You’ll likely find that content for key landing pages for example, may change significantly, meaning that consolidation, editing or new content creation is required to satisfy your new structure. This leads us onto our next step…
Creating a Sitemap
With data gathered and priorities identified, the creation of a new sitemap lets things take shape, showing where existing content will sit and highlight the gaps where new or restructured content will be required.
It pays to keep things simple here and your sitemap should be based on your website goals and the information you have around target users and their needs. The simpler the site is to navigate, the better.
Planning the Content Migration
Who Will Lead the Migration?
The goal of any website migration is to transfer your content while mitigating any medium-term losses in traffic as much as possible. To do that, you’ll need a team of people who know their stuff that you can rely on. Think web devs, SEOs, UX specialists and content boffins. All of them will have something to bring to the table in their own way, it’s up to you to decide who’ll be along for the ride.
What Training is Required?
In an ideal world, you’ll have a crack team of migration experts who are all raring to go. In that case, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to spend much, if any, time training everyone up. However, not every business will have this luxury. That means you’ll have to work out how much training will be needed and when.
Whether it’s getting them used to the new website’s Content Management System, training them on website accessibility, or showing them a few content best practices, if they’re new to the content migration world, then it’s up to you to carve out the necessary time for any training.
Obstacles When Migrating Content
This is a big one. Effective migration can be paved with all manner of different hurdles, so it’s important to know what to watch out for before your migration begins. We recommend keeping the following obstacles in mind…
If you’re migrating content from one WordPress installation to another, consider yourself lucky – there are tools at your disposal to help automate the export and import of pages and posts which you plan to bring across, but you’ll still need to identify exactly what gets pushed live in the new build and subject your content to a thorough QA review.
If you’re migrating across different platforms, it’s always a good idea to discuss migration strategy with your development team to see if they can produce scripts or access off-the-shelf integrations which reduce your team’s manual efforts.
If you’re conducting the whole process manually, it’s essential to ensure you know the differences between your old CMS and the requirements of the new one so that you can plan population effectively.
Issues with SEO
We won’t lie, content migration will affect your SEO performance if you don’t properly plan things out and migrate to a high-quality standard. Traffic, engagement and page performance can all take a hit if the new version of a page isn’t deemed to be as high-calibre by search engines as the previous. We’ll look at some key SEO considerations to be aware of later in this article.
Download your Content Migration Checklist
There’s a lot to keep in mind over the course of your migration project. To help make sure your content migration goes as smoothly as possible, use our handy downloadable checklist that we’ve created and stay on top of things as your site ups sticks.
Loss of Data
Imagine the hit on your team’s resource and morale after spending days migrating content, only to have this overwritten by a versioning update by your development team. Needless to say, it’s crucial to consult closely with your development colleagues throughout the process, understanding their versioning approach and when staging environments and databases will be updated.
Auditing and QAing Existing Content
A thorough audit of your existing content can assist with deciding what you should be migrating – as well as helping identify what needs consolidating and revealing any new gaps which emerge.
You can also take this opportunity to make your content more accessible, engaging and user-friendly, three things that are going to improve the user experience once it makes its way over to the new site.
Let’s say a lot of your content is made up of text heavy chunks. Breaking this up into bulleted text, using more images, video content and visual assets can make this more attractive to your target users.
Creating a Migration Timeline
Content migration shouldn’t be taken lightly. With all the work that goes into it, and your team’s schedule to account for, you’ll need to create a project timeline that everyone can realistically stick to.
Part of this will also involve creating project goals that everyone has agreed on ahead of time. Consider using the following duties as milestones to guide you through the process:
- Redesign and approval
- Development work
- Content creation and updates
- SEO migration tasks
- Launch day tasks
Site Migration SEO Considerations
Like we said earlier, SEO issues are bound to crop up. Pay attention to the SEO aspects of your migration, including the below, as they’re an important part of the process.
301 redirects ensure that old website URLs redirect properly to their new URLs. Without them your new site can be a frustrating experience for users – and search engines simply won’t know that you content has moved, leading to loss of valuable traffic.
Creating a full 301 redirect map ensures your users will end up in the most relevant destination on the newly migrated site.
Tools like DeepCrawl and Google Search Console can also help to clean up redirect issues caused by things like poor migration configuration.
XML Sitemap and Robots.txt
You should account for any new URLs by creating a fresh XML sitemap which can then be attached to your website and uploaded to your Google Search Console. By doing so, you’ll help Google and other search engines find your site so that the new URLs can be indexed and returned in search results. It’s vital you do this as soon as your site goes live – so Google can swoop in on these changes, providing you a flow of traffic that’ll be crucial in the site’s early days.
Similarly, updating your robots.txt file can let search engines know which pages or files you don’t want to be crawled. Be sure to also submit your robots.txt URL in Google Search Console so that it knows it exists and can crawl it.
You’ll also want to migrate or add Schema so that crawlers can better understand the meaning of your pages, and any information featured on them. With Schema on your site’s side, it’s been shown to help increase rankings and result in the creation of rich snippets, which leads to higher click-through rates.
Making the move from one site to another? Our Organic Search team can minimise downtime and maintain performance during the process.
To find out more about them, as well as our strategy-first digital marketing services, visit the homepage or call the team today on 0345 459 055.