Comprehensive guide to website migration

Technology advances over time, and this may cause older platforms or hosting providers to become outdated. As a result, these outdated platforms may not have the necessary features or functionality to support a modern website. Website migration can be a complex and time-consuming process. Planning ahead is important to ensure a smooth transition and minimal downtime. If you’re planning a website migration, you must follow a comprehensive guide to ensure everything goes smoothly. This blog will provide you with a step-by-step list to observe during the migration process.
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What is Website Migration?

Imagine this. When you’re moving house, you make sure to pack up all of your belongings and transfer them to your new home, right? You wouldn’t want to leave behind any valuables or essential items. The same is true when migrating a website. Website migration is like changing your address. You want to ensure that you don’t leave behind any of the SEO value accumulated at your old website and that you don’t lose out on organic traffic when you transfer to your new website.

It is the process that involves downloading and reviewing current site data, fixing any issues, mapping out redirects from old pages to new ones, and setting up peripherals like Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

If you don’t conduct your website migration correctly, all of the links posted across the internet, social media and other websites linking back to your site will be dead, leaving users with a bad user experience leading to 404 error pages.

Why People Migrate Their Websites

During your website development, expect that you will upgrade, redesign or migrate your website later on, as there will be challenges along the way. Migrating a website is essential for maintaining and improving website visibility, traffic and performance. Website migration can be necessary due to a new website build, new domain name, server upgrade, security certificate update or merging multiple sites.

Changing business needs is also a factor in why people migrate websites. For example, small businesses only need basic functionality like an information page and contact form. And if this business grows into a larger company, its platform may require e-commerce and customer portals that can serve its customer better.

Cost and security are also a concern if you own a website. You need to protect your files from data breaches. It is more efficient to choose a hosting service with more robust security features to help your website mitigate risk. This way, you won’t have extra expenses in recovering your valuable data.

Importance of Website Migration

Businesses need to migrate their websites to keep up with trends and technology. Feel free to explore the possibilities that a website migration can bring to your business.

  • Optimise contents: Website migration provides an opportunity to review, analyse and optimise existing content.
  • Align with business goals: It helps you align your website with your business goals, supporting your strategy to achieve your desired outcomes.
  • Improve search engine rankings: Site migration can improve search engine rankings by addressing technical issues and update content structure.
  • Improve mobile performance: Website migration helps ensure users access your content equally. The latest technology guarantees that the website is fully responsive and mobile-friendly.
  • Upgrades to good hosting and support: Website migration involves moving a website from one hosting or domain to another. Promoting good hosting and support during website migration means selecting a hosting provider that offers reliable and secure servers that meet the website’s needs.
  • Handle large numbers of content: Moving a website to a new platform allows for the review, reorganisation, and optimisation of large amounts of content.

Website Migration Checklist: Things to Consider

Research the Target Keywords

If you’re planning to migrate your website to another platform, you must have a solid migration plan before proceeding. To ensure a successful migration, you need to consider having a checklist of all the tasks and steps required.

  • Understand the reason why you need to migrate your website
  • Assemble a group for migration
  • Create a timeline and set your budget
  • Set a marketing plan to advertise your new website
  • Analyse your existing website and create a backup of your contents
  • Make a 301 plan to accurately redirect your old content to your new website.
  • Do a closed-door test to see if the pages load correctly.
  • Develop a plan on how you will measure the effectiveness of your migration.
  • Proceed with the migration.
  • Monitor the website’s data for some time and make improvements.

Step-by-Step Guide for a Successful Website Migration

Websites need to adapt and stay up-to-date to remain relevant and accessible to their audience. One way to achieve this is through website migration. Here is an overview of the step-by-step website migration process:

Pre-Migration Planning

Establish what you want to achieve with the website migration, and determine whether it will affect the entire site or just some areas. Also, determine measurable goals, such as an increase in organic traffic, to evaluate the success of the migration.

Assemble the Migration Team

Include all departments affected by the migration. Get their ideas on how you will proceed and address potential challenges.

Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly

With the majority of online queries now done through mobile searches, your website must be optimised for mobile viewing. This means that the design should be responsive and adjusted to fit different screen sizes of mobile users. Mobile-friendly websites also tend to rank higher in search results, as handheld devices generated almost 59% of global website traffic in 2022.

Make a Summary of Metrics and Benchmarks

Document the site's current performance metrics before migration. It may include organic traffic, organic rank, site structure, and site speed. Use these data as a comparison after the migration.

Set a Migration Timeline

Schedule the migration during off-hours or a season of low traffic to minimise downtime and disruptions. Implement a content freeze to avoid changes in content. Also, don't publish new content in the meantime.

Choosing a New Platform

Research different platforms and evaluate their features, price, and compatibility with your website's content and functionality. Some popular platforms for migrating websites are WordPress, Joomla, Wagtail, etc.

Backup Contents

Review all existing content, including pages, documents, media files, and other assets, before launching the new site. Back up all content to quickly repair any issues that may arise.

Migrating Your Website

The process varies on your chosen hosting provider and platform. Some hosting providers offer migration services, which can simplify the process, and others require you to do it manually.

Post-Migration Optimisation

Check the site's accessibility after redesigning or making significant changes. Review the robots.txt file to ensure it's not blocking any critical pages or allowing access to hidden sections. Perform a full site crawl to identify broken links, error response codes, missing meta tags, duplicate URLs, orphaned pages, and other SEO errors.

Check Analytics Tags and Update Canonical Links

Make sure that canonical tags are in place to avoid duplicate content and rank the correct page in search engines. Also, check if analytics tags are present on all monitored pages to track and report page visits.

Test and Submit XML Sitemap

Test the XML sitemap to ensure that it reflects the new site's URL structure and submit it to search engine consoles.

Report on Benchmark Metrics

Analyse web analytics data for the new site and compare it to the measures set in the third step to identify any technical issues or areas for improvement. Continuously track the website's performance.

Helpful Tips for Migrating a Website

If you’re considering migrating your website, there are several tips you can use to ensure a smooth transition without having to completely redevelop your website.
  • Plan your migration carefully and anticipate potential risks and challenges.
  • Remember to create a backup of your website’s content before you migrate it.
  • Test your new website thoroughly before making it live.
  • If you change your website’s URL structure, set up redirects from the old URLs to the new URLs.
  • Keep your old website live during the process so your users can still access your website while you are working on the new version.
  • Advise your users about the website migration and provide them with relevant information like the reason for migration, when the new website is live, and what they can expect from the latest version.
  • Make sure to change all the links on your website to the new URLs so that your search engine rankings stay the same.
  • Reach out to websites that link to your website and ask them to update their links to the new URLs.
  • Keep an eye on your website after the migration to ensure everything works as intended.
  • Work with a team of experienced web developers and designers with a migrations background to avoid website redevelopment.
  • Always communicate with your team throughout the migration process.
  • Minimise the number of changes you make to your website to reduce the risk of errors.
  • Document the migration process in detail, including any issues that arise and how they were resolved for future reference.

Swiftly launch your website with Butterfly's Migration Solutions.

Need to launch your website quickly and efficiently? Consider Butterfly’s migration solutions! Butterfly is a web development agency in Melbourne that provides quality results that exceed clients’ expectations. Our team of experienced designers and web developers can help make your migration process as seamless and stress-free as possible. We’ll work with you to ensure that your new site is up and running smoothly in no time. Contact us now to learn more and start your website migration journey.

Website Migration FAQs

Migrating a website can be a complex process, especially if you have a large website with a lot of content. However, with the right tools, strategic planning and expert team, it is possible to make the procedure smooth and seamless.

A typical website migration can take a few days to several weeks. The time a migration takes place depends on how complicated the website is and what specific migration is needed.
The cost of website migration is affected by several factors like the website’s size, hosting cost, the expertise required and the type of migration needed. It is best to consult with a website expert to get a more accurate estimate for your situation.
Some common risks associated with website migration include downtime, loss of SEO rankings, data loss, security breaches, user experience issues and other technical errors.

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About the Author

Staff Photo Darryl Dillon-Shallard

Darryl Dillon-Shallard

With over 25 years of expertise in web development, encompassing design, software engineering, DevOps, and business management, I am passionate about collaborating with clients to deliver inventive digital solutions.