Website Migration: Your Ultimate Checklist and Guide

Website Migration: Your Ultimate Checklist and Guide
Website migration is a process that involves significant changes to your website's setup, appearance, or functionality that could affect its visibility in search engines.

This major shift can be due to many reasons such as changing your website's location, platform, structure, content, design, or user experience.

Now you may be thinking: “

“Why would someone need to migrate their website?"

Potential reasons range from a need to update the aesthetic, wanting to improve the site's user experience, changing content management systems, or even switching to a more beneficial host.

It's a comprehensive process, one that involves a variety of choices and steps, but don't worry! With the right plan and a comprehensive understanding of what you're dealing with, website migration becomes a breeze.

How Website Migration Affects SEO?

Website migration, while beneficial for various reasons, brings along legitimate concerns about SEO – will your site’s rankings suffer? What happens to your carefully curated backlinks?

These questions are not unfounded. In fact, they stem from a fundamental truth about website migration – that it can significantly impact your SEO.

How your site performs in search engine rankings is a derivative of a multitude of factors - your website's relevance, the quality of your content, user experience, link equity, among others. Now, when you undertake a website migration, several of these elements are bound to change.

But don't worry! With a strategic plan in place, and by following our comprehensive website migration checklist, you can navigate these changes effectively, avoiding potential pitfalls and ensuring a smooth transition.

You may want to read: How SEO Audit A Website in Less Than An Hour

Page source in HTL format

8 Types of Website Migrations

Navigating the terrain of website migrations can be a daunting endeavor, especially if you're new to it. But akin to learning a new language or mastering a new skill, it starts to make sense once you understand its various components. 

To help you on this journey, it's crucial to delve deep into the eight significant types of website migrations. Each type serves a specific purpose and carries its own set of challenges and opportunities. 

1. Hosting Change

First on the list is the hosting change. This kind of migration occurs when you decide to shift your website from one web hosting provider to another. 

You may want to undertake a hosting change for reasons like looking for better service, more storage space, improved security features, or lower prices.

Changing your hosting might sound trivial, but it carries some risks. For instance, if not handled precisely, there could be potential downtime during the transfer, affecting your site's visibility and user experience. Therefore, meticulous planning and timing are crucial to ensure a smooth hosting change.

2. Platform Update

A platform update is a type of website migration where you upgrade your website's existing platform to a newer version. This might be done to benefit from improved features, boost your site's performance, or to stay up-to-date with technical advancements.

However, every update comes with its own set of challenges, and it's essential to ensure that the upgrade aligns with your website's needs. 

3. CMS Change

A Content Management System (CMS) change is when you decide to shift from one CMS platform to another. This is usually driven by the need for better functionality, improving user experience, boosting SEO capabilities, or simply a change to a more user-friendly platform.

A CMS dashboard on the laptop and a person managing it

While a CMS change can be beneficial, it also involves comprehensive planning and execution. The significant areas to consider during a CMS change include preserving your URLs, ensuring the new CMS supports your existing functionality, and maintaining your current SEO status.

💡You may want to see: Best Content Management Systems (CMS) for SEO

4. Website Redesign

A website redesign is one of the most common types of website migration. This is when you decide to give your website a visual overhaul. It involves changes to the site's overall look and feel, including its layout, color scheme, image placement, fonts, and more.

Redesigning your website can breathe new life into it, making it more appealing and engaging for your audience. However, it's essential to remember that a successful website redesign should improve user experience and not just the aesthetics. Be sure to plan carefully, consider your audience's preferences and compatibility issues across different devices and browsers.

5. Domain Change

A domain change migration happens when you decide to change your website's domain name. This can be due to rebranding, business changes, or just a desire for a better, more SEO-friendly domain name.

Changing a domain comes with its own set of challenges, primarily pertaining to SEO. You could potentially lose your established SEO reputation, so it's crucial to use the correct process to change domains. 

It includes setting up redirects from your old domain to the new one and notifying search engines about the change. If done correctly, a domain change can yield positive results for your brand.

6. Content Migration

Next up, we have content migration, which involves moving content from one website to another or even within different parts of the same website. Content migration becomes necessary when redesigning websites or changing CMS platforms.

When migrating content, you need to ensure that all the migrated content is mapped correctly, avoids any duplication, and maintains SEO-friendly structures where possible.

7. Structural Changes

Structural changes involve altering your website's structure, including internal links, navigation menus, and URL structures. These changes aim to improve user experience and facilitate effortless navigation on the site.

Changing the structure of your website requires thorough planning to avoid any negative impact on your site's SEO. You also need to closely monitor any changes to the site's structure to quickly identify and fix issues that might hurt its functionality or visibility.

💡See: How to Fix Failed Core Web Vitals Assessment

8. Hybrid Migrations

Lastly, we have hybrid migrations. As the name suggests, hybrid migrations involve more than one type of migration at the same time. For example, you might decide to change your CMS, redesign your website, and migrate your content simultaneously.

While hybrid migrations can expedite the overall migration process, they also entail a higher level of complexity and risk. Thus, these migrations require more meticulous planning and flawless execution.

With careful planning, adept execution, and a thorough understanding of your website's needs, mastering website migration – irrespective of its type – can be a hassle-free and rewarding endeavor.

Advantages of Website Migration

A website migration serves a multitude of purposes. As discussed earlier, it may arise from the need to provide a better user experience, keep up with the latest technological advancements, or make changes to the content management system, among others.

Let's break down the distinct motives behind a typical website migration:

🌟Improving user experience: One of the primary drivers behind website migration is the necessity to enhance your website's user experience. 

Whether it's a platform update or a website redesign, the goal is to provide a smoother browsing experience for your users, and subsequently, foster engagement and foster long-term relationships.

🌟Adapting to technological advancements: As technology constantly evolves and paves the way for significant advancements, it becomes crucial for websites to keep up. 

Be it a hosting change, CMS change, or platform update, these migrations are often undertaken to leverage new technology, shed outdated systems, and stay competitive.

🌟Staying relevant: Sometimes, businesses need to switch up their content or rebrand entirely to stay pertinent in their industry or niche. A content migration or domain change can help align your brand with its current objectives and market standards.

🌟Optimizing SEO: A well-executed website migration can lead to improved SEO performance. Migrating with an SEO-friendly approach can help in boosting site rankings by implementing faster loading times, streamlined navigation, and quality content.

So, there you have it! From ironing out usability issues, boosting SEO performance, and staying relevant, to leveraging technological advancements and aligning with your business objectives – the advantages of website migration are manifold. 

If done correctly, it becomes more than just a change; it's an enhancement, a building block for a better, more effective web presence.

The Complete Website Migration Checklist with 18 Steps

Now that you are familiar with the concept of website migration, its reasons, types, and its importance in SEO, it's time to scrutinize the entire process through a comprehensive checklist.

Remember, a hitch-free, successful migration requires meticulous planning and flawless execution. To that end, we provide you with this detailed, step-by-step guide to ensure that your website migration is conducted smoothly with minimum impact on your SEO.

✅Plan the Move and Benchmark Your Current Site

Step 1: Define Your Goals

Determine your website migration's end goal right at the beginning of the process. This could be anything from attaining a faster website, improving server resources, to complete rebranding.

Step 2: Set Up Your Team

Assemble your migration team, which includes not only developers but also project managers, content writers, SEO specialists, and even social media managers. Assign tasks and responsibilities to each member early on.

Step 3: Benchmark Your Current SEO Performance

Before you start with migration, you must take stock of your current SEO performance. You can easily use SEOmator’s Free SEO Audit Tool to see how well your website stacks up. This will serve as a valuable point of reference to compare your website's performance post-migration. 

✅Make a Copy of Your Site

Step 4: Backup Your Website

Before you start the migration process, ensure you have a complete backup of your website. It's an essential security measure in case something goes wrong during the migration.

✅Block Access to Your New Site

Step 5: Keep the Right People Informed

While you don't want to confuse or lead your audience to an unfinished site, it is crucial that trusted individuals can access your new site. Establish privacy settings that restrict access to your team members while they are working on the site.

Step 6: Use a Staging Server

Before launching the migrating website, test everything on a secure staging server. This ensures that errors, if any, are made known and are corrected without causing any harm to your live site.

✅Check If Google Can Access Your New Site

Step 7: Test with Crawlability Test Tools

Employ Google's suite of tools, such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, to test whether Google can access your new site. It's crucial Google's bots are able to crawl and index your new web pages correctly. Additionally, you can do the same test via SEOmator’s website crawlability test tool for free.

The Website Crawl Test Tool

✅Check If Your Newly Acquired Domain Was Penalized by Google

Step 8: Verify Domain’s Reputation

Before migrating to a newly acquired domain, ensure it hasn't been previously penalized by Google. Google's transparency report can help you in this. The last thing you need is to start with a domain that's tainted in Google's eyes.

✅Update DNS Settings

Step 9: Diagram Your DNS Setup Plan

Accuracy is key while updating DNS settings. Diagram your DNS setup plan and verify everything. DNS misconfigurations can lead to elongated downtime or could even make your website unreachable.

Step 10: Monitor and Update DNS Records

Keep a keen eye on DNS propagation, and don't forget to update your DNS records whenever necessary.

✅Remove All Temporary Website Blocks

Step 11: Unblock Search Engines

Once you're ready to invite users into your new website, make sure you have removed any temporary blocks that you had set up against search engines. This ensures that Google can access your website and start indexing your new pages.

✅Enable Redirection

Step 12: Setup 301 Redirects

Setup 301 redirects to guide search engines and users from your old URLs to the new ones. This is crucial for SEO as it allows link equity to pass to the redirected pages.

✅Make Sure Your Website is Verified within Google Search Console

Step 13: Confirm Ownership in Google Search Console

Ensure that your migrated website is verified in Google Search Console. This not only confirms your ownership but also enables you to keep track of your site's performance in Google's search results.

Google Search Console dashboard

There you have it! A complete website migration checklist to help assure you're prepped and ready to go. Buckle up as we continue our journey through this informative guide. Stay tuned for our complete guide on post-migration.

✅After the Website Migration: The Monitoring and Reporting Stage

Congratulations! You made it through the planning and execution of your website migration. But, this isn't the end of your journey; it’s just a landmark on your path to mastering website migration. What follows the 'Go-live' is a critical phase where you monitor and report on the results of the migration - The monitoring and reporting stage.

This stage is all about vigilance and continuous improvement. Here’s how you approach it:

Step 14. Monitor Site Metrics

Use your set KPIs and Google Analytics to keep a close eye on your site's performance. Look out for changes in metrics like bounce rate, session duration, page views, etc.

Step 15. Check SEO Performance

Use Google Search Console and various SEO tools like SEOmator to monitor your SEO performance. Keep track of your site's rankings, organic traffic, indexed pages, and backlinks.

Step 16. Gather User Feedback

Take into account user feedback and use it to enhance your website's user experience.

Step 17. Reporting

Compile your findings and insights into comprehensive reports. These reports should outline the success of the migration, the issues faced, the improvements seen, and the future actions to be taken.

Step 18. Continuous Improvement

Use your insights from the reports to fine-tune your website and enhance user experience continually. This continuous improvement will keep your website relevant, effective, and aligned with your goals.

The journey post-migration is a winding road of continuous tracking, learning, improving, and evolving. It might seem tedious, but it's every bit as essential as the earlier stages. Keep forging ahead, keep monitoring, keep learning, and remember, every step you take is one step closer to mastering website migration.

That sums up the process of website migration, but we’re not done yet! 

In our next section, we'll be looking at Frequently Asked Questions About Website Migrations. Stay with us as we clarify some common queries and concerns that might pop up on your website migration journey!

FAQs About Website Migrations

Here in this section, we're addressing some of the most frequently asked questions about website migrations. We’re hopeful that by the end of this, we’ll have cleared any lingering doubts or queries you may have. Let's jump right in!

How Long Does a Website Migration Take?

Website migration isn't a process you can rush through. The timeline for a website migration can vary greatly depending on several factors - the complexity of the project, the size of your website, the type of migration you're undertaking, the expertise of your team, among others.

Preparation and planning might take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months. Actual execution, including testing and going live, may extend from a couple of weeks to several months. Post-migration monitoring is an ongoing process and could go on indefinitely, as you consistently aim for progress and improvements.

Rushing through a website migration might do more harm than good. Each stage of the process is critical and requires its share of time and attention.

How Much Does a Website Migration Cost?

Just like the timeline, the cost of a website migration can differ significantly from one project to another. Again, various factors influence the overall cost - the scale of your site, the complexity of the migration, whether you're hiring an agency or doing it in-house, the costs of any new software, hardware, or hosting services you might need, and so on.

It's crucial to budget for unexpected expenses that might pop up during the process. Effective budgeting can help you manage costs without compromising the quality of your migration.

Keep in mind that while cost-saving is important, you mustn't compromise on essential aspects that might impact your website's performance in the long run. A well-executed migration is indeed an investment with significant returns in terms of improved performance, better user experience, and potential growth in traffic.

How Do I Prepare for a Website Migration?

Preparing for a website migration is all about strategic planning. Begin with defining your migration goals and understanding your current website. Gather your migration team and ensure all members understand their roles and responsibilities clearly.

You'll also need to benchmark your SEO performance before the migration. This will give you a reference point to compare your website's post-migration performance.

Finally, create a detailed, step-by-step migration plan, taking into account all facets of the process – from preparation and execution to post-migration monitoring.

The foundation of a successful migration is a well-thought-out plan. An attentive approach to the preparation stage can pave the way for a smooth and effective migration.

What Software Do You Need for Website Migrations?

The software you'll require for a website migration depends on the type and scale of your migration. Some essential tools you might need include:

Site-crawling tools like SEOmator’s Free SEO Audit Tool: These can help you understand your current website's structure, identify errors, and aid in the creation of efficient redirects.

SEO Tracking Software like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, or SEOmator: These can provide crucial insights into your website's SEO performance, both pre and post-migration.

Project Management Tools like Asana or Trello: These can help keep your team organized and your migration project on track.

Backup Tools: Depending on your CMS, different tools are available to make a complete backup of your website accessible.


From understanding what website migration is to successfully navigating through the twists and turns of the process, we've covered an extensive scope in this guide. 

But before we wrap things up, let's remind ourselves of the best strategies we've learned thus far, which have the power to turn your website migration from daunting to doable.

Understanding website migration is the first step on this journey. We’ve learned that it involves making significant changes to your website that might affect your site's structure, content, design, location, or platform. 

These changes are not trivial; they could impact your site's performance in the search engine rankings and user experience.

Planning is imperative for a successful migration. Before diving into the process, you need to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, a thorough familiarity with your current website, a well-defined migration plan, and an assembled team ready to take on the challenges.

The importance of taking a complete backup of your current site cannot be stressed enough. It's your safety net in case things go awry during the migration.

Migration has a large impact on your website's SEO. A well-executed migration can boost your SEO performance, while a poorly handled one can harm your rankings.

Map out your current SEO performance properly before the migration. This will help you compare and monitor any changes post-migration. To prevent any SEO damage, ensure to do proper URL mapping and establish efficient 301 redirects.

Communicate clearly and often with your users. A migration might lead to times of downtime or changes in the website's structure that could temporarily confuse your regular users. Therefore, it's crucial to make sure you keep them informed about these changes.

After your new website is live, it's important to keep a vigilant eye on its performance. Not only should you watch for changes in metrics like bounce rates, page views, session durations, but also keep a check on user feedback. Use the insights from the monitoring and reporting stage to continuously upgrade and enhance your website.

So, are you ready to navigate through the twists and turns of website migration? We hope this guide has clarified, inspired, and prepared you for your upcoming journey. 

You might also want to read:

- Why SEO Audit is Important & How to do SEO Audit of Any Website

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