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If you find yourself struggling with an out of date website, the inability to add functions, slow load times or are wanting to rebrand your business, you are in the market for a website migration. It is possible to address some common site issues but there is nothing as satisfying as a fresh start.
A website migration makes it possible to improve a site’s performance, structure, design or navigation, change hosts or servers, add security by switching from HTTP to HTTPS, changing domain names or incorporating a new CMS. There is no end to the changes you can make during a site migration but all of this reward doesn’t come without a bit of risk.
Site migrations are not for the faint of heart and should only be done by experienced web developers. Luckily, Quake Media has the website migration process down to an art and a science. If you are considering a site migration it is important to understand exactly what goes into the process.Contact Us
Website migrations are extremely complex undertakings but at their core, migrations can be viewed as any significant changes to any existing site that can impact performance, structure, traffic. Common reasons for a site migration include moving content from one area to another (changing hosting providers, new domain names, changing CMS), or for the purposes of enhancing security, rebranding or customer experience UX.
For many owners, growing your business means outgrowing your website. As your business expands, so will the needs of your site and if your structure can’t support new features or functionalities it will leave you trailing behind your competitors.
In the case of e-commerce, for example, being able to offer options for purchasing products online allows retailers to reach a whole new audience. This is great in theory but if your site structure can’t accommodate e-commerce functionalities it will end up slowing your site down, creating security risks and reducing customer experience.
Website migrations don’t have to mean a complete overhaul of your website but can revolve around content and structure alone (adding new pages, media redesign, internal linking). Because migrations are not a one-size-fits-all processes it is important to discuss your goals and vision with developers.
All of the planning in the world can’t guarantee a fool-proof migration. Even with a step-by-step plan in place it is easy for an amateur approach to go horribly wrong — but what does that mean for your website?
The main risks associated with a amateur website migration are:
Decreased Visibility: As a business who relies on organic traffic to sell products or services, a decline in visibility through organic search can be a serious issue for your revenue. It can take months to improve online visibility and during that time your business may suffer, so much so that it may not be possible to recover. That is what makes proper migrations practices so important.
Decreased Authority: When managing content or legacy URLS it is extremely important to redirect correctly so as not to negatively impact authority. Improper redirects will result in broken links or redirect loops. When used correctly 301 redirects can help to point audiences in the right direction.
Decreased Functionality: In addition to issues with page content, improperly executed migrations can result in issues of functionality, as well. Having sites optimized for mobile use is incredibly important but an improper migration can result in a loss of mobile responsiveness, page speed and even cause issues with analytics tracking.
A website migration is not something that can be started and put on hold. Once the process starts it should be carried out from start to finish and that is what makes planning so important. In order to reduce risks and meet the needs of our clients the Quake Media team creates a multi-part checklist that accounts for every step of the process.
Planning: If you are consulting a media company for a website migration you likely already have a goal in mind and we want to help you accomplish these. Even if you don’t have a bullet point list if all of your needs, in-depth consultations with Quake Media team members can provide options and insight until it is narrowed down to a clearly defined set of attainable goals. With these goals in mind it is time for developers to create a website migration checklist.
Scheduling & Budgets: Once goals and objectives are developed and defined it is possible to create schedules and budgets, as well as division of labour between designers, SEO experts and analytics teams. These schedules will include milestones and communication plans so clients are always up to date on projects.
Promotion: Don’t lose out on existing traffics/marketing efforts. In the event that you are planning on changing domain names or branding it may be confusing for existing clients/audiences. Keeping audiences informed can mean advertising the upcoming change on your current site or creating a “coming soon” page on the new site. This step might also include creating PPC campaigns related to the old branding that incorporates the new. This is also the ideal time to create xml sitemaps that can be submitted to engines like Google search console.
Content Mapping: This step really only applies when changing the URL structure of a site. Content mapping involves reviewing existing content and confirming which pages are going to be migrated and which, if any, are being left behind. By reviewing content and reviewing analytics data it is possible to see which pages are the most relevant and create a transfer schedule of which URLs should be redirected and when.
Redirects: Once there is a map of what content should be redirected it is possible to prioritize which pages have the most impact on traffic. Even this is a complex process. Redirecting a URL is important but redirecting it to your new homeowner can result in soft 404 errors and damage site health.
Test, Test, Test: Proper testing is extremely important to finding errors, bugs and technical issues before your site is live. The Quake Media team does extensive testing in a closed environment with the goal of a top to bottom test of functionality. When dealing with migrated site structures it is a good idea to start testing as early as possible and keep it up throughout the course of the migration process. Testing site architecture, metadata, internal linking, functionality and mobile responsiveness will help to identify any issues before the launch.
Monitor Traffic: Quake Media prioritizes monitoring progress and that is done through the use of tools like Google Analytics. By tracking page performance our site developers establish a traffic baseline that can be used to monitor the impact of the migration on the new site.
Launch: After what is likely weeks of planning, testing and monitoring it is time to finalize your migration. The former site will need to be deactivated during the migration so it is important to execute the launch as quickly as possible.
Monitor Progress: Once launched, the Quake Media team keeps an eye on metrics like traffic and rankings. These can be compared to the benchmarks set during the planning phase. If the metrics are lower than expected, it is time for problem-solving and solutions.