Website Migration Guide

What is a site migration?

A site migration, according to Moz, is “a term broadly used by SEO professionals to describe any event whereby a website undergoes substantial changes in areas that can significantly affect search engine visibility — typically changes to the site’s location, platform, structure, content, design, or UX.”

Types of site migrations

  • Site Location Changes
    • Domain change/rebranding
    • Moving or merging parts of the site
    • HTTP to HTTPS or HTTP2
    • Moving International Sites
    • Changing Mobile setup (AMP, PWA)
  • Platform Changes
    • Moving to a new platform
    • Upgrading platform version
    • Introducing new platform features
    • Integrating different platforms
  • Content Changes
    • Adding or removing pages
    • Adding / Removing / Hiding content
    • Consolidating pages / Content
    • Introducing new languages/locales
  • Structural Changes
    • Site hierarchy changes
    • Navigation changes
    • Internal linking changes
    • User journey changes
  • Design & UX Changes
    • UX driven changes across devices
    • Look and feel changes
    • Media changes
    • Site performance changes
  • A combination of the above

Moz has a fantastic guide and checklist to help you through your migration –

Tips for prepping your site migration

  •  Redirects

Make sure you have compiled a comprehensive list of old URLs and new URLs. Create a redirect map of your old URLs to the most relevant new URLs to firstly, maintain link equity, ensure a good user experience of your site – perhaps someone bookmarked an old URL and intends to revisit, or until Google indexes your new links, a user will find the correct content and not land on a 404 page.

  • Launch during a “quiet” period/time

Ensure the migration is implemented during times when your website experiences the least interaction. Expect some downtime. Try minimising the amount of downtime by ensuring you have everything in check before you click play.

Site Migration Process

  1. Scope & Planning
    • Objectives
    • Risks
    • Strategy
    • Project plan
  2. Pre-launch preparation
    • Wireframe
    • Technical SEO
    • Priority pages identification
    • Contingency plan
  3. Pre-launch testing
    • Content review
    • Technical review
    • Redirect testing
    • Site launch risk assessment
    • Benchmarking
  4. Live site testing
    • Site launch actions
    • Live site testing
    • Paid media support
  5. Post launch review
    • Post-launch checks & actions
    • Bug fixing review
    • Performance monitoring
  6. Performance review
    • Performance report based off of your benchmarks and historical data/trends

Appendix: Useful tools


  • Screaming Frog: The SEO Swiss army knife, ideal for crawling small- and medium-sized websites.
  • Sitebulb: Very intuitive crawler application with a neat user interface, nicely organized reports, and many useful data visualizations.
  • Deep Crawl: Cloud-based crawler with the ability to crawl staging sites and make crawl comparisons. Allows for comparisons between different crawls and copes well with large websites.
  • Botify: Another powerful cloud-based crawler supported by exceptional server log file analysis capabilities that can be very insightful in terms of understanding how search engines crawl the site.
  • On-Crawl: Crawler and server log analyzer for enterprise SEO audits with many handy features to identify crawl budget, content quality, and performance issues.

Handy Chrome add-ons

  • Web developer: A collection of developer tools including easy ways to enable/disable JavaScript, CSS, images, etc.
  • User agent switcher: Switch between different user agents including Googlebot, mobile, and other agents.
  • Ayima Redirect Path: A great header and redirect checker.
  • SEO Meta in 1 click: An on-page meta attributes, headers, and links inspector.
  • Scraper: An easy way to scrape website data into a spreadsheet.

Site monitoring tools

  • Uptime Robot: Free website uptime monitoring.
  • Robotto: Free robots.txt monitoring tool.
  • Pingdom tools: Monitors site uptime and page speed from real users (RUM service)
  • SEO Radar: Monitors all critical SEO elements and fires alerts when these change.

Site performance tools

  • PageSpeed Insights: Measures page performance for mobile and desktop devices. It checks to see if a page has applied common performance best practices and provides a score, which ranges from 0 to 100 points.
  • Lighthouse: Handy Chrome extension for performance, accessibility, Progressive Web Apps audits. Can also be run from the command line, or as a Node module.
  • Very detailed page tests from various locations, connections, and devices, including detailed waterfall charts.

Structured data testing tools

Mobile testing tools

Backlink data sources

Source: Moz – the leaders in SEO

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