Making major changes to your website always comes with risks. A step in the wrong direction could negatively affect your web design, user experience, or SEO rankings – depending on what exactly you do wrong. So it’s perfectly understandable to be wary of transferring your website to a new domain, hosting service, or platform. However, this shouldn’t stop you from completing this important task; you just need to be careful to avoid common website migration mistakes and you’ll be fine. Movers Development has successfully completed dozens of website migrations this way and we’re here to give you all the best tips so you can do it yourself too.
To avoid mistakes, you must first understand what causes them
Website migration is typically associated with changing domains, switching to a new hosting provider, or moving to a new platform. However, that’s not all that the term means. Any substantial change that could significantly affect the website’s visibility in search engine results can be referred to as a website migration. So even if your moving company website stays on the same domain, deciding to group a number of pages under a parent page that didn’t exist before, implementing a new interface, and even deleting massive amounts of content would still be examples of migration.
As you can imagine, major changes like this are always risky. They can completely change your SEO ranking and user experience. But great risks come with great rewards – a successful website migration can be very helpful in the same way that an unsuccessful one can spell disaster.
Why is it important to avoid common website migration mistakes?
When you opt for a website migration, you do so because you expect the new environment to have a positive effect. But even a minor mistake could cause the exact opposite effect. Changing domains or URL structures, for example, will affect users’ ability to find you and erase all their bookmarks. A new interface or design could turn out not to be to your users’ liking and drastically reduce your dwell times or increase your bounce rates. Coming back from such setbacks is possible but even the best SEO for moving companies takes time to show results. If your rankings sink because of a mistake you made during migration, you’ll need to work hard to recuperate. In the meantime, less traffic will mean less profit. So it’s best to avoid the problem altogether.
What are the most common website migration mistakes to be wary of?
Website migration can take many forms. You’ll have to pay attention to different things depending on what you’re doing. But there are some common errors that you can encounter with almost any type of migration. So here’s what you might be doing wrong:
Not taking the time to plan the process
You should never make drastic changes to your website on a whim; a good plan is the key to success. Start with a website marketing analysis to find out if you even need to migrate. Once you’ve made your decision, take the time to plan out the process. What are all the things you need to do? Who are you delegating to? Is there a specific timeline you need to follow? It’s very important to know the answers to these questions before you ever start working on the website itself.
Poor risk assessment
Website migration is never without risk; the question is what the biggest risks are and whether they’re worth the potential reward. This won’t just help you decide on whether to transfer your website – it’ll also tell you what to pay attention to. If you’re changing your hosting, for example, you’ll want to keep a close eye on uptime in the aftermath. If you’ve changed domains, you’ll need to dedicate your time to redirections. Include this type of analysis in your planning to accurately assess the risks you’re taking.
Not using backups
In case something goes wrong, you’ll want to be able to undo it. So before you begin working on your website, create a backup of the latest functional version of it. This way, if your migration doesn’t go according to plan, you can recover a working website quickly and easily. Although you will need to start over with the migration, you’ll save a lot of time if you don’t have to fix the entire website first.
Incorrect robot access
The robots.txt protocol informs search engine bots and other crawlers if they should crawl your website or not and whether there are any exceptions to this rule. With proper use, the robots exclusion protocol can be very helpful; it’ll hide the parts of your website that are not meant for the public while allowing the indexing of pages you do want to show in search engine results. But be careful to set it up correctly – you only want to disallow the crawling of those pages that are under construction.
Forgetting about redirects
When you change the URL of a page, users who attempt to access the outdated version will face the infamous 404 – Page Not Found error. To avoid this during and after website migration, you need to set up a 301 permanent redirect. Then, users who are still used to your old domain will automatically be taken to the new one. Combine this with canonical tags to tell search engine bots which pages are the primary content and avoid duplicates. Your SEO will remain unaffected and your users will be able to easily find your website.
Not testing the update
You’ve completed the migration and everything’s gone according to plan. That means everything’s fine, right? Not necessarily. Even when you think you’ve done everything right, mistakes happen to everyone. So don’t be lazy – check what your website looks like to your users when you’re done. Otherwise, you probably won’t even realize that your online moving calculator is no longer working or that the photos on your homepage are the wrong size until someone reports it.
Outdated off-site references
Your website is not the full extent of your online presence – you probably have social media accounts, citations in local directories, and all kinds of backlinks. For them to continue to fulfill a purpose in your SEO strategy, they need to reflect the changes you’ve made to the website. Redirections will help with this. But you’ll also want to update the information about your website on other profiles, especially if you’ve changed domains.
Beyond avoiding common website migration mistakes: best practices for success
The best way to avoid common website migration mistakes is to follow the tips and tricks on what the best practices for website migration are. Most experts will advise you above all to make a good plan of action. This is by far the most important part of the process. Then, you’ll want to make at least one backup of your website while it’s still functional. Finally, consider writing out a checklist with all the tasks you need to complete. That’s the easiest way to keep track of what you’ve done and avoid forgetting something important.