Here is a question with high SEO stakes: how do you migrate to a new site without losing traffic?
Indeed, migrating a site is a useful but tricky maneuver, This is a useful maneuver because it allows a change in the form or hosting of the site, We all know that to survive on the internet, you must adapt.
But it is also a delicate maneuver from an SEO point of view: you have to both leave room for the novelty of the site that has just been born and, at the same time, know how to capitalize on the benefit of the SEO work patiently carried out through the old site.
It is, therefore, preferable to take the time to carefully switch from the old site to the new one and not to give in too quickly.
To help you make the previous content creation and SEO work profitable on the old site while enjoying the advantages of the new site, we explain to you step by step how to migrate to a new place without losing traffic.
1. Site migration: a technical and rigorous process
We talk about “site migration” We then take over all or part of the pages of the old version before doing correspondence work between each page of both versions.
But before going any further and explaining the successive stages of site migration, let’s look at the reasons for migrating a website!
First, you may want to migrate a site because you are changing servers.
Today, more and more companies (including SMEs) are choosing a dedicated server to secure their data or even obtain additional features such as a corporate intranet.
Then, we can consider a site migration because we change the domain name, This desire to change the name often occurs during the evolution of the marketing strategy or the original company’s passage into another’s hands.
Sometimes, it’s also an opportunity to merge several sites into one to centralize information and traffic better.
Finally, we can consider a site migration to be able to access better technology.
One thinks, for example, of “responsive design” which allows your site to be displayed optimally whatever the type of screen (all sizes of smartphone, tablet, computer).
This also refers to access to the HTTPS protocol, which is gradually becoming widespread. The latter is indeed on the way to becoming a must for your site’s good health.
Keep in mind that the lack of HTTPS protocol is frowned upon by both Internet users and crawl robots.
Whether it is a question of changing a domain name or a server or whether you are looking for access to more promising technology, site migration remains an operation with high SEO stakes.
We now detail the steps for a successful site migration without traffic loss.
2. The steps for a site migration
To avoid losing traffic, a site migration must follow specific and, for some, quite technical steps.
First, you will need to establish a sitemap, that is, a plan presenting the architecture of your website in the XML file. This should include all URLs, as well as HTML tags.
Do not forget the meta descriptions, which are important for the attractiveness of each page of the site and its positioning in the search results.
The realization of this sitemap is an opportunity to make an inventory, not only globally but especially for each of the pages and each type of page of your website.
This involves drawing up a “skills assessment” in raw traffic and more refined data, such as the number of shares or the click rate on this or that part of the site.
Please do not neglect this crucial step: it determines what to keep and modify or delete for the future site.
Then comes the time to recover all your content. Be meticulous and organized by arranging page content and type of content (text, image, sound, etc.).
In addition, creating content represents time, skills, and money: make sure that no content escapes you during this stage.
Finally, it is important to match the old pages with the new ones: this is called redirection.
It must operate as faithfully as possible to the first version of the page: in this way, you keep the traffic provided by the previous site’s Internet users and the benefit of the SEO work carried out with Google.
Once this step has been completed, consider crawling your old site. The goal? Identify and correct any 404 errors as quickly as possible.
After this detailed work, check the correct correspondence between the trees of the two sites. Once done, do this matching job again, but with the URLs.
At this point in the process, you have completed the most tedious part: the preparation phase. Then comes the fateful moment when you will make your redirects operational.
Two options are then possible:
- Via an htaccess file.
- Via a plugin.
You can create an htaccess file, a sort of matrix that will be read by the web server first. This is quite a long and technical possibility, but your CMS can also offer you the possibility of using a plug-in (this is the case with WordPress), which shortens and simplifies this step even more.
To complete this launch, remember to crawl both sites for a new check and hunt for the slightest 404 error.
Finally, sometime later, do the symmetrical operation of the inventory carried out at the beginning when making a sitemap.
Look at the SEO positioning of new pages and old ones to compare them. This is a fruitful step, especially if you are required to justify the profitability of the site migration you have just completed.
Three mistakes to avoid
To complete this step-by-step roadmap, we have listed the three mistakes to avoid migrating to a new site without losing traffic.
The #1 mistake to avoid is leaving 404 errors. We’ve talked about this several times during the various stages of the migration process.
Why is this so important? Because an Internet user who encounters a 404 error will have a bad impression of your site.
Internet time is extremely short, as you know: this Internet user will probably go to the competitor’s page, which opens the fastest.
Imagine that this Internet user had previously pinned this page of your site in his favorites and that he came across this 404 error.
He who believed he could refer to your page as often as necessary goes from frustration to a feeling of abandonment, pure and simple!
Always keep in mind how much data and emotion are connected in SEO…
Copy/paste your old site
Mistake #2 to avoid is to redo the same site identically.
Indeed, in the minds of Internet users of the previous site, it would sound like “all that for that? “.
They expected improvements related to the site migration and will be greatly disappointed, which would induce a significant traffic loss.
Doing too many page merges.
Mistake #3 would be trying to merge too many pages. This would unbalance the correspondence between the two trees.
Can we still merge two old pages into a new one? The answer is yes: migrating a site is also a change.
Otherwise, the operation is of no interest! But you have to be careful not to do it in too large volumes, Otherwise, the good fluidity between the two versions of the site will be undermined.
The benefits of a site migration
Admittedly, migrating a site is a journey full of pitfalls. The possible errors are numerous, and the steps are tedious. But the potential rewards are worth the effort.
At the time of the changeover and sometime after, there is a risk of a drop in traffic. Why? On the one hand, it takes time for Internet users to get to grips with the new site; on the other hand, spybots will take longer to crawl your new location.
But if the migration is carried out correctly, the increase in traffic will not be long in coming and will often exceed the figures of the old site. Why?
Because the preparation of the site migration will have been the occasion of a real SEO audit of the site. You have a great opportunity for renewal!
You can improve the site’s ergonomics with the known recipe of good internal linking and an efficient breadcrumb trail.
But to go further, consider studying the depth of your site. The general rule is not to go beyond four levels.
Moreover, this same global rule of the site’s architecture also applies to your articles, where it is advised in HTML not to go further than the H4 tags.
It will be understood: that site migration is a process with high SEO stakes, which can change the SEO of the new version of your site for good or bad.
To optimize the benefits of this migration, however, the key stages must be respected point by point.