The Ultimate SEO Website Migration Checklist

By StepUpwards Team, 25th August 2022

Google wants users to have a great experience when searching for businesses online. To improve the user experience, Google has updated its search engine algorithm over the past few years to focus on user-friendliness and ease of use.


To do this, Google is crawling websites in a new way—seeing how they react to search queries and understanding how users navigate those websites.


If you want to stay ahead of the curve and not be caught with a site that’s not user-friendly, there’s no time like now to make sure your SEO website migration plan is airtight.


If you’re just getting started with SEO or updating your website from another platform like WordPress, the process of migrating your site can seem overwhelming. Luckily, we’ve got your back with an easy-to-follow checklist for an effective SEO website migration:



Define your SEO strategy


Before you start migrating your content, you should define your SEO strategy.





  • What terms are you going to be targeting?




  • How many keyword variations are you going to be using?




  • How will your content be different from your old website?




  • What is the purpose of your website?




  • What services do you offer?




  • What benefits do you provide for your customers?




  • What demographic do you typically target?




Once you have defined your SEO strategy, it will be much easier for you to plan your migration. Not only can you see what needs to be migrated, but you also have an exact idea of what needs to be changed. This will make managing your SEO migration much easier.



Run Google Analytics and SEO audits simultaneously


It is important to run an SEO audit before migrating your website because you don’t want to lose any of your traffic while the migration is taking place.


You can run an SEO audit by checking how many people are coming to your site, what they are clicking on, and what terms are bringing them there. Once you have this data, you can begin to make changes to your website to improve your ranking.



Ensure your new site is built on responsive code


If you are moving to a new website that is also built on a CMS, then this process will be a lot easier. However, if you are moving to a static HTML design, then you will need to make sure that your new site is built on responsive code.


This will allow your website to be more accessible and visible on mobile devices. It will also make the process of migrating your content a lot easier, as you won’t have to worry about creating different versions of the same page for different devices.


Your content will look the same regardless of what device it is being viewed on.



Set up a staging site


A staging site is a replica of your new website that is used to make all of your changes and test if they work before you migrate them over to your live site.


This ensures that you don’t accidentally mess up your live site and that you can easily switch back to the old site if something goes wrong. A staging site is the easiest way to be confident that your migration works as intended.


This will allow you to make sure everything is being copied over properly and that you don’t have any broken links. It will allow you to run a temporary 301 redirect so that all of your old traffic is rerouted to your new pages.


You want to make sure that your old URL structure is maintained on the staging website so that you can test everything out before making the migration permanent.


You don’t want to make any mistakes here because migrating your website to a new URL can be detrimental to your SEO.



Set up a 301 Redirect


A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that tells search engines that the page has permanently moved to a different URL.


This is important to do before you migrate your website because it will avoid any penalties for having duplicate content on your site.


Setting up 301 redirects for all of your old URLs will make sure that your new pages have all the link equity from your old pages and that your overall SEO is not negatively impacted by the migration.


However, you want to make sure you do this before you migrate your website so that you don’t create any duplicate content issues.



Fix any issues with your XML sitemap


One of the first things that Google looks at when determining the ranking of your pages is the number of links that are pointing to your website. If you want your old pages to rank before you migrate, you will want to add them to your XML sitemap.


Your XML sitemap is a list of every page on your site, including images and videos. Google uses this to crawl through your entire website and rank it for a variety of keywords.


If any of your pages are missing from your XML sitemap, then Google won’t be able to rank them for anything. You should also check to make sure that each page’s anchor text is correct.


If you have images on your pages, the sitemap will use the alt text for each image as the anchor text for your page. If the alt text isn’t SEO-friendly, your page won’t rank for anything.



Add Schema Markup to Each Page


Schema markup was created to help search engines better understand what your website is about. It allows you to add specific types of information to your page headers, such as your address, opening hours, your phone number, and website URL.


This can help you rank higher in local SEO as well as in other verticals like real estate or hotels. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can add a markup to your page to make Google show your address, hours, and contact information.


This means that you can rank for a wider range of keywords and that your website has a higher chance of showing up in local search results.



Set up a custom 404 page


When Google finds a page on your website that it can’t access, it will return a 404 error. The standard 404 page is a simple message from the server stating that the page doesn’t exist. This doesn’t help Google at all, and it could potentially ruin your site’s SEO.


You should use your migration as an opportunity to change your page 404 to something that helps both visitors and Google understand that the page isn’t there.


You can do this with a custom 404 page that tells visitors that the page has been moved and where to find it now.


You can also include anchor text that links back to your most important pages. This allows you to control which pages rank for which keywords, and it also helps visitors who accidentally land on your 404 page.



Update your robots.txt


Your robots.txt file is the first thing that Google reads, and it tells them what your website does and doesn’t want them to see. You want to make sure that your new robots.txt is up-to-date and that it blocks out any pages that you don’t want to be indexed.


This will increase your website’s speed and it will help avoid being penalized. Your new robots.txt file should be a copy of your old one.


However, if you have migrated your sitemap, images, or content, then you will want to add those pages to your robots.txt file so that you don’t accidentally block them.



Check for broken links and fix them


Once you have your website migrated, you need to make sure you check for broken links in your content and on your pages. If you have been writing a lot of new content, you may have missed a link or two.


You may even have missed the broken links that are buried in old content. If you don’t take the time to check for broken links and fix them, you will lose the link equity that is associated with those links.


This will negatively impact your overall SEO and may even result in a penalty from Google.



Ensure that all your pages are fully crawlable


One of the most important factors in SEO is ensuring that your website is fully crawlable. It is important that every page on your website can be found and read by Google.


If you have been migrating from a static HTML website to a CMS, there is a possibility that your site is not fully crawlable.


The best way to fix this is to test your website’s crawlability with tools like the Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.


Testing your website’s crawlability will tell you whether or not you have any issues with your site, like missing pages or indexability issues.



Wrapping up


The migration process can be stressful and challenging. Make sure that you are prepared for any potential issues that may arise, and keep all of the above in mind.


You want to make sure that your migration goes smoothly and that you don’t lose any of your SEO visibility in the process.


Having a professional migration team by your side will make all the difference. They will make sure that your migration goes seamlessly, that your SEO isn’t affected, and that you don’t lose any traffic in the process.

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