Don’t F*ck Up Your Site Migration

16 September 2019

Posted in: BSEO

Serena Pearson’s talk at BrightonSEO was centered on managing site migrations and how to perform a successful migration. Below you can find the key points covered during the talk and some actionable site migration advice.


What was the talk about?

Serena’s site migration process is split into 5 unique sections. These sections are as follows:

  • Onboarding
  • Pre-Migration
  • Staging Environment
  • Post-Migration
  • Results

Following the above process and developing your own checks during each section is a great way to manage the site migration process and ensure you don’t miss anything important.

Site migrations can be pretty massive projects and they carry a lot of risk. Getting this wrong could seriously damage the rankings and traffic of your website. It pays to take extra time and follow a step-by-step process to leave no room for error. A successful site migration will see you retain the vast majority (if not all) of your site’s traffic.

Onboarding – This stage is all about understanding the purpose of the migration and how you can deliver the best possible results for the client. At this stage it’s important to outline to stakeholders how long the migration process is going to take (don’t cut yourself short). It’s also important to manage expectations at this stage.

Traffic will drop after the migration, there’s no point shying away from this. Just make sure your client knows that you’ll do everything possible to retain as much traffic as possible and traffic will increase month-on-month once the migration is complete.

Pre-Migration – Here you need to develop a detailed checklist. Use online resources and your own experience to develop a migration checklist that covers every check that needs to be conducted. This is also a great time to record site data. You’ll need data such as authority metrics, traffic, revenue etc. to cross-check performance once the migration is complete.

Staging Environment – At this stage conduct a mini site audit and make sure everything looks good to go. It’s essential to pick up on any mistakes now and not once the new site has launched. Even if you’ve briefed tasks to other members of the team, cross-check everything and leave nothing to chance.

Post-Migration – The work doesn’t stop once the new site is live. Now you need to review the site once again. Crawl the site and identify any issues that may have been introduced between the staging environment and site launch. Serena included a number of important checks in her talk, including; 301s from the old site to new, disavow file, hreflang tags, 404 error pages, site speed and more.

Results – Traffic is always going to dip after a site migration but it should revert back to normal levels after a month or so. Monitor key metrics on a daily basis and feed this information back to the client or any stakeholders.

Potential impact on the industry

Site migrations are one of the most stressful processes in our sector. There are lots of people involved and even the slightest error can have disastrous consequences. Using the process outlined by Serena, we can manage the full migration process a little bit better and do everything in our power to retain traffic and revenue.

Key takeaways

  • Develop a pre-migration checklist that covers every check required before a migration.
  • Manage client expectations by informing them that traffic will drop but reassuring that normal traffic levels should quickly return.
  • When the new site is live your work is not finished. Conduct a thorough review and identify any initial errors.
  • Check absolutely everything. Even if you’ve briefed migration tasks into other team members, leave nothing to chance.
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