In this post we will try to highlight the various aspects and types of possible site migrations. These points are to be kept in mind when migrating a site or carrying a domain name migration. Why migrate and not start again. We’ll explain why you should migrate and do not need to start over with a new domain or simply a newsite. What to migrate? site migration is often an expensive & time consuming operation, so it’s worth understanding what is worth to migrate and what can be left in the background.
Tools for migration. At the end of this post we will see what tools we can use to successfully migrate our website without running into too many surprises. These issues are just a few of the many that you will come across when carrying out the transition to the new site without affecting SEO too much. We must not fall into the error that often occurs, when we are in an hurry go online with the new domain and new design but end up losing lots of organic traffic. You have to think about the SEO issues on our new website right from the start.
Often it is likely that the number of visitors may decrease due to the change of domain, a new site design or a CMS migration but this is easily avoidable if you are willing to have patience and planning.
Domain name change
Changing the domain name of your web site can have a serious impact on the visibility and the decision to change should be made only if it is really necessary because probably this is the operation that can lose more traffic overall. This is because each domain name is associated with different metrics (trust, authority, etc.), features (age of the domain by checking the whois, geo localization signals, etc) and especially inbound links. The first important thing to do is carry at a site-wide 301 redirect, it is absolutely important that you implement 301 redirects from each individual old page to the exact location on the new site.
Another thing that you should do is to use the change of address tool in GWT (Google Webmaster Tools). With the change of address tool this works at the site level, which means that this helps Google understand clearly that this transition is valid for the entire domain and not to specific pages of your old site.
Change of Content management system (CMS)
Suppose you want to change from say WordPress and decide to move to another CMS like Drupal, then it is likely your new site will have a completely different structure, for managing categories, pages, URL’s will be different. So it will be important to evaluate what are the structural characteristics of the two CMS systems. Things to bear in mind for SEO are:
Different location of files
Different category management
Relative URL’S to different images
Image name rules (_ or -)
Different management of URL rewriting
Another aspect of a site migration is the category tree & general structure, with each category change you could potentially create a series of 404’s pages not found, you could lose any reference to what presumably, in your URL rewritten, was considered to be a folder. Last but not least we risk losing any site-links shown in the SERP’s or, more importantly, the associated Back-link to orphan pages (in this case a redirect 301 can help bring move the link equity to your new page).
Change of site design
What few underestimate is that even this seemingly simply operation, for example changing the CMS template, will rewrite the source code of the pages of your website. One of the things that will likely change is the percentage ratio between text, content, and source code. Most likely will change the sequence in which the search engine spider will crawl the various elements, like scripts, images, menus and external links. The other likely change could be the speed of the loading pages that will be dictated by the new scripts and new images.
When not to migrate a site?
Perhaps the only case in which you could think of starting over is if you have a heavily penalized site (with either Penguin or Panda for example).
To check site structure, url’s & site titles, etc.
Test the load time of that page, analyze it and find bottlenecks
Check your site speed with Pingdom