If you run any kind of website for your business, be it a thriving ecommerce website or a website that highlights your best work for the world to see – the term, “site migration” might have been something you’ve come across.
For search engine optimisation, a correct site migration is imperative to maintaining site keyword rankings and keeping your website domain rating stable. It is also vital for website health, speed, and ensuring you don’t lose quality backlinks to your website pages.
But what does all this mean? Today, we’ll explore everything you need about website migration.
Need To Know Jargon
Before we delve, there are some phrases you’ll need to know:
- Search engine optimisation (also known as SEO) – This is the act of helping a website rank on a search engine for brand, product or service visibility online.
- Keywords – Keywords are words or phrases people use to search the internet for their needs.
- Keyword rankings – Keyword rankings is a term used to describe where a website will show up in search rankings when a keyword is searched for. This determines if your website will be first on Google or (hopefully not) last.
- Domain rating (also known as DR) – Domain rating is a metric used to measure the quality and trustworthiness of a website. For example, websites run by the government will have a very high domain rating. A spam website, as another example, will have a very low domain rating.
- The Google Sandbox. The Google Sandbox is a term used to describe a period of time (usually around six months) after a new site is launched in which Google analyses the website and how best to rank it. During the sandbox, it can be very hard to rank.
- Website health. This refers to how well your website performs, such as how fast the website will load, the technical SEO health of the site, and so on.
- Technical SEO. Technical SEO is a set of tasks SEO professionals can perform on the backend of a website to improve search rankings, site health, and how easy your site is to navigate. For instance, adding schema-markup to a website.
- Site speed – This is how fast it takes your website to load on both computer and mobile devices.
- Backlinks – A backlink is a term used to describe when a website links to a page on your website. High-quality backlinks from high-DR sites are great for your own site’s DR.
- Host or Web host – A host is where your website is served from.
What Is A Site Migration?
The migration of a site is mainly used in the world of SEO to refer to altering or changing a website in a tangible way that will impact the website’s ability to rank.
Most commonly, this can mean moving servers or a website’s location, but it can also mean:
- Changes to a website’s content
- Changes to a website’s platform
- Changes to a website’s UX or design
- Changing from .co.uk to .com
There are a few types of migrations that can occur, but primarily they will involve the following:
- Site or location changes; involving moving or merging parts of the site, a domain name change, moving international sites, changing protocol (HTTP to HTTPS), or changing a mobile set-up (AMP, PWA).
- Platform changes: integrating a new platform, moving to a new platform entirely, upgrading a pre-existing one, or even introducing new features on a platform.
- Structural changes; changes in site navigation, categories, significant changes to internal linking, or a complete site hierarchy change.
- Content changes; adding new content, deleting old content, merging content, or translating content for a new locale.
- UX changes; significant changes in website media and changes in UX across different devices.
How Does Boyd Digital Do Site Migrations?
Boyd Digital takes a holistic approach to site migrations to ensure we retain organic traffic, keyword rankings, and overall website integrity from a technical SEO standpoint.
Pre-Migration Audit – This is a vital part of the planning process for site migration. This audit outlines the potential challenges that will be faced during a site migration, the impact of the migration, and what measures are required to maintain site health and organic rankings.
This step will highlight the following:
- Top Keyword Rankings for preservation
- Top Website Pages for preservation (by assessing key metrics related to page value such as conversion rate, revenue, search volume and rankings)
- Backlinks for preservation
- The new proposed sitemap
- New content plan
The audit will also identify the type of migration taking place and the steps that will need to be implemented, tailored to the type and the factors mentioned above.
Detailed Timeline – This outlines the steps we will take to successfully migrate a site based on our findings from our pre-migration audit. This includes a monthly breakdown of the work that will be completed and a fully detailed explanation of what we will do and when. We pride ourselves on working cohesively with our clients to ensure launch deadlines are always met.
Post Migration Support – After the migration has been actioned, the Boyd Digital team will perform a post-live audit to monitor key signals for your website. This step ensures:
- Valuable assets from the old site have been migrated effectively and efficiently
- Analyse and monitor the 301-redirect map from your old site to your new one
- Monitor site performance, keyword rankings, and page performance
- Tweak any elements identified for attention during our audit
- Ensure Google is indexing your new site correctly
We provide detailed checklists to ensure nothing is missed, for instance, our post-migration checklist:
- Ensure site is fully indexable (NoIndex Tags, Disallow Directives, ect)
- Implement and Review 301-Redirects
- Ensure Google Analytics is Tracking Correctly
- Full Post-Launch Audit
- Fix Any Major Issues Highlighted in Post-Launch Audit
- and more
A Case Study Of Trade Radiator’s Migration
One client that came to Boyd Digital needing a site migration was Trade Radiators, which stands as the UK’s leading online retailer of radiators. Boyd Digital assisted with two migrations in the time Trade Radiators have spent with us:
- One migration from Sellerdeck to Magento.
- Another migration from Magento to Magento 2.
Due to the website’s size, this involves the migration of 10,000s non-optimised product URLs. These were all optimised during the migration process and mapped by the Boyd Digital team.
The result was a seamless migration that protected vital backlinks, traffic, and keyword rankings for the Trade Radiators brand. Revenue turnover increased by 1500% from their original migration to today. That includes:
- 104% growth in the share of voice for their brand
- 79% increase in organic revenue
- 35% more keywords in Google’s Top 10
As you can see, a perfect migration is essential to business success online.
A Case Study Of Paint Shed’s Migration
The Paint Shed is another client that came to Boyd Digital needing a migration. However, the Paint Shed had experienced a mishandled migration previously. This placed Boyd Digital in the unique position of needing to recover from a bad migration and presented various challenges to overcome.
The Boyd Team performed a detailed audit of the Paint Shed and actioned a strategy to repair the damage from the mishandled migration.
The end result was an increase in online revenue that peaked at 1900% from baseline months.
A Case Study Of Clarivate’s Migration
One of the largest migrations projects Boyd Digital has ever handled was the migration of Clarivate’s properties. This included:
- The migration of 5 large Clarivate website properties
- 10s of thousands of niche, specialist pages
Clarivate had also experienced mergers and acquisitions that made their migration far more challenging than most. Clarivate’s websites already ranked very well in global share of voice, with thousands of high-value ranking keywords.
Despite these challenges, the result was a very successful migration that resulted in high-value keyword retention and more pages ranking on the first page of Google for new or previously low-ranking keywords.
What Happens When A Site Migration Goes Wrong?
A global ecommerce fashion brand came to Boyd Digital looking for site migration. After consultation with our migration experts, they decided to go with an agency that seemed more cost-effective but proved less experienced with site migrations.
Before the migration, the site accomplished the following:
- Around 150,000 visitors per month (with a peak of 217,000 in February 2020)
After the mishandled migration, the site:
- Lost 43% of their organic traffic
- An average of 85,000 visitors in the months following the migration
A mishandled migration has the potential to almost half organic traffic and, in essence, half the potential conversations or sales a website can generate.
One of the world’s largest Tennis Federations approached us to help with migration with a short, immovable hard, set launch date of 60 days. The website had over 1M pages indexed, 25M backlinks & organic traffic levels exceeding seven figures per month.
Exploratory work identified critical launch implications:
- The new website was client-side rendering making it extremely difficult for search engines to crawl and index a website freely.
- Over 500k canonicals pointing to 404 error pages
- Alongside a multitude of other critical errors that were identified.
With no flexibility on the launch date and no flexibility on rendering, this quickly became a damage limitation migration project as the launch had the potential to wipe out 95% of organic traffic.
Regardless of the challenges faced, we helped fix canonical issues & strategically created multiple xml and html sitemaps to help search engines find and index hard-to-find client-side pages.
The outcome: We mitigated damage to 50% of traffic levels.
Migrations aren’t easy and can be costly to the online business if handled incorrectly. But we hope our article has provided some insight into site migrations, why they exist, why they are important, and what the next steps are should you need one. Check out our blog and careers section to learn more about the world of SEO.
Need a site migration? Don’t hesitate to reach out!