• Dan White

WHAT IS A WEBSITE MIGRATION? (AND WHY YOU NEED ONE)


New website on the horizon? Now’s the time when someone should almost certainly have mentioned the words ‘website migration’ to you. If your first response is ‘huh?’ then you need to read on.


Here you’ll find the key information you’ll need to know when factoring in a website migration into your business plans. (If you’re an SEO wanting to know the technical details of implementing a migration then have a read of this excellent guide from Moz here.).


Here’s what’s covered:

 

WHAT IS A WEBSITE MIGRATION EXACTLY?

  • In business terms, a website migration means people will still find you on Google.

  • In marketing terms, a website migration means traffic and your existing rankings won’t be lost.

  • In technical terms, a website migration redirects all of the existing URL’s on your old website and transfers them automatically through to the URL’s on your new website. It means you don’t lose out on that hard-earned SEO authority

A website migration doesn’t change your server or your hosting package. Although you could change these at the same time as launching a new website we’re just concerned with transferring old URL’s to new URL’s.


WHY IS A WEBSITE MIGRATION SO IMPORTANT?


Not implementing a website migration – or not doing one correctly - will mean a new website will run into problems. Your users may hate it but Google will hate it even more.

Imagine you run a bricks and mortar store and you move location. How would people find you? You could:

  • Add a giant poster in the window with a map of how to get to your new place

  • Make sure your phone number redirects

  • Set up forwarding on your post

  • Contact the people that supply your business with things like gas, water etc

You need to be doing the same with your website.

The moment your new website goes live then the old one will cease to exist. But Google? Google will still have a record of it and it’ll continue to include it in its search results. And if someone clicks? Well without a migration you’d be no longer there. You’re gone. You’re closed and customers are lost with no way to find your new location.

Not redirecting everything in a migration is the equivalent of abandoning everything you’ve built so far and starting completely from scratch. Not great if you’re in a competitive marketspace.


DOES MIGRATING AFFECT SEO?


It’s easy to assume that website migrations are just another thing your web company is trying to bill you for. But avoiding another bill (or using someone inexperienced) is far most costly in the long run for your SEO.

What you see below is a classic example of a migration that hasn’t got to plan.

The old site (in orange) switches off and in its place the new site (in blue) should almost immediately jump to the same level of c.100,000. Instead the site overnight was running at 50% of its original performance. That means 50% less visibility which translates to 50% less traffic and less therefore business. Don’t be this business.


Source: Search Engine Watch - A website migration gone wrong.

Once everything is up and running a successful migration should mean that your organic visibility at least remains the same.


Yes, the impact of your migration changing nothing is still a good thing. It means your organic visibility hasn’t taken a hit.


In instances where the new site is better than the old site then there may be an uplift in visibility. However, this is highly dependent on how good your new website is both in terms of content, design and technical performance.


Source: Search Engine Watch - A website migration gone right.

If nothing else, a new site gives you the platform to build and grow your website with ongoing SEO. However, depending on who built your website (and how much involvement the SEO team had with it) it may be worth getting an SEO Audit completed to make sure there’s no major issues affecting ongoing performance.


 

HOW MUCH DOES A WEBSITE MIGRATION COST?

The price of web migrations varies massively depending on the size, complexity and technology of both your old site and the new site you’re switching everything to.

At a minimum, you should expect to pay at least a few hundred pounds for a basic website migration for a small website but a four-figure quote is more common. Quotes are often tied to the time it would take to complete a migration which would be tied to a standard day rate.

Other Costs to Consider:

  • Any quote you get back should be for a fixed price to ensure if the migration takes longer than anticipated, you’re not left out of pocket

  • As with all contracts read the small print. A migration service should ideally include some sort of aftercare which ensures that any redirects which may have been missed or aren’t working are sorted for no extra cost

  • If your new website has a new domain name then you will need to continue paying hosting fees to keep the redirects which live on the old website running

WHO SHOULD BE INVOLVED?

Your website migration should be led by a dedicated senior SEO manager. This would ideally be someone who is already familiar with your existing website and has already been involved with your new website build. However, if you’re choosing an SEO who is new to the project then they should have at least 6-8 weeks prior notice before a website goes live. You can expect them to take responsibility for:

  • Liaising with the web development teams and digital marketing teams to understand the scope and intricacies of both sites

  • Prepare the ground work necessary for gathering the redirects

  • Coordinating the steps of implementing the migration on the day the website goes live

HOW LONG DOES A MIGRATION TAKE?

Let’s split this out. For a large scale website you could be looking at:

  • To prep a migration: 6-8 weeks before a website goes live

  • To implement a migration: 1-2 days immediately after the website goes live

  • For Google to start seeing changes: Instantly to a few days after the website goes live

  • To see the SEO impact of the migration: Anywhere from a few days to a few months after the website goes live

This could mean that the full process from start to finish for migrating a site could be many months of planning and assessment. As said, it all comes down to the size and complexity of your site - and how important SEO is as part of your marketing mix. If you’ve got further questions then just give me a shout.