One of the common reasons why businesses migrate their website is to rebrand themselves. For others, it might be an upgrade from “http” to “https” to ensure better security. Whatever may be the reason, the process of migration needs to be handled carefully. You need to specifically ensure there is minimum impact on the search engine rankings. This can be done by applying a set of strategies in a step-by-step manner to mitigate traffic losses. The process is popularly known as SEO migration in the realm of digital marketing.
To ensure your website’s search engine rankings remain unaffected, we have created an SEO migration checklist for you. You will find all the essential tips you need to follow after moving your website to a new domain.
Migrate during a slow time
The best time for a migration is when the traffic on the website is minimum. If you are an online retailer, avoid a site migration just before or during the festivals. You need to keep in mind that there will be some loss in the traffic. Performing this task during a slow period ensures the loss is negligible.
Create a list of URLs that you want to redirect
This is a preparatory phase that ensures you do not skip your website’s critical page while redirecting. To do so easily, use a spreadsheet with a column for the old URLs and another one with the updated URLs.
Use 301 redirects while changing page URLs
According to Google Search Central, server-side 301 redirect is the most effective way to tell the search engine that your page has moved to a new location. You will need the .htaccess file of your server for redirects. The site’s root folder usually contains this file. After downloading the original file and creating a copy, open it in the notepad or a similar text editor.
Use this code if you want to redirect the pages manually: Redirect 301 /old-page.html /new-page.html
The next step is to open Google Search Console to use the Fetch as Google tool. Doing so ensures Google redirects to your new location properly.
Detect and update internal links
Interlinking multiple pages of your website is a crucial ingredient of the SEO mix. During migration, update the internal links so that there are no broken pages or internal redirects. Use ScreamingFrog or Internal Link Analyzer to find the internal links on your old website.
Create a 404 page
Whenever a user encounters a broken page, he/she will see a 404 error message. Make sure it’s more than the plain text. Add funky messages and graphics to make it engaging. One of the best ways to keep the users on your website is by adding a search functionality on this page. The users can reach wherever they want by typing the relevant keywords in the search bar. Or, showcase the links of your significant pages, such as homepage, products, categories, contact us, etc.
Update URLs on business listing websites
Start by updating your URL on Google My Business, as it is one of the vital platforms for local SEO. After doing so, update the URL on other business listing platforms on which your website is listed.
Update URLs on third party sites and social media
To ensure the third-party sites with your website link do not send traffic to the previous URL, update your site address. Similarly, update the address on all social media platforms on which you have a presence.
Use the Change of Address tool
Through the Change of Address Tool, you tell Google that you are moving to a new address. Before using it, verify your existing URL from search console After this step, verify your new website address. When both the properties are verified, visit this link and follow the steps present in the tool.
Update all canonical tags
If applicable, you must update all the canonical tags to the new version. The best practice is to use complete URLs. Use this step as an opportunity to repair canonical tags that had any errors.
Prepare the robots.txt file
A crucial part of SEO migration is preparing the robots.txt file that has to be uploaded to the new URL after the site launch. When working on this step, be specific while defining the Disallow directive to avoid disallowing access to files unintentionally.
Generate an XML sitemap
For your new domain, create a new XML sitemap. Numerous online tools make this task easier for you. The popular options include:
- DYNO Mapper
After the migration is complete, upload the new sitemap to the Google Search Console.
The Bottom Line: If you strictly follow this SEO migration checklist, you can expect little changes in your search engine rankings. In case these steps look cumbersome, you can always take the support of a digital marketing agency.