Website Migration − Step by Step Guide

site migration

Welcome to a comprehensive guide on a topic such as a website migration. This guide aims to take you through the migration process step by step in an accessible format. Those who are more familiar with the subject will also find something of interest, especially if they want to properly plan a future migration.

website migration
The red line indicates the day of migration and the graphic refers to a properly conducted migration process

What is website migration?

Website migration is one of the most complex processes in terms of website management, and can have a dramatic impact on the website itself, but also on SEO. It involves the transfer of data from one system to another, and the purpose of such a migration depends on the owner or manager of the data in question.

To most people less familiar with the subject, website migration may be associated with abandoning the previous domain name and moving the entire website to a new address. This is of course true, however, there are many other types of migration. These include, but are not limited to, changing the CMS, hosting, or an entire rebranding of the site. A full breakdown of migration types will appear later in this guide.

The purpose of migration, apart from more mundane issues such as reducing the cost of operating a website or online shop, may also be technical. A change of hosting may make the website load faster, and a new CMS may help to develop the website and manage the project more effectively. 

It is worth remembering, however, that migration will not always improve the aforementioned aspects. In particular, it is not worth working with migration with a view to abandoning the history of a website and penalties imposed by Google in the past. Such ways have no effect on this, and the history of the previous domain itself will be transferred to the new site.

In general, actions such as migration should not be carried out by people inexperienced in the field of web development or in terms of SEO, because it risks, above all, hard to salvage drops in organic traffic. 

The following should be engaged to work on migration

Project Manager – planning and coordinating activities

Web Developer – taking care of technical issues during the migration

SEO Specialist – working on maintaining the organic traffic at an appropriate level

UX Specialist – work (usually in larger projects) in terms of better adaptation of the website to the users

The whole future of your website really depends on how you plan and carry out the migration from a technical point of view. Therefore, thanks to our guide, you will learn how to start planning the migration, what to pay attention to during the implementation, and how to verify the work done from the SEO point of view. In the article, you will also find a detailed step-by-step migration plan.

Types of website migration


This is one of the most comprehensive forms of migration, which also includes changes in the transformation of all brand elements. Among other things, it refers to the change of the entire visual identity, which may be associated with the transformation of the entire website in terms of its design. It is also often associated with a change of domain, due to the emergence of a new company name.

Merge of two websites

Sometimes an entity runs two websites and has a plan to merge them into one creation. This saves time and capacity by focusing on developing one site. Such a merger is the most difficult form of migration, due to the necessity of transferring the website resources simultaneously to another CMS and hosting, while combining other types of migration. It also forces those carrying it out to modify the structure of the website and impose many key 301 redirects. 

Separation of a part of the website  

This type of migration involves moving a part of a website to a subdomain. Most often, it concerns a blog or an online shop. Due to the nature of creating subdomains, which can be created on the same hosting as the original site, this is not as problematic. However, it is important to remember to do proper 301 redirects, update the sitemap and add it back to Google Search Console, and improve external links to be converted to URLs for the new subdomain. 

CMS change 

This type of change also involves a lot of responsibility and coordination of tasks. It is mainly based on transferring resources (e.g. content, images, URLs) to the new environment. However, it is not an easy matter either because of the potential dangers of choosing the wrong CMS, which neither increases the possibilities of expansion nor facilitates subsequent work with the site. Therefore, you should really take care to properly analyse the possible solutions and invest in the one best tailored to your situation.

Change of hosting 

A common type of migration which is not as painful as changing the CMS. The transfer requires the files that make up the website and the setting of the new DNS. However, you need to be careful about issues of current functionality on the site and its compatibility with the new server. Some forms or widgets may stop working, so it is important to check everything in a test environment before launching the site.

Domain change 

As already mentioned, this is one of the most popular types of migration, although it is unfortunately often treated too superficially, with quite a few consequences. Migration to a new domain is not only about creating 301 redirects. While working on a website, there should also be corrections in internal addresses, taking care of changing external URLs to new ones if possible, or updating sitemap. One should also not forget about new settings for analytical tools and PPC campaigns.

The most common errors during website migration

Migration is such an extensive process that it is very easy to make significant errors. We present the most common migration-related problems which are worth remembering and avoiding.

Related to planning

Migration is such an extensive process that it is very easy to make significant mistakes. We present the most common migration-related problems which are worth remembering and avoiding.

Relating to planning

  • Lack of a concrete plan – even an expert who has already carried out website migrations should not forget about a proper plan for a particular website. Although most elements of the migration plan are similar regardless of the type of project, there are exceptional situations that may disrupt the whole migration process. Therefore, it is worth taking care of the plan from the very beginning, preferably in the form of a checklist, which will reduce the chance of overlooking a significant element in the migration process.
  • Lack of division of labour among specialists – SEO specialists or web developers often work in a “one man army” system, having such extensive competences that they can successfully deal with many separate issues. Nevertheless, we advise against leaving migration on the shoulders of one person. Such a situation places a heavy burden on one specialist, and this may disrupt effective work.
  • Skipping the collection of analytical data from the old version of the website – in order to determine whether the migration itself was carried out correctly and was simply worthwhile, we need to compare the new results with the old ones. Therefore, all analytical data from Google tools (primarily from Analytics and Search Console) and those related to social media should be collected for later use.
  • Disregarding UX issues – despite gaining more and more popularity, the industry focusing on improving User Experience can still be neglected. However, in order not to lose out on the quality of the traffic itself, it is important to pay attention to UX during the migration and weave it into the roadmap accordingly. Later in this guide, we will point out the appropriate tasks to be performed in this area at a given stage of migration.


  • Incorrect or missing 301 redirects – 301 redirects allow to direct traffic from the old domain to the new one. This way we also transfer the authority of the previous domain. The 301 code also informs Google robots that it is a permanent redirect and the indicated version of the website to which it directs is up to date. Without 301 redirects it is impossible to maintain current traffic on the old version of the site. Therefore, this is one of the most important elements of migration in the context of SEO.
  • Leaving noindex on the page – Noindex is a tag informing Google robots that a given element is not to be indexed. The tag is particularly useful for subpages that should never be indexed by Google (subpages related to the shopping cart in the case of online shops, regulations, subpages with privacy policy, or subpages generated dynamically by filters).  It is also ideal for blocking robot activity on the Stage version (page under construction). However, remember to remove all tags before launching its target version in order not to block the indexation of subpages.
  • Lack of an up-to-date sitemap – If a completely different structure or canonicals appears on a new page and the sitemap does not provide for this, it can significantly disrupt the indexation process. Google robots will have more trouble navigating the site, which negatively affects the perception of the whole site, and ultimately may affect worse search engine positions.
  • Problems with data transfer – this is a common problem especially in the context of really complex websites or online shops. Sometimes it results from the limitation of conditions of the environment on which the new project is located. More often, however, the reason is a simple oversight of the data. It is necessary to avoid such situations, as each subpage or even comments on the page may influence the state of organic traffic.
bad website migration results
Poorly executed 301 redirections by the customer. led to a significant disruption of the entire migration process.

Website migration stages

A well-thought-out division of labour is crucial, as the elements to be taken into account during the migration are really numerous and may overwhelm you. It is worth being aware of what needs to be done or verified at a particular moment. We recommend using such a division, which will significantly reduce the feeling of being lost in the amount of data and activities. You will find a more detailed description of the tasks in our step-by-step migration description later in this guide.


The part to perform before starting any technical activities on the website. It should be based primarily on listing the elements that will be affected by the migration and choosing an appropriate timeframe for the work on the site. It is also good practice to plan alternative traffic sources to temporarily replace organic traffic. The key is to carefully map out the various tasks and assign the right people to participate in the process.


This part of the migration consists in taking the first real actions on the website. It is also worth focusing on extracting data from the old version of the website and analysing them, e.g. in terms of links or indexation status. This will serve as a benchmark in the later stage of migration, which will show the effects of the work in the context of organic traffic on the website.  This is also the best time for making backups of the old version by the web developer.


The crucial part of the activities to be performed just before the launch of the new website. This is the right time to verify the work on the site in terms of its correctness. You should also make sure that you have provided appropriate conditions for proper indexation of the site. Any deficiencies should be detected quickly so that they do not cause damage to your traffic. It’s also worth applying UX analysis where possible.

Post Launch 

After the work is done, it is time for a thorough verification of its effects. A proven method is to wait at least a week after the migration is completed. Then, it is more likely that any errors will appear in the verified data. It is important to compare the loading time of the new website with the old version, indexed subpages, and organic traffic ratios. For this, it is necessary to use the previously mentioned benchmark.

Step 1 – Scope and Planning

Before starting the migration, it is worth making yourself – and your customer – aware that a small amount of traffic may be lost after migration. Not forever, but the results immediately after migration may differ from the old version of the site. 

However, using our advice you can successfully reduce the negative effects of migration to a minimum. Therefore, the planning itself is of paramount importance for the entire process.

Determining the potential impact of migration on the website

Role: Project Manager

The first stage of planning is to determine what elements of the website will be changed during the migration. In fact, every part of the website, even the smallest one, may affect the search engine ranking

Therefore, identifying and dissecting these elements can be the first step to protect the site from an uncontrolled decrease in visibility, which will be really hard to fix later. It is also crucial to include this information in further documents that should go to web developers, for example. 

Selecting the time when migration will have the least impact on user traffic

Role: Project Manager

Your task is to determine the hours when the lack of an active website will be the least painful for users as well as you in terms of lost potential traffic.

Usually late hours are the best, i.e. 3 or 4 a.m., as in most cases users are asleep then, and not browsing the Internet. However, everything depends on a given industry and for such decisions, real data will be the most useful, which will help to estimate specific hours. The most useful tool will be properly configured Google Analytics, which can successfully cope with this type of task.

It is also worth avoiding days such as Friday, as technical problems may occur during the migration and should be detected and repaired as soon as possible. A weekend, during which there is no support from a web developer or SEO specialist, can make this effectively difficult.

Selecting alternative traffic sources to mitigate the short-term loss of organic traffic

Role: Project Manager

Often, despite our best efforts, certain issues cannot be predicted and we may lose more traffic than we anticipated. That’s when it can be a lifesaver to invest in other traffic sources to make the declines less noticeable until the organic traffic problem is resolved.

PPC campaigns with Google Ads in the lead would definitely be a good choice, although Facebook Ads are also a worthwhile choice. It all depends on the industry you are in and the opportunities you have in terms of PPC. 

Facebook Ads can be easier to implement as well as more effective for smaller budgets. Google Ads on the other hand works well on larger projects and can be a great complement to organic traffic long term. 

Please note that the above descriptions in terms of PPC advertising are very brief, so we recommend that you familiarise yourself with the paid channels and choose the one that best suits your business.

Informing about the chosen scope of work

Role: Project Manager/Web Developer/SEO Specialist

Once you’ve assembled the right team and assigned specific roles (as we mentioned earlier in this guide), it’s time to carefully distribute tasks among specialists. For this, it will be useful to create individual schedules for each person. 

These should be based on the tasks, but also on the dates on which the item will be implemented. It may be said that this is an exaggerated approach, but the migration itself is such a rare and extensive process that high team coordination is worth its weight in gold. It is useful to set up a common messenger for consistent communication (e.g. Google Chat, Slack, or Monday).

Step 2 – Preparing the migration (Pre-launch)

This stage consists mainly in data handling, e.g. downloading them from the old version of the website and analysing them. This is also the moment of the real “putting up” of the new version of the website, which should be gradually verified. 

It is very important to check the state of the website before migration, as well as the stage version. The stage is in fact our testing environment, on which mainly web developers work, gradually turning into a new version of the website. It is essential to protect it with a password, which prevents the Stage (test) version from being discovered by Google robots and indexed.

It should also be mentioned that the creation of the website is ongoing during this process and all steps should be taken while the developers are working on the website.

page speed mobile after migration
Results from PageSpeed Insights before and after the migration of the mobile version. With proper optimisation of the new version, the page load speed is much more acceptable.

Ensuring that test environments for a new site are not indexed by search engines

Role: SEO Specialist

It is important not to index your test version. This is crucial, otherwise, that very version and unnecessary resources will be indexed and duplication of content will occur.

Duplication is definitely not advisable in the context of SEO activities, and the very consumption of resources by Google for unnecessary sub-pages can negatively affect the subsequent results of the migrated site.

To verify these issues, a standalone analysis of the page header in the context of the presence of noindex tags, which prevent indexing in search engines, will prove useful. However, a safer and more comprehensive solution would be to perform a crawl and through it to verify the indexation of the website again. 

Performing a crawl on an old site

Role: SEO Specialist

It is important to download all possible data regarding the old site before migration. This will help us work on the next points and allow us to compare important elements of the website before and after migration. The Screaming Frog tool will be ideal for this. At this point, it is also useful to organise the data in folders, with data from the old version going into one and new elements into another.

Exporting data lists

List of subpages to which external links lead

Role: Web Developer/SEO Specialist

All sub-pages that have external links must be saved. You need to decide what to do with these subpages, as no links should lead to a page with a 404 error. The best tool for this task is Ahrefs, which specialises in the area of linking.

List of subpages that have been visited in the last 12 months

Role: Project Manager/SEO Specialist

All subpages that have registered any user are important to us. You need to download a list of these sub-pages and make appropriate decisions about their future. 

This will allow you to make rational decisions regarding the depletion of the new version of the site if the sub-pages in question do not fulfill their role in terms of interest and user traffic. In this case, Google Analytics with collected correct data on organic traffic will work best.

List of subpages shared on social media

Role: Project Manager

Every subpage that has ever been shared on Facebook or other social media is potentially attractive to users. Each of these subpages should be saved and planned in relation to the future website. For this list, it is worth using the Ahrefs tool again.

List of subpages currently indexed by search engines

Role: SEO Specialist

Each subpage indexed by a search engine appears in the Google database. If some of these pages display a 404 after migration, this will have unpleasant consequences for the results against the organic traffic of the site. 

The best way to pull properly indexed subpages from the old site is to export them from Google Search Console. This tool from Google is by far the best at showing the status of your site in the search engine in terms of indexation.

Combining a list of all exported URLs into one document

Role: Project Manager/SEO Specialist

Combining all of the above lists will allow us to get an overall picture of your site and make appropriate prioritisation decisions. The easiest method is to prioritise internally the sub-pages that rank high for phrases of interest to you or your client, or sub-pages that generate a lot of organic traffic. This step is strongly dependent on our approach and what we are most interested in continuing on the new version of the site.

Keyword research

Role: SEO Specialist

This is one of the most important points of the migration. Each sub-page should have the right target, keyword, and the right place in the hierarchy. Badly chosen keywords will bring the wrong traffic to the page or very little effect in terms of SEO.

This is why it is worth building a proper document combining these elements, so that you can easily verify what you are focusing on in terms of keywords. It is a matter of your own invention, but it should be a document that is as clear as possible and shows the data in an accessible way. Knowledge of Excel or an equivalent solution from Google will definitely be useful here.

Building the URL structure for the new version based on the findings from the keyword research

Role: SEO Specialist/Web Developer

Building a page structure based on keyword research is as important as keyword research. Keywords should be properly placed on the page, each set of words should be able to exploit their potential. It is important to plan the structure so that each keyword has a chance to appear several times in the content and metadata. Also, the URLs themselves should be based on the keywords we have chosen.

Creating a URL redirection map

Role: SEO Specialist/Web Developer

Creating a redirection map will primarily stop potential “link juice” leaks to sub-pages that no longer exist. A redirection map is essential to take care of each URL and have a proper picture of how the website currently looks in terms of link status.

This type of map needs only to be created on the basis of URLs that are already present on the page and juxtaposed with planned, new addresses. This provides a complete picture of the redirects and will definitely help web developers to be as effective as possible.

Verifying the redirection map in the context of using wildcards or regular expressions

Role: Web Developer

A task strictly for the web developer, for which knowledge of programming is definitely advisable. There are parameters, session attributes, etc. that can be moved or dropped. 

It is important to create such dynamic addresses yourself or to inform them accordingly. Any dynamic address should also be properly redirected so that it does not disrupt the flow of traffic to the site.

Generate an .htaccess file containing all required redirects

Role: SEO Specialist/Web Developer

The htaccess file is crucial for the proper functioning of the website. It is also worth checking if important redirections (from www to no www, http to https, etc.) are also included in the new htaccess file. 

You should pay special attention to it, because any serious errors in this file may cause havoc on the new version of the website in terms of technical aspects and organic traffic.

Creating a backup copy of the old version of the website

Role: Web Developer

Backing up your critical data should be a functioning habit. It is necessary to create a backup of the old version of the website, also in case of problems with an important functionality of the website or with an SEO element. With old data, it can be restored more easily. Without corrections, an example of a non-functioning comment section or blog can cause very strong traffic drops.

Comparison of old and new website performance

Role: SEO Specialist

It is also necessary to analyse the speed of the website on mobile and desktop devices, comparing the data collected from the old version of the website. This will help us know whether the migrated version of the website is performing better in terms of loading speed or worse. 

The priority, especially in terms of SEO and UX, is to optimise the website so that it is as efficient as possible. The primary tool for verifying performance is PageSpeed Insights from Google.

Comparison of the number of pages in a search engine

Role: SEO Specialist

Analyse, and in doing so, record the number of pages and statistics from Google Search Console and Google Analytics. This way, after the migration you will know which sub-pages are performing better or worse compared to the old version of the site. Such monitoring is important to have the state of your website traffic fully under control. 

Conducting a comprehensive audit of the new version of the website

Role: SEO Specialist/Web Developer

Once you have created a new version of your website that is almost ready to go live, you should conduct an in-depth technical SEO audit. Of course, each specialist has their own methods for this, but you should verify the work carried out and what impact it has on SEO overall.

Generating a robots.txt file and sitemap for a new version of a website

Role: SEO Specialist/Web Developer

It’s time to create a proper robots.txt file with the correct exclusions and a sitemap of the site broken down by blog posts, images, videos, etc. This is a relatively simple process, but it should be approached in a fully conscious manner, as both elements have a very large impact on the correct indexation of the site.

Checking for broken links

Role: SEO Specialist

It is worth performing a site crawl again to detect potential error-generating sub-pages. In particular, avoid any 404 errors that could result in loss of traffic, internal links, external links, wasting Google’s crawl budget, or simply scaring users away. 

Checking canonical links (canonicals)

Role: SEO Specialist

Canonical links are really important in terms of SEO. First of all, they prevent duplicate content by informing Google robots about the original address. 

They can also be managed in terms of strengthening the subpages we care most about. Therefore, it is good that they are correctly introduced from the very beginning of the new version of the website.

Step 3 – Launching the migrated website

After completing the necessary web development works related to the migration or tasks from the already mentioned subsections of this guide, it is time to fully-fledged launch the new version of the website. 

This is in fact the moment of the greatest test for the team coordination. If information about given elements does not reach a given team member in time, it may have consequences for all areas. 

At this stage, the most active should be the Project Manager managing the launch, as well as an SEO specialist who will take care of starting a fully-fledged indexation, and then organic traffic with their actions.

page speed desktop after migration
Results from PageSpeed Insights before and after migration in the desktop version. Much better results were achieved, among other things, by a technically sound approach to the migration

Ensuring robots access to the new site & verifying robots.txt file

Role: SEO Specialist

When a page is ready to be indexed, you need to unblock access to it for Google’s robots. You should also verify how they navigate the new page. It is useful to conduct an additional crawl. In addition, it is necessary to add or just check the robots.txt file, the lack or bad execution of which may unnecessarily block the movement of robots on the page.

It is also worth paying attention to the robots tags of all subpages just after performing a crawl. If somewhere the tags INDEX, FOLLOW are missing, and we care about indexation of a given address, they should be implemented to make the situation in this aspect fully clear.

Making sure that verification codes for webmasters are active

Role: SEO Specialist

It is imperative that you pay attention to the current status of your webmaster account, as Google Search Console itself used to be called. Without it, you’ll lose a ton of valuable data regarding your site and may have trouble verifying it further. Google Search Console is one of the best sources of indexation data and it is almost impossible to work on a website without it in terms of SEO.

Verifying that the noindex tag has been removed from all subpages to be indexed

Role: Web Developer/SEO Specialist/Project Manager

Noindex tags were even necessary for parts of the Stage, i.e. test, the version to be avoided by indexation. However, nowadays we are most interested in the fastest and most effective indexation of subpages, especially those crucial for the functioning of the website. 

Therefore, the most effective way is to conduct a crawl, which will help to verify all subpages faster, and then manually verify the source code of the most important subpages. This way you can fully protect yourself from unwanted residues of indexation blockade.

Checking 301 redirects and their correctness

Role: SEO Specialist

Use Screaming Frog again to get a report on redirects via crawl. This will tell you if all redirects are being implemented as intended. It’s important that none of the redirects are invalid 302 temporary redirects. These don’t fully convey the power of a given subpage, so they can negatively impact a page’s status in Google search.

Checking correctness of sitemap and adding it to Google Search Console

Role: SEO Specialist

Correct sitemap particularly supports the process of more effective indexation of subpages. Thanks to it, Google robots can crawl various subpages more efficiently. It should be divided into relevant sections (e.g. blog entries, photos, other subpages, etc.). 

This is especially important for large online shops with several thousand URLs. Also in such cases, it is worth to divide the sitemap into several smaller sitemaps.

In order to use the full potential of the sitemap, it is worth to place the sitemap in Google Search Console. Thanks to that, first of all, we have the possibility to check how many addresses from the sitemap are indexed and how many do not qualify for it.

Making sure that all meta title and meta description have been implemented

Role: SEO Specialist

Meta titles have a really big impact on proper indexing and Google search positions. Therefore, they should be implemented on the website from the very beginning. It is worth ensuring a uniform scheme so that they are as specific as possible and also help users.

Meta description serves to generate higher CTR in the search engine. Well presented and being of an appropriate length, they can effectively encourage users to click on a given SERP. This increases the level of quality organic traffic, so we should also care about these elements. The fastest way to investigate them will be to conduct a site crawl using Screaming Frog.

Ensuring that a working website does not contain soft 404s

Role: Web Developer/SEO Specialist

A soft 404 is an apparently empty page which, despite being correct in terms of the generated 200 code, may be recognised by search engine robots as a page with a 404 error. This also happens when a given subpage contains errors. Such subpages should be avoided, as they introduce unnecessary confusion in our structure and thus the whole page may also be perceived as less qualitative, also by the users themselves.

Checking whether analytical codes are placed in an appropriate way and tools collect data correctly

Role: Project Manager

Usually, after migration, these types of elements are not moved by Web Developers. Therefore, it is worth keeping this in mind so that our analytical tools are fully operational from the very beginning of the new website.

The data we can obtain from them regarding organic traffic will be invaluable when comparing them with those from the old version of the website. If we talk about a classic analytical tool from Google (Google Analytics), it is necessary to verify the page header manually. After the GA verification, it is also worth doing it with Google Search Console, which relates more to the indexation itself, but is also at a premium. 

Monitoring analytics in real time for sudden problems with the correct functioning of the website

Role: Project Manager

The role of the Project Manager should also be to continuously check the traffic that appears on the site immediately after the migration, regardless of its source. New versions of the website may have errors which can disrupt the flow of traffic effectively. Any signals should be reported quickly and further analysed with the whole team to resolve them.

Checking that all internal links are marked as “follow”

Role: SEO Specialist

Adequate internal linking should be an important part of building a site. However, it is not necessary to fully develop it as soon as the migrated site starts. However, it is worth conducting a site crawl and verifying the state of our links.

It is crucial to put “follow” tags on every internal link, which will naturally transfer the power of the site throughout the site. Nofollow links prevent this, which is useful for external linking, but for internal linking they only disrupt the flow of site power.

(Optional) Cognitive walkthrough

Role: UX Specialist

If you have a User Experience specialist on your team, or someone who is proficient in this area, then it is worth conducting the study mentioned above. Cognitive Walkthrough itself is a structured approach to evaluating the usability of a product, or in this case our migrated website, through the analysis of a tester.

The tester, who is not a user, asks four simple questions about how the person selected for the study moves. The results of these questions and will use these observations to further improve the site in terms of usage.

As we mentioned at the beginning of our guide, it is not worth underestimating User Experience issues. If you have the opportunity to use specialists in this field, do not hesitate, because you will improve the quality of website traffic thanks to a proper analytical approach.

Step 4 – Verifying the effects of migration (Post Launch)

After migration, it is necessary to collate painstakingly collected data and verify the results. This is also a process that needs to be carried out twice: the first time immediately after the launch stage, and the second a month or two after the launch of the migrated website. Often, changes in organic traffic may take place only after a longer period of time, so it is necessary to verify the data again.

Such an analysis will help determine if the migration has had a negative impact on traffic or if it was carried out in an uncontrolled manner. Any major deviations in the analytics tools will indicate this and it is then worth undertaking additional analysis of the site to find the problem. This is a bit of a general statement, but errors during a migration depend on the type and scope of the migration, so this needs to be approached individually.

Checking Google Search Console for new error messages

Role: SEO Specialist/Project Manager

Google Search Console is one of the best tools to inform us about potential migration errors. They can often save us from further consequences in terms of the state of the site or indexation itself if we react quickly enough.

The most frequent messages we may encounter and to which we should first pay attention are:

  • Page indexed, but blocked by robots.txt file – refers to a situation when a given subpage is excluded from the robots.txt file, but does not have the “noindex” tag on it and is indexed by Google.
  • The submitted URL could not be found (404) – it is necessary to apply redirects to such URLs whenever possible.
  • The submitted URL appears to report an apparent 404 error – the so-called soft 404 mentioned earlier in the tutorial
  • Server error (5xx) – here it is worth pointing to the hosting, as this is the most common cause of this type of error
  • Submitted URL contains indexing errors – this is an individually considered message, so it is worth conducting your own analysis of a particular URL generating errors.

It’s also worth taking similar care with the mobile version of the site to fully customise it for users. The GSC also helps to define such issues and make specific corrections. Typically, mobile messages relate to content that is too wide, clickable elements that are too close together, or a font that is too small.

Contacting the owners of key sites linking to your site

Role: Project Manager/SEO Specialist

This is a really useful action in terms of keeping the external linking of the site at the old level. It is worth swapping the old links from the previous version of the domain with the new ones to make them work fully for the new domain. 

Of course, if our linking profile is really extensive, we do not have much chance to reach all links. However, the most important ones (e.g. those of high quality or generating noticeable traffic to our site) should be taken care of individually. For verification Ahrefs, which is difficult to replace in terms of linking, can of course be used.

Change all URLs on your own pages linking to the migrated site

Role: Project Manager

A similar operation as in the previous section should be carried out for your own domains. Many people have several websites and it is natural to link between them. 

However, the addresses should be changed to the new ones in the same way. Also in the case when the old version of the migrated URL has 301 redirects to the new version of the page. The full power of links will be transferred through a standard page with code 200.

Data comparison

Role: SEO Specialist

Conduct a performance test of the new site and compare the results with the old version – Verify the new version in terms of loading speed. Data from the test of the previous version of the site before migration will be helpful in estimating specific conclusions.

Verifying the indexation status of the new website and comparing the results to the old version – Using Google Search Console, verify how your website is currently indexed. It should be as good as possible to achieve high efficiency in terms of gaining more visibility.

Checking the number of hits on sub-pages through the search engine and comparing the results with the old version – In this case, it is also necessary to verify the data from Google Search Console and how much organic traffic the sub-pages currently generate compared to the old version of the site.

(Optional) Connecting a tool to record user sessions and verify the results

Role: UX Specialist

As mentioned earlier in this guide, not everyone has the opportunity to add a User Experience oriented person to their team. However, if you do have a UX specialist on your team, it’s a good idea to involve them in the analysis with a tool that anonymously tracks user sessions. The most popular solution of this type is HotJar, although some people also use Crazy Egg or Yandex.Metrica.

Thanks to such an action, it is possible to analyse users’ behaviour “live”, observing how they use the solutions we invent. Of course, this should be based on the selection of a group of such visitors and verification on this basis.
Usually, it is noticeable that they have problems with navigating the site, bypass most of the functionalities or that certain sub-pages are most often selected without a specific reason. Such issues are ideal for further analysis and perhaps further redevelopment of a given sub-page or menu.

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Author: Wiktor Jacheć

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