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migration

Last Updated: 27 May 2020

Something we come across a lot is planning for site migrations from your old website to your new one. This is important to get right, as flawed migrations can have huge SEO and usability ramifications. Checklists can be very valuable in situations like these, so let’s get started!

When commissioning a new website, it’s important to think about the pages from your old website and redirecting URLs that won’t appear within the new structure. Redirecting is very important if you want to keep and improve on your current organic position, as URLs that are not redirected:

  • Don’t allow visitors to find your new site, and can frustrate them if they reach error messages
  • Destroy the value of any links pointing at your old site
  • Frustrate search engines, who cannot now find new content

With that in mind, we’ve composed a guide to help you avoid a drop in your organic listings and traffic.

Some Advice Before You Start

Old Vs New

Devise a plan on how this is going to be done and work out how much time is required to complete the process. People generally underestimate the level of work required, so try to accurately estimate how long it might take to map the URLs to their new destinations. We generally think that 1 URL per minute is a reasonable target for mapping URLs to their new destinations, which may be a helpful place to start.

Complete The Migration At UAT Stage

To avoid you rushing, and so it can be tested, we recommend that you upload and test your redirects on your staging website. This way everything is in place before go live, and you won’t be missing out on any revenue opportunities with users going to dead links.

Let's work together

If you want to talk to our specialist team about how we can help you with your digital marketing, talk to our team today.

301 Redirect Checklist

Crawl The Legacy Website and source the site’s links

Using a crawler application such as Xenu Link Sleuth; crawl the legacy website, making sure all links and redirects are being identified and reported. This is important to avoid redirect chains later. Also, using the Wayback machine and exports of pages found in Search Console and Analytics will help to make sure no pages are missed.

Export All 404 Pages

Now is a great time to make sure all URLs generating a 404 are tied up as well. If you have access to SEO software such as Moz or Sitebulb, these systems will be able to help you with this. If not, Google Search Console also has a section under Diagnostics> Crawl Errors where you can download a .CSV file.

Remove Duplicates

Combine your data sources and 404 errors, and remove all duplicate URLs using Excel.

Old Vs New

Sometimes the old and new URLs will be the same-to deal with this, crawl the new website to have a full list of new URLs and then, using VLOOKUP in Excel, identify if any URLs are the same as the old URLs, as these won’t need redirecting.

Start Mapping

In Excel, make two columns: one with a list of the site’s Old URLs, and a blank one for new URLs. Find the most appropriate page relating to the old URL and add it into the New URL column. Brace yourself – this may take some time!

Ask Your Development Team To Upload

Most CMS systems require you to manually add URLs one by one. To save you time, ask your development team to upload them for you if possible and apply a 301 redirect for each.

Let's work together

If you want to talk to our specialist team about how we can help you with your digital marketing, talk to our team today.

Test

Check that the redirects are working.This can be done with a variety of tools, including HEADmasterSEO (free)

Add Your Old Sitemap

To help the search engines know your old URLs have been redirected, upload your old XML sitemap alongside your new sitemap to signal the changes. For important URLs, manually featch and request indexing through Search Console.

Submit At Go Live

At go live, submit your new AND old sitemaps to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools so that the two major search engines know you have new content and signal.

Two Weeks Later….

After the search engines have found your new website, remove your old site map from your website and Search Console/Webmaster Tools.

Change Of Address-Search Console

If you’re planning to move your site to a new domain, use the Change of Address tool in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools about your new URL. When you have verified your new domain, go into your old domain and select the option to tell the search engines your new domain.

Now you’re done! And breathe…

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Jo Coates

Jo is the Client Services Director at Agency51 focusing on client delivery and strategy. With over 13 years' experience, Jo has worked across multiple global campaigns in a wide range of industries and has seen impressive results using a variety of marketing techniques.

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