Often we hear that updating a tired old website with a spanking new one is the key to soaring rankings and traffic utopia.

A slick new design? Check. Responsive and optimised for mobile devices? Of course. A faster, more intuitive interface? Surely you’ll be on the fast track to ranking glory.

All these things are important, yet sometimes it just isn’t enough. Too often, we’ve seen mature websites with good rankings tank in the SERPs post upgrade. Ouch.

So how can this be? Like most things in the world of digital marketing – the devil is in the detail. And those details are in your migration plan (or lack thereof).

So, what is a website migration plan?

Sure, launching a new website mightn’t be as thrilling as boarding a plane to a new home in a foreign land. But just as migrating country requires careful planning – so too does migrating your website.

At BirdBrain, every website migration plan starts around the time we begin work on a new website. The building blocks of this are of course all about keywords.

Keyword Strategy

Great site architecture (i.e. sitemap and navigation), URL naming, meta tags, etc. are always a result of clear keyword targeting. This comes not only from keyword research, but an oft-overlooked source of data – your existing site pages.

Which pages are currently receiving the most traffic and engagement? These are likely to give clues about the topics you need to put your energy into.

In building your new sitemap, you should make sure these “money” pages are clearly targeted.

This stage is also a good time to check which pages on the existing site are providing little or no value to users. Again this can be seen by looking at your Google Analytics account. Pages and topics that are not being visited or read may be worth reviewing or dropping altogether.

URL redirect map

When the new sitemap is finalised, we always create a spreadsheet showing the entire URL page list of the existing site and the new site.

It’s then about connecting the pages and knowing the forwarding address of where the old pages will direct via 301 redirects.

It’s critical that every page of value redirects to a page on the new site, otherwise valuable ranking and traffic will be lost.

Broken link check

A common new site issue is a lack of care with internal linking resulting in broken links. Once your new site is live, we use the excellent broken link checking tool to ensure no dead links remain. Overlooking this can not only impact user experience but send negative signals to Google.

Page speed test

Before launching a new site, run a Page Speed test to address coding and development issues that may impact the sites performance and speed. Apart from the effect on user experience, Page load speed has a direct impact on ranking.

Technical check

A thorough technical check is crucial at launch time.

Is the site crawlable? You would be surprised how often we see WordPress sites launch with the “discourage search engines” checkbox ticked!

Have you added a sitemap and robots.txt file? Have you set up your Analytics and AdWords code? It’s also worth checking your Analytics account for 404 errors as well as Google’s Search Console for crawl errors.

Have you tested the destination emails in forms are correct? Are the mail services associated with the hosting working correctly?

Monitoring

Post launch, when the heavy lifting is done, nothing matters like results.  As Peter Drucker says “What’s measured changes”. In this case, those measurements should include bounce rate, average session time, conversions and traffic.

Designing and building a website requires a lot of hard work – don’t waste it on a sloppy site migration.

If you have any questions or something to add, get in touch with us today.