Let’s discuss the steps which need to be taken to retain your search engine optimization, or SEO when migrating your existing website to a new domain or a different CMS.
What is Changing?
The first question I like to ask when working on a site migration, is what is changing? Is the domain changing from sociummedia.com to socium.com? Or are we simply moving from WordPress to Shopify and everything else is staying the same? Are we removing pages from the website?
It is so important to first understand what changes will be made and how they will impact your website.
Changing Domain Name
If you are changing your domain name, you must consider your domain’s authority. This will help you decide whether the change is worth it or not. Are you simply changing the domain to change it? Are you trying to choose between two names? The best solution is to use a tool like Moz or Ahrefs and find out the domain authority. Typically, the domain with the higher DA is the better option as this domain has established a reputation with Google. The higher the DA, the better the chance that the site will rank highly for targeted keywords.
Are Pages Being Removed?
If you are removing products from the website, or you are removing or condensing pages on your website, this will need to be fixed during the migration. Any page that is being removed should have its URL added to an excel doc to track. Once you’ve added all the pages that are being removed to your excel doc, write 301 redirects from the removed pages URL to the page that will replace it or the most relevant page.
The process of writing 301 redirects from the removed page to the existing page will help the website retain any keyword rankings that the removed pages ranked for.
If you are migrating your website, you are also most likely building a new website. This is a great time to consider how each page is structured. In terms of SEO, the best way to format a page is to have 1 H1 tag on each page or the page name, and then any heading which lives under that should fall into the hierarchy. The next level of headings are H2 tags, any sub-topic of an H2 is an H3, and so forth.
Setting up each page in this structure will help Google crawl and clearly understand what each page is about. When the Google robot reaches your page, it will see the H1 tag which is most clearly what your page is about, then it can crawl the other heading tags to find related or subtopics of the H1.
Also, you should consider adding internal links to help spread link juice and move users from one page to the next.
Since we are already neck-deep in web development and migrating the site, we always recommend optimizing your meta tags if you haven’t already done so. Meta tags consist of the Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, H1 Tags, and Alt Tags. The meta tags tell Google which keywords to index the page for, so these tags must be optimized with your target keywords.
Here are some best practices for optimizing your meta tags:
- Should be 60-70 characters in length.
- Utilize the keywords that a particular page should target.
- Must be 100% unique.
- Do not overuse the same keywords.
- Should be 150-160 characters in length.
- Should describe the content on that particular page.
- Must be 100% unique.
- Do not necessarily need to include keywords.
- This will be the name of the page or product.
- Describe the image.
- Use keyword if possible.
Similar to what we did for any pages we are removing or consolidating, we will need to write 301 redirects from the old website URLs to the new website URLs.
THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP TO RETAIN KEYWORD RANKINGS WHEN MIGRATING YOUR SITE.
What we recommend is to use a tool like Screaming Frog and scrape all of the URLs from both websites. Once you have your excel doc with both websites’ URLs, write the 301 redirects from the old site URL to the most relevant page on the new website. This process will tell Google that the old site URL has permanently moved to the new website and to rank the new URL for the old URLs keywords.
Google Search Console
The last step is to notify Google with the Change of Address tool in Google Search Console. This tool helps Google to migrate any Google Search results from the old site to the new website.
To Sum It All Up
Although migrating your website might seem incredibly overwhelming, the process is quite straight forward. Simply identifying what will change, redirecting old URLs to new URLs, and optimizing your website’s SEO will set you up for success post-migration.
Do you have a question that was not answered above? Or would you like to speak with our SEO team about a website migration? Fill out a free consultation form and we will be in touch!