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Avoiding SEO issues when carrying out website migration

Website migration can take many forms. The general term is used to describe any major changes to a website that will affect any page URLs such as content, layout, location or platform. 


Whether you’re changing your hosting, updating your platform and user experience, or changing functionalities with a redesign, it’s important to make sure the changes have minimal effect on website SEO in order to maintain traffic and visibility. 


It’s normal to see a small drop in data such as website visitors when migrating a website, but there are ways to keep disruption to a minimum and keep those new users flowing! 


Make a plan


There’s no point in going into such a big project without laying out a timeline and detailed plan first. Seeing everything in front of you in a list can help to streamline the process and you can pinpoint any offline time, potential risks and keep an eye on Analytics in the meantime. 


Use a website crawler


“Crawling” your website before migrating it will give search engines the opportunity to see all of your content and anything that may have been updated. This can be in the form of copy, imagery or other media. 


It will also allow you to make a list of all URLs on the existing site – you can use this as a reference post-migration, which helps you to spot anything that has been missed out of the migration process. 


You should also crawl your website post-migration to make sure everything is successfully in place.


Review Analytics


If data takes a long term drop following the migration, you will want to know about it. Reviewing and downloading data from Google Analytics before migrating helps you to keep a close eye on changes in the case of data disappearing. It can happen! 


Taking note of any particularly well performing pages may also help you to decide what to redesign or not in the first place. 


URL mapping


URL changes can lead to website visitors seeing the frustrating ‘404 error’. In order to avoid this you will need to set up redirects in the case where a URL changes. This means that if someone clicks on an old, non-existent URL, they will be redirected to the new one with the relevant content they are looking for. 


Proper mapping benefits the website as there will be less of a negative impact on SEO. Not only is there less chance of errors and wrongly redirecting URLs, Google will be able to see redirects for itself and piece together history and backlinks, for example. 




If you can, upload a trial version of your new website and check for errors before the full migration takes place, then do so. Click on all the links, check all meta descriptions, test functions – this will all help to avoid errors that could impact your SEO when the new site is live. 


Migrate at the right time


If you typically have a high traffic period on certain days of the week or if you have an important campaign running (online or offline), don’t pick that time to update – allow for errors. 


And when you do pick what date to carry out your migration, try and do it out of what the typical peak hours are for your site. If your website traffic is high in the evenings, for example, wait until it typically slows down and start then. 


Less down time and fewer frustrated users means there’s a better chance of users coming back, and therefore there’s less negative impact on traffic in the long term. 



Once you have completed the migration, test everything again. Looking back at your plan and site crawl notes, check links to see if any are broken, check for any 404 errors and make sure any redirects work. 


Then, of course, if you do find any errors be sure to fix them immediately. 


Get Analytics and Search Console running


Make sure Google Analytics is still reporting as you expect it to. Run some tests to make sure any real time data updates and that the code is properly installed. 


The same goes for Google Search Console, as this can also help you to scan for errors on the migrated site. 


Keep an eye on both as an indication of any SEO issues and traffic drops, but if you follow as many steps as you can to minimise this, you can simply continue to monitor results.


You should also upload your new sitemap to Search Console to allow Google to crawl for anything new or amended. 


Find old links and update them


If you have backlinks from other sites to yours, if you have ads running or if you have social media posts with links in, update them all. 


If other people have linked to your content be it publishers, stores, influencers – make sure they have the new links that they need.


You may also have been using short links, or provided them to others to use on your behalf. They should also be updated. 

It goes without saying that website maintenance is a task that should be carried out regularly, so the chances are that if there are any errors you will come across them sooner or later.


But for the benefit of your SEO that you have more than likely built up to a good level over years of hard work, keep errors to a minimum. Make it easy for search engines to find you and make it a positive user experience to encourage repeat visitors.