If your business has a website, you can be sure it’s the first impression visitors have of your company. Almost nine out of 10 consumers admit they’ll quickly click off a site that doesn’t fulfill their needs. From the colors you choose to page download time, every decision you make will have an effect on lead generation, traffic flow, general SEO, and conversion rates.
With this in mind, you might wonder whether your site needs a total overhaul in the form of a website migration to give it a more modern touch. Maybe you want to engage in a total rebranding effort. Or perhaps you’re switching to a different domain that seems more user-friendly and intuitive. In those and other situations, merging websites — or moving domains and subdomains — could make sense.
Whatever your reason for considering a full-scale site migration venture, always put pragmatism and practicality ahead of everything else. A lot can go haywire with website migrations, so be cautious about avoiding common migration pitfalls.
Below are 10 reasons, traps, and errors that website migrations turn into headaches for small and large businesses.
1. Little forethought has gone into the choice to migrate.
Poor planning and spontaneity are the enemies of a website migration free from hitches and glitches. Before jumping into migration, think about what you hope to gain. Be sure to analyze your current site and talk with your team about how a migration could negatively affect SEO and keyword ranking, at least initially. The more time you spend upfront asking the right questions, the less time you’ll spend post-migration cleaning up messes.
2. You’ve chosen to migrate your site at a bad time of year.
Unless your online business hums steadily year-round, you probably vary between slow and bustling periods. Seasonal fluctuations are important to take into account when mapping out when you’re going to actually migrate your website. For instance, if you count on getting 75% of your e-commerce sales during the fourth quarter, wait until after that timeframe to launch your migration.
3. You forget to ward off redirect snags.
We’ve all gone to websites, only to be greeted with error messages galore — not to mention broken links and other redirect-related problems. Redirects aren’t a problem in and of themselves, but you should ensure that any redirects happen behind the scenes and don’t cause visitors fuss. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through your site by hand to check redirects. High-tech solutions like EasyRedir exist to help you make redirection a piece of cake.
4. You didn’t put your migration through a test run.
Keep this word on the tip of your tongue: sandbox. In the world of website migration, server sandboxes provide sensible, practical locations for you to test every aspect of your migration without fear. If you run into unforeseen snafus, you can just revert and fix them. No harm, no foul — and no bad publicity or annoyed visitors.
5. No one set up a new XML sitemap.
Search engines aren’t going to fall head over heels for your newly migrated site simply because you make it live. In fact, they might treat it like it’s invisible. You can help the biggest search engines index your business’s correct URL and pages by creating and submitting a thorough XML sitemap. As a side note, having an updated sitemap can help you internally by enabling you to see all the pages on your website in one place so you can understand the architecture and complexity of your domain.
6. You forgot to scrub your site of duplicate content.
When you’re migrating a site, lots of “little things” can fall through the cracks. Take duplicate content, for instance. Perhaps you created original content and wound up assigning it to two new pages on your domain. Though not intentional, your actions could land you a nice Google penalty, or at least lead to a pronounced reduction in your search engine results. This is one of those frequently made mistakes that occurs when you’re trying to work too aggressively and quickly toward an unrealistic migration date. Slow down, and check for duplication.
7. You are migrating ONLY to grow your traffic and lead sources.
While your migrated site may look incredible, thanks to a lot of forethought and a designer touch, it might not perform spectacularly for a while. Don’t get too panicked when you’re not seeing double the traffic. Google doesn’t take freshness or aesthetics into consideration when assigning organic page results, after all. In general, you should concentrate on not losing any of your link love during your migration. However, don’t count on growing traffic. Rather, focus your attention on keeping the traffic that you had pre-migration.
8. You cobbled together in-house manpower for the migration like a true DIYer.
Even if you’re a small startup and accustomed to wearing lots of hats, you can’t necessarily handle a website migration without assistance. Work with professionals in the site migration business who have expertise with your type of migration project. You don’t have to spend a fortune — take a look at the cost to building a website and you might be pleasantly surprised — but this is a critical operation that can affect your whole company. Now isn’t the time to pinch pennies if you’re serious about getting the most mileage and fewest bugs out of your website migration.
9. Someone allowed the old domain to set sail.
Unless you’re planning to sell your old domain after migrating all or most of your content to a different site, keep paying for ownership rights of the original domain. If you allow it to slip away, you could end up losing some of your hard-earned SEO juice.
10. You’re ignoring the red flags telling you to wait.
Even if you’re convinced that site migration is the only way to achieve your business goals, do your homework before diving headfirst into migration. Your site migration may need to wait for a while, and that’s OK. It’s understandable to feel impatient, especially if you feel your current site’s not worth its salt. Nonetheless, a site migration venture may need to be put aside in favor of other pressing issues and tasks.
Ultimately, you want your website migration to be as hiccup-less as possible for you and everyone who lands on your site. A little bit of practical preparation will ensure that your migration is a momentous occasion instead of a never-ending hassle.