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Positioning a website is a long-term process and usually continues continuously, sometimes even for many years. As trends and technologies change dynamically, as do Google’s requirements for websites, there are times when it is necessary to build a new website during the course of positioning.
Migrating a website will always have an impact on SEO efforts, but if not done properly, it will have a negative impact. A poorly executed migration can negate years of SEO efforts and cause huge drops in organic visibility, which will translate into traffic, which will translate into earnings, especially for online stores.
A very glaring case of a poorly executed migration is the online store rossmann.co.uk. In January 2019, a site change was made, but without considering SEO, the site’s visibility dropped from 50,000 keywords to just over 7,000. Visibility was not able to be rebuilt to the same level until January 2022, that is, after 3 full years. We can only imagine what a huge drop in traffic the online store must have experienced during this time.
How to properly prepare for a website migration?
How to approach a site migration to a new site depends largely on whether the new site will have the same or different internal link scheme. If the link structure stays the same, the subpages do not change addresses, we have an almost ideal situation, because all the existing subpages will remain in the index. A change in the visual or content layer can, of course, affect the positions, but in this case the drops should be almost invisible if we make sure that the subpages of the new site include the keywords that previously ranked high for them.
The problem begins when the change of our site involves a complete change in its internal address structure. This means that many of the previously existing subpages will disappear and new ones will appear in their place, which will significantly affect the indexation of the site by the Google robot.
The site will be indexed by the Google robot.
In this case, in the first place, it is necessary to prevent the appearance after the migration, a huge number of 404 errors. If any specific subpages disappear from the site for good, their url addresses should be redirected to the home page. That way, if the address of a particular subpage appears somewhere on the web, a person who clicks on it won’t go nowhere.
Redirection map when migrating a page
The next element, and the most important in the site migration process from an SEO perspective, is the creation of a redirection map. This involves listing all addresses from the old site and all from the new site and assigning them to each other. Each old address must be matched to its counterpart on the new site. By preparing such a map, it will be possible to 301 redirect all the old addresses to the new ones. This will ensure that no pages returning a 404 error will appear in Google’s index.
With the implementation of the redirect map, the new site will not see a drastic drop in visibility. Any change to the site can, of course, cause some drops or fluctuations in keyword positions, but with a well-executed redirection map, they will be minor and temporary, until Google re-indexes the entire site.
The redirection map will not be a problem.
The next item to keep in mind is content migration. If your previous site had a blog, for example, it’s a good idea to migrate its content to the new site so that it retains its visibility for the phrases that appear on it. However, if you do not plan to transfer old content, but create completely new content, it is worth taking the time to analyze what phrases the text was visible for and include them in the content you plan to write.
Sitemap.xml and new-page indexation
Once we have successfully migrated the site, it will be necessary to create a new sitemap.xml file for it, post it to the site, and add a link in Google Search Console panel.
In Google Search Console, it’s also a good idea to request that our site be re-indexed and thus “invite” the search engine robot to visit our site. This will help our new site appear faster in search results.
As we can see, for example, from the example of Rossmann, proper migration of the site in terms of SEO is very important and can save us from losses of visibility, organic traffic and, as a result, from serious financial losses. It is worth taking the time and preparing for the migration long before it is about to happen – it is best to plan it already at the stage of conceptual work on the new site.
She has 11 years of professional experience, she started her career at the Emarketing Experts agency as a junior SEO specialist. In addition to website positioning, she was responsible for conducting 360° marketing projects as an Account Manager at They.pl. She worked for companies from the financial sector (Bank Millennium, Bank Meritum, Finai S.A.) and e-commerce (e.g. Black Red White, Autoland, Mumla). At Up&More, he is responsible for, among others, SEO projects for Panek Car Sharing, Amerigas, Interparking, H+H and Autoplaza.