Whether you are migrating to a new domain, redesigning your website or consolidating multiple websites into one, our step-by-step SEO migration checklist will help your website migrates with minimum impact on search engine visibility and organic traffic.
Within this article, we will introduce the downloadable SEO migration checklist, for more in-depth information about the SEO migration process, highly recommend reading our post on SEO Migration Guide: How to migrate without losing SEO traffic
- 1 SEO Migration Checklist
- 1.1 Data Gathering
- 1.2 1. Run A Full Website Crawl Before The Migration
- 1.3 2. Identify Top Performing Pages Driving Traffic
- 1.4 3. Website Loading Speed Report
- 1.5 4. Benchmark Keyword & Traffic Data
- 1.6 5. Record Backlinks Data
- 1.7 Design/ Wireframe Stage Review
- 1.8 6 . URL Mapping
- 1.9 7. Content Gap Analysis
- 1.10 8. Metadata Review
- 1.11 9. Run A Crawler On The Staging Site
- 1.12 10. Fix Technical Issues And Update Content Gaps
- 1.13 11. Prepare URL Redirection Matrix
- 1.14 12. Review Tracking Codes, Canonical Tags, Language Tags and Structured Data
- 1.15 Launch Day Checklist
- 1.16 13. Remove All “noindex” “nofollow” Tags
- 1.17 14. Domain Change In GSC ( If only domain name change )
- 1.18 15. Check Robots.txt
- 1.19 16. Check Redirects
- 1.20 17. Submit A New Sitemap To The Google Search Console Account
- 1.21 18. Create Annotation In Google Analytic
- 1.22 Post-Evaluation ( 1-2 weeks )
- 1.23 19. Monitor Google Search Console Index Coverage Report
- 1.24 20. Use The URL Inspection Tool To Check The Status Of Top-performing Pages
- 1.25 21. Monitor Performance Changes
- 1.26 Conclusion
SEO Migration Checklist
Before any website migration, you’ll need to gather as much important information as possible. You’ll need this to compare with the new website later part in the process.
1. Run A Full Website Crawl Before The Migration
One of the most important steps in migrating a website is to crawl the entire site and collect data about all the links. This data will be used to compare the new website with the old one later in the process.
These tools will provide you with detailed information about all the links on your site, including broken links, redirects and duplicate content.
With this data in hand, you can make sure that your new website includes all the necessary pages and links, and that there are no broken links or other errors.
2. Identify Top Performing Pages Driving Traffic
Identifying your website’s most popular pages is essential before you begin migration. This data will help you to compare the new website with the old one. We recommend using Google Search Console to gather data for at least the last six months.
You can export the “Clicks” and “Impressions” data for your top-performing pages. This information will be essential as you begin your website migration.
If you don’t have Google Search Console access, highly recommend creating one and verifying the site before starting the migration.
3. Website Loading Speed Report
This report will give you insights into your website’s current performance. It is important to generate this report before you begin your website migration.
This way, you will be able to compare the new website’s loading performance against the old one. If the new website loads slower than the old one, you will know that you need to improve your website’s performance.
Website loading speed is a critical factor in providing a good user experience. Therefore, it is essential to monitor your website’s performance and make improvements as needed.
4. Benchmark Keyword & Traffic Data
Benchmarking your keyword and traffic data before you begin your website migration is essential. This data will be used to compare the performance of the new website with the old one later in the process.
By benchmarking your keywords, you will be able to track your progress and ensure that you are making the best possible decisions for your website.
If you are changing your domain name, don’t forget to keep a record of any old backlinks. Reach out and contact that website with the new address so they can update their links too! This could be tedious work but it will be worth doing if there’s high competition within your industry.
Design/ Wireframe Stage Review
At this stage, we compare the design environment and staging site with the data we have already gathered before.
6 . URL Mapping
URL Mapping is the most critical part of SEO migration. You need to map top-performing URLs on the old website with the staging site URLs. This will give you an idea of pages that needs to be redirected.
7. Content Gap Analysis
Now you know which pages are mapped against each other, it’s time to check the content gap within the pages. If you are not careful about the content on your new pages, if there is a content gap between old and new pages, they will rank lower than before. Make sure that all of this information is replicated with copies and text changes in order to maintain authority for search engines.
Note: This is the most common mistake people do who when migrating a website. You won’t be able to maintain the same traffic and ranks by only doing 301 URL redirections.
8. Metadata Review
In addition to the content gap analysis between old and new pages, meta titles, descriptions and header tag ( ideally H1) reviews are needed. Most of the time web developers set the meta titles to the default page names.
If there is a well-performing page, if you haven’t updated and optimised your metadata you will soon loose lose your rankings.
9. Run A Crawler On The Staging Site
Running a full crawl on the staging site is essential if you want to make sure that your new website doesn’t have any major errors before launching.
Make sure to check Core Web Vital and loading speed on the staging site and compared it with the old site. Often staging environments are not performance optimised like the live site. So it is important to do this test after your website goes live as well.
10. Fix Technical Issues And Update Content Gaps
Now you know the pages with errors and content gaps, fix and update them before you launch the new site. This process can take time, so make sure you keep enough buffer time to your go-live date.
11. Prepare URL Redirection Matrix
You have done your URL mapping already. Now it’s time to create the 301 URL redirections. By using the template given you can generate the URL redirection code that can be added to the .htaccess file.
As an example,
Existing page : /abc-page
New page: https://www.abc.com/cde-page ( redirect page needs to have the absolute URL including HTTPS )
Redirect Method – 301 redirections ( which means permanent redirection signal to Google )
Redirection code : Redirect 301/abc-page https://www.abc.com/cde-page
If you are not an expert in implementing the redirects, highly recommend passing this job to a web developer who has experience in migrating websites.
Instead of the URL redirection code, you just need to give them existing URLs and redirection URLs only. Generally, they know with that information how to add the URL redirects.
With experience, we know it’s better to create a separate excel file and send the URL mapping to web developers. Do not send your SEO migration checklist as it will confuse them even more. 🙂
12. Review Tracking Codes, Canonical Tags, Language Tags and Structured Data
Reviewing your tracking codes, canonical tags, hreflang tags and structured data before migrating your website is essential. Check the staging environment for
- Google Analytics / Google Tag Manager Codes
- Open Graph Data, Schema Data and other Structured Data
- Canonical tags
- hreflang tags were applicable.
Launch Day Checklist
13. Remove All “noindex” “nofollow” Tags
Have you ever wondered why your new website is still not indexed in Google?
Most web developers forget to remove all “noindex” and “nofollow” tags before they make the switch to the new website resulting in no visibility on Google.
Make sure to remove “noidex” and “nofollow” tags.
14. Domain Change In GSC ( If only domain name change )
This is applicable if you are only changing to a new domain. Log in to your GSC account and update the domain name changes > Settings > Change of address
You will need to verify the new domain before you configure this. Create a new profile in GSC to update the domain change in the Google Search Console account.
15. Check Robots.txt
Make sure search engines can access the site without an issue and also block sections that you don’t want to crawl by Google.
16. Check Redirects
Cross-check with the redirection you have prepared before. Check it’s redirecting properly and generating a 301 header response code.
You can use bulk redirection chekcer like https://httpstatus.io/ for this step.
17. Submit A New Sitemap To The Google Search Console Account
Google @JohnMu confirm that it’s good to submit an old sitemap to Google to crawl temporally. When Google crawls the old URLs, it will help Google to pick up redirects more easily, assisting the migration.
For a temporary state it’s fine to have redirects in the sitemap file. Long term, you want the URLs listed there that you want as canonical.— 🦝 John (personal) 🦝 (@JohnMu) March 30, 2022
18. Create Annotation In Google Analytic
This is simply to keep a record of SEO migration in Google Analytics. So whoever compared the data in future will know that there was a website migration done on this date.
Post-Evaluation ( 1-2 weeks )
19. Monitor Google Search Console Index Coverage Report
Google Search Console coverage report, shows you the status of all the URLs that Google has indexed for your site. The report is grouped by status (errors, Indexed, and excluded) and reason for that status, so you can quickly see where there are issues that need to be addressed.
20. Use The URL Inspection Tool To Check The Status Of Top-performing Pages
URL inspection tool is a handy tool to manually check the status of individual URLs.
If the new version of the page is not indexed yet you can request indexing manually.
21. Monitor Performance Changes
You already have benchmark keywords ranking data and Google Search Console data. It is expected to have declined in rankings and traffic within the first couple of weeks due to the migration as Google takes time to process the changes. This is why it is important you update the necessary stakeholder beforehand on the impact of the website migration.
Migrating your website can be a daunting task, but following our SEO Migration Checklist will help make the process as smooth as possible. By taking the time to properly plan and execute each step of the migration process, you can avoid common pitfalls and ensure that your website is ready for prime time on the search engine results pages.
Tharindu is a passionate digital marketing specialist with over 14 years of experience planning and executing cross-channel digital media campaigns in the Asia Pacific and Australia. He is also known as the SEO wizard due to his extensive knowledge and technical skill in SEO.