Site migration: Consequences and checklist

At some point, site owners may decide to execute more significant site design projects or make some changes to their domain names. A site transformation and migration would, therefore, be necessary for the required changes to take place. Once the movement has taken place successfully, a website can benefit from improved design and technical implementations, better user experience, and increased organic search.

What is Site Migration?

Site migration is an event in which a site’s platform, design, UX, HTTPS, structure, content or location get changed. The changes can have a significant impact on search engine visibility. Hence, you have to consider some critical aspects before making the changes.

Migrate your website to HTTPS

The time has come: after all those warnings from Google, the alerts on the browsers and the pressure of your fellow SEOs and competitors, your site must move on to a better and safer life.

We know that a migration to the HTTPS secure protocol is a major change that requires a big effort from several departments in your company. It will not only affect the SEO team (and KPIs) or load the developers with a million requirements, but will also have the marketing department make some adjustments in their channels and paid to modify their campaigns. Last, but not least, the board will need to be warned of all the changes your site will experience in the upcoming weeks. Get them ready for the new data before reporting the changes of the website migration.

This being said, we recommend you to explain the next steps to all the parties involved and to calm any doubts related to the consequences of a web migration of this type.

The consequences of an HTTPS migration

With the acquisition of the SSL certificate, which gives us the platform to offer an entirely secure connection for the user, you should change your website or CMS to use HTTPS in all the links and static files. With this, there won’t be any pages lost nor left orphan.

What will change: URLs, internal links, canonicals, rel prev/next, hreflang, and static files (js, css, images).

With all this in mind, the SEO team must monitor -and test!- the entire process for the possibility of an error.

After the migration, the URLs will be new ones, and for that, they will need some time in order to achieve authority. 301 redirects will not transfer the 100% domain authority either, and we will, therefore, work to strengthen the new pages in this way.

Consequences:

  • Google will take a few days/weeks to index the new URLs in their search results, but the old pages will continue to appear for some time, redirecting to the new pages. As the Googlebot does not visit every page immediately, both the HTTP and HTTPS URLs will exist at the same time together for some time.
  • When the new pages are indexed, you could experience a temporary drop in rankings, with a consequential loss of traffic. If you follow our checklist you can avoid this temporary drop.

The benefits of migrating to HTTPS

Migrating to the secure protocol can indeed be scary due to the possibility of visibility lost and the errors that may occur if the process hasn’t been well set, monitored and tested. Nonetheless, there is no need to panic because:

  • Once we begin recovering, it can often happen that we significantly improve our pre-migration rankings!
  • Also, Google will compensate websites that migrate to the more secure protocol, understanding that the HTTPS redirections are to improve the user experience. For that, they speed up and facilitate the indexation and ranking recoveries.
  • Another important aspect of this move is that search engines prioritize HTTPS URLs because they are better for the user. After the migration, we will be even more competitive in rankings, over websites that continue with HTTP and compete for the same keywords.

HTTPS migration SEO Checklist

When moving from HTTP to the safer protocol, there will be many SEO requirements to follow and a lot of concentration in keeping every aspect under control. By following these key recommendations you will have a good base to face the project:

  • We will request the content editors to change the internal links of the site in situations where the link is pointing to a redirected page or a page that returns a 404 error so that an internal link goes directly to the final page without going through any redirect chain. Redirect chains delay the loading time of the page and would give Google difficulty in indexing the new URLs after the migration.
  • Configure Google Search Console to the new domain and assure that we do the same for our own monitorization tools.
  • Upload the .xml sitemaps with new URLs to Google Search Console to indicate to Google that we have new pages, and thus force the indexation.
  • Collect data before the migration to assure the correct redirection of all the URLs on your website and the change of HTML tags (canonicals, hreflang, etc.). You’ll want to run a crawl with FandangoSEO before the migration.
  • Once the site has been redirected to the secure protocol, it’ll be time to crawl your website again, this time with the new domain in HTTPS, in order to track the changes with our website comparison tool. This is, without any doubt, the best way to check if the migration has been correctly implemented: you’ll have all the information of your new domain and it will be easy to spot any errors thanks to the complete comparison options.
  • Monitor the positions and count of the keywords and make sure the HTTPS URL is added to all the SEO Keywords tracking tools. Remember that you’ll experience a loss in visibility, but this should recover with more presence than before.
  • Monitor KPIs: visits and conversions mostly, but it will vary depending on your business model.
  • Make sure that the robots.txt is properly migrated as well and that all the information stays in place.
  • Don’t forget to also change the URLs on your listings in Google My Business for SEO Local
  • Most importantly, enjoy the increase in visits and conversions in a while 😉

Are you migrating to HTTPS soon? Give us a try:

  1. Crawl your website to have a full picture of your current status
  2. Take this opportunity to make all the necessary fixes before the migration to provide a clean website
  3. Test all the changes and the new website in staging environments
  4. Crawl it again once the old domain is redirected to the secure version to confirm that you’ve to lead a great implementation!

FandangoSEO is your best friend for migrations! 😉

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