Phase 1: Roadmap, Research & Auditing
- Roadmap — at this point, it’s time to outline who in the team is responsible for what and give timelines for them to follow.
- During this initial stage, you should conduct a comprehensive audit looking at the current state of the website (or websites if there are multiple) to make sure it is in good shape to be migrated. This includes gathering all the site’s URLs through a number of different tools. The audit also offers a great opportunity to check which content should be transferred over, consolidated, or simply removed from the website.
- When the technical analysis is done, you should also see if there are any legacy issues worth fixing prior to the migration. That said, many of these fixes will be made naturally with the new website — a lot of the time, they’re the reason for the migration in the first place, like an outdated CMS resulting in slow loading times, for example.
Phase 2: Web Design SEO Recommendations
This stage involves a meticulous review of the website’s current design and, if you’re redesigning the site, the new design wireframes and prototypes.
Some of the aspects that are commonly changed during this stage include:
- The user interface (UI): Enhancing the visual design and layout of the website can work wonders for SEO.
- Colour scheme and typography: Changing the colour scheme and typography can help your website align better with brand guidelines and improve readability.
- Content reorganisation: Reorganising or restructuring content can make it more logically organised and easier to find.
- Accessibility enhancements: Ensuring the website complies with accessibility standards, such as WCAG, will help it accommodate users with disabilities.
Phase 3: Web Development
Once designs have been confirmed, any changes can be implemented on the staging website. This functions as a clone of your live website, giving you a secure environment to make adjustments.
During this stage, the web developers will not only address the issues they see pre-migration, but work on the staging website to test things like:
- Website architecture: Getting lost is never fun, even online. Ensuring your site has a good architecture prevents this happening for users and crawlers.
- Responsiveness: Testing a website’s responsiveness ensures it renders to different devices and screen sizes.
- Usability: It’s important to make sure your website is simple to use and provides clear paths towards conversion.
- Internal linking: This stage involves crawling your website and fixing any broken internal links, as well as updating all internal links to the new URL.
It’s important to note here that the staging website should not be indexable, or you run the risk of creating duplicate content with the live website — a big no-no in the world of SEO. This can be prevented by requiring password authentication for access, and instructing crawlers not to index the website in the robots.txt file.
Phase 4: Content Entry
Once the designs are updated on the staging website, it’s time to add any new content, features, and imagery. This might include:
- Content updates: You may update outdated or inaccurate content during this stage, including text, images, and multimedia elements.
- Social media integration: The integration of social media sharing buttons and feeds can encourage user engagement and sharing.
- E-commerce features: Adding or improving e-commerce functionalities, including product pages, shopping carts, and payment gateways, may be a consideration during this stage of the website migration.
- Multilingual support: Implementing support for multiple languages or regions might be needed if the website has an international audience.
- Image optimisation: Compressing and optimising images can lead to faster page loading times.
Phase 5: Redirect mapping and QA Testing
It’s crunch time. At this point, the migration deadline will be rapidly approaching. All the designs and audits for the staging website should have been completed, while the URL mapping and redirects need to have been prepared. All of this ensures that, when the day comes, you can transition to the new website as smoothly as possible.
It’s highly recommended to run a pre-migration audit during this stage, which can include everything from creating a content inventory to finalising a backup strategy should something go wrong on the day.
Phase 6: Migration
The big day has finally arrived! Well done for making it this far. Some of the typical steps involved during this phase include:
- Final backup: Before making any changes, a final backup of the old website should be made to ensure that all data and content are safe. This backup can be used to restore the old site if any issues arise during the migration. You may be able to do it via your site host’s cPanel, or if you have a CMS like WordPress, there are plug-ins you can use to create a site backup.
- DNS update: If the migration involves changing web hosting providers or servers, DNS (Domain Name System) records need to be updated to point to the new hosting environment. This step can take some time to propagate across the internet, and it’s a common cause of downtime during a migration.
- Migration process: The actual migration process begins, which can vary depending on the complexity of the project. This may involve transferring files, databases, and configurations to the new server or environment.
- Testing: Once the migration is complete, a series of tests should be conducted to ensure that the new website is functioning correctly. This includes checking for broken links, missing content, and any other issues that may have arisen during the migration.
- 301 Redirects: If URLs have changed as a result of the migration, the redirect strategy needs to be implemented to ensure that search engines and users are directed to the new URLs. This is crucial for maintaining SEO rankings.
- Monitoring: Website administrators should closely monitor the website’s performance, uptime, and user feedback throughout the day to address any issues promptly. You should also submit a new sitemap in Search Console, and check GA4 (and other analytics tools) to make sure traffic is being tracked efficiently.
Phase 7: Post-migraton
Finally, be sure to conduct a post-migration audit to ensure everything is running smoothly, and monitor the indexation of the new pages going forward, as well as any ranking volatilities.
Over time, you’ll want to look for issues like:
- URL Errors
- Improper redirects
- Slow load times
- Lost external links
- Missing meta tags