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    7 mins

    The Ultimate Website Migration Checklist

    18th December 2023

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    Your website holds the prime position as your brand’s online storefront, so it makes sense to give it a do over from time to time. Just like you need to periodically re-decorate your brick-and-mortar store or even move to a shiny new shop altogether, sometimes it’s necessary to fix up your company’s website.

    One of the most significant ways to revamp it is through a migration.

    Generally speaking, a website migration is where a fundamental change is made to a site’s URL structure, and can encompass adjustments to a site’s navigation and design, a move to a new CMS, server or domain name entirely.

    There are many reasons you may want to undergo a website migration, including to improve the site’s design, speed up load times, update the backend software, or enhance your website’s security.

    However, while the potential advantages of a website migration are manifold, so are the risks, which include everything from harming your existing keyword visibility to losing parts of your website entirely.

    But fear not. With a little pre-planning, you can avoid these perils — trust us. This is exactly why we’ve created this website migration checklist to get you through the process unscathed.

    What are the main types of website migration?

    Firstly though, what are the main types of website migration, and how might these affect your site?

    • Moving to a new CMS – This is one of the most common types of website migration we deal with at Go Up. Some of the main potential reasons for moving to a new CMS include improving your site’s performance, boosting security, or enhancing functionality. If handled incorrectly, a CMS migration can pose risks like website downtime, data loss, or incompatibility with existing systems.
    • Changing your site architecture, navigation or design – For when your site’s design needs a refresh, and perhaps to improve the crawling of your site’s pages. Some of the main potential issues you could face here include losing traffic, rankings, and conversions.
    • Moving to a new server – Changing hosts can help speed up your site significantly, which is great for both users and search engines — win-win. However, in the short term, problems like data loss, downtime, and data incompatibility can rear their ugly heads.
    • Changing your domain name – Perhaps your brand name has changed, you want to merge two or more websites, or you want a better domain name extension. Whatever the reason, a change in domain name requires a website migration. While this can offer many benefits, particularly for SEO, it can cause a temporary loss of existing Google rankings and a decrease in organic traffic, as Google will have to recrawl and reindex your site.

    How do I plan a website migration?

    As the saying goes: fail to prepare — prepare to fail. Before you can even start creating your website migration checklist, it’s important to work out key details like the campaign’s objectives and your migration team. 

    The objectives of the migration

    What is it you’re looking to achieve from your website migration? Is it a simple design upgrade, or are you looking to change your site’s structure entirely? Whatever it is, define your objectives from the get-go to give you and your team clarity.


    Next, decide when to carry out the migration and consider how long it will take. It’s important to have a deadline to ensure that the project doesn’t drag on indefinitely — however, do give yourself enough time here. Slow and steady wins the race, after all. 

    It’s also a good idea to, if possible, carry out the migration during your business’s off season in order to minimise disruption.

    Your migration team

    Finally, decide who will comprise your migration team, whether it’s internal or external team members, or a mixture of both. You’ll typically need either some or all of the following specialists during a website migration:

    • Decision makers: These could be stakeholders, depending on the size of the company.
    • SEO specialists: From SEO strategists to analysts, search visibility is the aim of the game.
    • Content writers and marketers: Your website migration project may need word wizards and marketing maestros.
    • Web developers: As the individuals who create and maintain websites, most migrations require the input of a web developer.
    • Designers and UX specialists: For websites undergoing design changes, designers and UX specialists are essential.

    How do I approach the website migration checklist?

    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

    Final thoughts

    A site migration might sound incredibly daunting, but by using our website migration checklist, you increase the chances of a bump-free process. However, even if you follow the checklist down to a tee, it has barely scratched the surface of the ins and outs of a typical website migration. 

    Combined with the potential for things to go wrong and the consequences this may bring, it’s little wonder that businesses tend to seek out SEO specialists to help oversee the process, which is where Go Up can help you too.

    We have worked with various brands — including the likes of Banham and Petainer — on all kinds of website migrations and at various stages of the process, from right at the beginning (which is our preference, by the way!) to the not-quite-as-ideal post-migration “everything’s gone wrong” phase. The results of these migrations speak for themselves, which is exactly why you can trust us to handle the process.

    Still not convinced? You can learn more about our website migration service and success stories here, including a deep dive on our process. Feel free to get in touch with our team if you have any more questions too, or want to make an enquiry. We hope to hear from you soon!