A site emigration SEO checklist: Don’t remove traffic

Few things can destroy a brand’s opening in a hunt formula faster than a feeble implemented site migration.

Changing your domain name or implementing HTTPS can be a good business move, yet if we destroy to cruise how hunt engines will conflict to this move, we are roughly certain to take a vital strike in organic hunt traffic.

Use a following SEO checklist to ready yourself as we rise a emigration diversion devise for your website.

1. Carefully cruise if emigration is a right choice

A site emigration will roughly always outcome in a proxy detriment of trade — Google needs time to routine a change and refurbish a index accordingly. A delicately executed site emigration can minimize trade fluctuations, and in a best-case scenario, Google will eventually provide a new site as if it were a original.

Still, that is usually a best-case scenario. The existence is that site migrations, in and of themselves, typically offer small to no SEO advantage and do not discharge hunt engine penalties. (That is given SEOs mostly use site migrations as an event to make SEO improvements, like streamlining a site structure, regulating damaged links, consolidating surplus pages and creation calm improvements.)

With all of that in mind, when is a site emigration value it?

  • When a clever rebranding is in order.
  • When emigration will beget press and links.
  • When a site needs to be altered to HTTPS (one of a few cases in that emigration alone offers an SEO gain).

2. Use a sandbox

Never do a site emigration yet initial contrast all on a exam server. Verify that a redirects work properly, and do all of a checks that follow in private before going public. Trying to do it all in one go yet contrast is firm to lead to errors, and if a mistakes are bad enough, they can set your site behind by weeks.

3. Plan to quit during a delayed period

A well-planned and monitored emigration shouldn’t henceforth impact your traffic, yet we should devise for a proxy dip. For that reason, it’s best to perform a emigration during a delayed partial of a year, presumption that there is some seasonality to your site’s performance. A site emigration during or shortly before a holidays is always a bad idea. While a idea should always be to equivocate losing any traffic, it’s vicious to make certain that if we do mislay traffic, we mislay it when business is already slow.

4. Crawl your site before a migration

Crawl your site with a apparatus like Screaming Frog, and be certain to save a yield for later.

You need to make certain we have a finish list of a URLs on your aged site so that zero ends adult stealing mislaid given of a transition.

Use this as an event to code any yield errors and redirects that exist on a aged site. These have a bent to climb adult over time. we frequency come opposite a site that doesn’t have during slightest some damaged or redirected links.

You should positively mislay or reinstate any links that indicate to 404 pages during a emigration process. In addition, we rarely advise updating any links that indicate to redirected pages so that they indicate to a final page. You do not wish to finish adult with route bondage after a migration.

Remember that a site yield competence not be means to code each singular page on your site. For example, if you have pages that aren’t related from other pages on your site, they won’t uncover adult in a crawl. You can use your possess annals and databases to find these pages, of course, yet if this isn’t possible, we can find these pages in your Google Analytics data, as good as by a couple path-finder like Ahrefs.

If we find any waif pages, make certain to refurbish a site, and couple to these during a migration. These pages are many reduction expected to collect adult hunt engine trade if they aren’t related to from a rest of your site.

5. Benchmark your analytics

Make a transcribe of your Google Analytics data; we will need this information so that we can fast code if any trade is mislaid after a migration.

If any trade is lost, trade a Analytics information from your new site and run a corresponding comparison with a information from your aged site, so that we can code precisely that pages mislaid a traffic. In many cases, a detriment of trade will be private to sold pages, rather than holding place opposite a whole site.

You competence also wish to code and take note of your tip linked-to pages using a apparatus like Ahrefs. After a migration, we will wish to compensate special courtesy to these pages and guard them closely. If these mislay traffic, it is a pointer that a management isn’t being scrupulously eliminated from your aged site to a new one. These pages minister a many to your authority, so waste here competence impact a altogether opening of your site.

6. Map all altered URLs from aged to new

You should have a spreadsheet that lists each aged URL and each new URL.

Ideally, during a site migration, all of a aged pages exist on a new site. Obviously, stealing a page removes a ability to constraint hunt engine traffic. On tip of that, dropping too many pages during a emigration competence lead Google to interpretation that a new site isn’t a same as a aged site, causing we to mislay your rankings.

Also, ideally, a URL design should be matching to a aged one unless we have really clever reasons to change it. If we do devise on changing it, a site emigration competence seem like a ideal time to do it, yet we should be wakeful that doing so competence means Google to see it as an wholly opposite site. If we do both during a same time, we will not be means to establish either any waste in trade were a outcome of changing a design or of migrating a site.

Another reason to keep a design a same is that it allows we to use regex in your .htaccess record to simply route from your aged pages to a new ones. This puts reduction bucket on your server than fixing a redirects one by one, and it creates a routine of environment adult a redirects many reduction painful.

7. Update all inner links

The HTML links on your new site should indicate to a new site, not a aged one.

This competence sound obvious, yet as we go by a process, we will fast comprehend how tantalizing it competence be to leave a links unchanged, given they will route to a new URL anyway. Do not stoop to this temptation. Apart from a server load, that slows down site performance, a redirects competence moderate your PageRank.

The ideal approach to rewrite a links is by behaving a hunt and reinstate operation on your database. The operation should be achieved so that it updates a domain name yet changing a folder structure (assuming you’re gripping your site structure a same).

Write your hunt and reinstate operations delicately so that usually calm containing a URL is updated. You generally wish to equivocate updating your code name and your URLs with a same hunt and reinstate operation.

8. Self-canonicalize all new pages

Verify that canonicalization on a new site references a new site and not a old. Canonicalizing to a aged site can be disastrous, as it competence forestall a new site from being indexed.

I advise self-canonicalizing all of your pages on a new site (except, of course, for pages that should canonicalize to another page). In mixed with a redirects, this tells Google that a new site is, in fact, a new plcae of a aged site. Sitewide self-canonicalization is endorsed anyway, given URL parameters emanate transcribe calm that should always canonicalize to a parameter-free URL.

9. Resolve transcribe calm issues

Various missteps during a emigration routine can outcome in transcribe calm issues. Be wakeful of these issues, and take stairs to equivocate them:

  • If both mixed versions of a URL are published, it formula in transcribe content. If self-canonicalization is put in place properly, this should take caring of a issue, yet we always advise environment adult route manners in .htaccess so that usually one chronicle of a page is accessible. Make certain that links are unchanging to equivocate redirects from inner links.
  • IP addresses should route to URLs.
  • Look out for folders that lead to a same content, generally “default” folders.
  • Verify that usually HTTPS or HTTP is used and that usually a www or non-www chronicle of a site is accessible. The others should route to a scold site.
  • If your site has a hunt function, a hunt outcome pages should be noindexed.
  • I mentioned this earlier, yet self-canonicalization should be in place to equivocate transcribe calm combined by URL query strings.

10. Identify and residence any private pages

I mentioned above that we should generally equivocate stealing any pages during a migration. If some pages simply contingency be private for branding purposes, take a following steps:

  • Make a list of all a pages.
  • Do not route a aged pages to a new site.
  • Remove all links from these pages.
  • Remove a pages from a aged site and concede them to route to 404.
  • If there is a suitable deputy for a page, set adult a route and change all of a links to indicate to a new page. You should usually do this if a deputy page serves a same purpose as a aged page.
  • Do not route a private pages to a home page (also called a “soft 404”). If there is no suitable deputy for a page, it should 404. A 404 is usually an blunder if we couple to a page.

11. Ensure that a tradition 404 page is in place

A tradition 404 page allows users to simply navigate your site and find something useful if they land on a page that no longer exists.

12. Manage and contention sitemaps

Keep your aged sitemap in a Google Search Console, and supplement a sitemap for a new site as well. Requesting Google to yield a aged sitemap and learn a redirects is a good approach to accelerate a process.

13. Keep analytics in place during all times

Install Google Analytics on a new domain and get it adult and using good before we launch a site to a public. You do not wish to have any blank information during a transition, and it’s vicious to watch for any changes in trade during a migration.

14. Redirect all altered links

As mentioned above, a ideal approach to set adult your redirects is with a regex countenance in a .htaccess record of your aged site. The regex countenance should simply barter out your domain name, or barter out HTTP for HTTPS if we are doing an SSL migration.

For any pages where this isn’t possible, we will need to set adult an sold redirect. Make certain this doesn’t emanate any conflicts with your regex and that it doesn’t furnish any route chains.

Test your redirects on a exam server and determine that this doesn’t furnish any 404 errors. we advise doing this before a redirects go live on your open site.

Keep in mind that once a redirects go live, your site has effectively been migrated. The new site should be in primitive condition before environment adult a redirects.

15. Keep control of a aged domain

Unless a purpose of a emigration was to sell a strange domain, we would strongly advise opposite giving adult control of a aged domain. Ideally, a aged domain should route to a new one, on a page-by-page basis, indefinitely. If those redirects are lost, all of a inbound links warranted by a aged site will also be lost.

Some attention professionals explain that we can give adult control of a aged domain once Google stops indexing it, yet we would never advise doing this. While it’s probable that Google will charge links forked during a aged site to a new one, even yet a redirect, this is fixation distant some-more faith in a hunt engine afterwards we would ever recommend.

16. Monitor traffic, opening and rankings

Keep a tighten eye on your hunt and mention traffic, checking it daily for during slightest a week after a migration. If there are any shifts in traffic, dive down to a page turn and review trade on a aged site to trade on a new site to code that pages have mislaid traffic. Those pages, in particular, should be legalised for yield errors and joining issues. You competence wish to pursue stealing any outmost links indicating during a aged chronicle of a page altered to a new one, if possible.

It is equally vicious to keep a tighten eye on your many related pages, both by management and by outmost couple count. These pages play a biggest purpose in your site’s altogether ability to rank, so changes in opening here are demonstrative of your site’s altogether performance.

Use a apparatus like SEMrush to guard your rankings for your aim keywords. In some cases, this will tell we if something is adult before a change in trade is noticeable. This will also assistance we code how fast Google is indexing a new site and either it is dropping a aged site from a index.

17. Mark dates in Google Analytics

Use Google Analytics annotations to symbol vicious dates during a migration. This will assistance we to code a means of any issues we competence come opposite during a process.

18. Ensure Google Search Console is scrupulously set up

You will need to set adult a new skill in Google Search Console for a new domain. Verify that it is set adult for a proper version, accounting for HTTP vs. HTTPS and www vs. non-www. Submit both a aged and new sitemaps to indurate a summary that a aged site has been redirected to a new one.

Submit a change of residence in a Google Search Console, ask Google to yield a new sitemap, and use “fetch as Google” to contention your new site to be indexed. It is impossibly vicious to determine that all of your redirects, canonicalizations and links are error-free before doing this.

19. Properly conduct PPC

Update your PPC campaigns so that they indicate to a scold site. If your PPC campaigns are indicating to a aged site, detrimental will be mislaid in Analytics given of a redirect.

20. Update all other platforms

Update all of your amicable media profiles, bios we use as a guest publisher, other websites we own, forum signatures we use, and any other platforms we take advantage of, so that a links indicate to a new site and not a old.

21. Reach out for your many distinguished links

Contact a many lawful sites that couple to we in sequence to let them know about a migration, and advise that they refurbish a couple to indicate to a new website. Not all of them will do this, yet those that do will assistance accelerate a routine of Google noticing that a site emigration has occurred.

I wouldn’t advise doing this with each singular link, given this would be intensely time-consuming for many sites, yet it is value doing this for your tip links.

22. Monitor your indexed page count

Google will not index all of a pages on your new site immediately, yet if a indexed page count is not adult to a same value as a aged site after a month has passed, something has really left wrong.

23. Check for 404s and redirects

Crawl a new site to determine that there are no 404s or 301s (or any other 3xx, 4xx, or 5xx codes). All of a links on a new site should indicate directly to a functioning page. The 404 and 501 errors are a biggest offenders and should be taken caring of first. If there is a suitable deputy for a 404 page, change a couple itself to indicate to a replacement, and determine that a 301 is in place for anybody who arrives during a blank page by other means.

The second-worst offenders are links to 301 pages that exist on a aged site. Even yet these route to a new site, a server bucket is bad for performance, and joining behind to a aged site competence lead to difficulty over a fact that a site emigration has taken place. While all of a other efforts taken should explain this to Google and a other hunt engines, these things are best never left to chance.

Any other 301s can be taken caring of after this. Always refurbish your inner links to indicate directly to a scold page, never by a redirect.

24. Crawl your aged URLs

Use Screaming Frog or a identical apparatus to yield all of your aged URLs. Be certain to yield a list of URLs that we collected before a migration, and make certain a list includes any URLs that were not discoverable by crawling. Do not try to yield a site directly; a 301s will means it to yield usually a initial page.

Verify that all of a aged URLs route to a new site. There should not be any 404s unless we private a page during a emigration process. If there are any 404s, determine that there are no links to them. If a 404s are not intended, set adult a scold redirect.

Check a outmost URLs to determine that all of a redirects are functional. None of a outmost URLs should be 301s or 404s. A 301 in a outmost URLs is demonstrative of a route sequence and is bad for performance. A route to a 404 will lead to a really frustrating believe for your users and competence harm your SEO in other ways.


If a site emigration is carried out yet holding SEO into account, we can roughly gamble on losing hunt engine trade in a process. Other than clients who have approached me after being penalized by Google, a misfortune SEO predicaments I’ve come opposite were a ones caused during a site emigration by professionals who didn’t cruise how hunt engines would conflict to a process. Keep all of a above in mind if we are formulation to quit your site, and it should go off yet a hitch.

Opinions voiced in this essay are those of a guest author and not indispensably Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Pratik Dholakiya is a Co-Founder VP Marketing of E2M, a digital selling group and MoveoApps, a mobile apps growth company. He has over 8 years of believe in digital selling and has served some-more than 500 business into opposite verticals. As a ardent marketer, he frequently shares his thoughts and believe on high-end publications like Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Search Engine Watch, Moz, Fast Company, Huffington Post and many more. He has been endorsed as a ‘must follow’ SEO consultant by Search Engine Watch and has been named one of a tip calm selling influencers by Onalytica dual years in a row. He’s ardent about fitness, entrepreneurship, startups and all things digital marketing.

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