Whether you’re switching your website from HTTP to HTTPS or changing your domain name all together, migrating your website will naturally cause a drop in traffic as search engines have been crawling and indexing the pages on your current domain. Implementing a migration strategy will avoid a massive hit in traffic and to help retain your current organic rankings, but what exactly does that involve? By executing the following strategies before, during, and after the migration process, your website won’t lose as much traffic.
Migrate Your Website During a Slow Period
Before migrating your website on a whim, look over your traffic insights to see when there is slower traffic to your website since your website will be down for a few minutes during the change. Migrating your site during a busy period (especially during the holidays) will have a large impact on traffic and can cause frustration for the users to your site. Migrating during a slow period means you’ll lose less traffic since less traffic is coming to your site, especially if you experence any unexpected technical issues.
Record a Complete List of URLs
Record all of your old and new URLs in a spreadsheets to easily identify any 404 errors and redirects that you’ll have to put into place. This will save you a lot of headaches in the future if any URLs get lost during the transition. The migration process is also a perfect time to be fixing any 404 errors that have been sitting on your website that you haven’t had a chance to fix.
Benchmark Your Analytics
Before migraing your site, record any traffic numbers from Google Analytics to refer to-migration. This will allow you to easily compare the traffic to your website pre- and post-migration. Be sure to also record any of the high-traffic pages on your website and traffic sources to easily keep an eye on whether or not search engines are crawling and indexing these pages on your new domain.
Update Internal Links
With the correct redirects set up on your domain, it might be tempting to leave all of your internal links untouched. By simply updating your internal links, you’ll avoid seeing a decrease in organic rankings on search engine result pages. Using a search and replace tool, such as Better Search and Replace for WordPress, the process of updating these internal links will be much easier and they will be updated in a faster period of time.
Canonicolize New Pages
Self-canonocolizing all of the new pages on your website, in addition to the redirects that you put in place, will allow search engines to recognize your new domain and website as the new location of your old site. Canonicolization will also help with any issues with duplicate content on your site, which can hurt your rankings if it goes unnoticed.
Once your website is migrated, re-generate the new sitemap and submit it to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools so search engines can crawl and index all of the pages. This will also help search engines to recognize the redirects that you put in place faster, thus reducing the chances of losing traffic.
Update Google Search Console
Make sure your website is properly represented in Google Search Console, this includes having the HTTP, HTTPS, www. and non-www. versions of your website verified. Once verfied, add and submit your new sitemap. You can use the “Fetch As Google” feature to help speed up the process of your new site being crawled and indexed.