Just saying the word migration can send the best SEO into a slight panic. Site or blog migrations can be fantastic but they also come with a ton of risk factors you need to mitigate to ensure all your hard work is protected. So, how do you successfully migrate your blog?
Pre-Blog Migration Content Audit
Long before you migrate, you’ll need to start the prep work to determine several things. You’ll want to do a content audit to see if there are any pages you should kill off. If you have old blog posts or content pages that see no traffic, you probably don’t need to worry about moving them to the new site.
When conducting your content audit, you’ll want to look at several data points.
- Social Shares
You need to look at all three data points to ensure you don’t decide to cut a page due to low traffic and hurt your overall authority in the process. If you have a URL that’s got a high PA (page authority) and some strong incoming links, you’ll want to either keep the page or have the links modified and moved to another URL on the site. Link modification is tricky because you must rely upon the webmaster of the linking site to complete this process. For more detailed information on content audits, check out the posts I wrote for Marketing Land.
Once you’ve completed your content audit, you’ll want to audit your SEO title tags and meta descriptions.
Blog Migration SEO Element Review
You’ll want to run content inventory and audit your site’s performance. Determine which pages are staying and which ones are going. Look at all the title tags and meta descriptions for the pages that you’re going to migrate. Are they all targeted appropriately or should you adjust your targeting now too? An easy way to run a crawl and gather this data is with Screaming Frog. They have free or paid versions available. The size of your site will determine whether you can use the free version or not. Screaming Frog is a great tool because it will crawl your site as Google Bot and let you know exactly what’s being indexed. You can review your title tags and meta descriptions to ensure they abide by current best practices and aren’t truncating.
Take the time now and clean up any title tags or meta descriptions that truncate. If you feel some of the tags could be stronger, re-write them or outsource it to an agency.
Blog Migration URL Mapping
Is your URL structure going to change when you migrate your blog? If so, you’re going to need to redirect ALL the urls you decided to keep. This can be a big task but it’s manageable. The key is staying organized.
Take your Screaming Frog report and copy the URLs you have decided to keep on the new site. I personally find this the easiest to manage in Excel but any spreadsheet tool should work fine. I like to copy/paste all the URLs that I want to keep on the left side and then note the re-direct URL on the right site on the same line. This way I can see what today’s URL is and what the future one will be. It’s important that you use 301 redirects to let Google know this is a permanent move from the old to the new location. A 301 will preserve your page authority (ie. Links).
If you have some links that you want to keep but they’re pointing to pages you’d like to delete, you can try link modification. You will need to email the webmaster of each site individually and ask them to move the link from the old URL to the new. Try hard to limit the number of these as they’re much more labor intensive and the success rate can be low.
Bonus SEO Tips for your Blog Migration
When you’re building a new site, it’s the perfect time to review things like your file naming conventions. Did you know the name on your image files is read by Google and can be helpful in your search rankings? It is. Use dashes in between the words on your file name and include the most important keywords in the file name. This helps Google understand what your image is about. Also, include ALT text for your file that tells what the image is about but also includes appropriate keywords.
Use Header Tags
Ensure each page on the new site has an H1 tag. This tag lets Google know what the page is about. It should be the focus keyword for the page. You can also use H2-H6 where appropriate to expand upon the sub ideas on the page.
Set up Analytics
Check to be sure you’ve got analytics code set up on the new site before you go live so you have tracking information from day one. You’ll also want to establish a Google Search Console account so you can track any migration related errors.
Submit a Sitemap to Google
Submit your XML sitemap through Google Search Console so Google knows where to crawl your site. Check back to see what your indexation percentage is to make sure Google’s finding the information you’ve shared. Your indexation rate is the percent of URLs submitted vs URLs indexed by Google. The closer to 100% the better. You’ll also want to check for any 404 errors – those are URLs Google can’t find. They’re likely ones you had on the old site and didn’t migrate. Google says it doesn’t matter if you have 404 errors but personally, I don’t think it’s a good user experience so I always recommend using a 301 redirect to the most appropriate page. If it’s a blog post that’s 404ed, then 301 redirect it to the blog homepage, etc.
Run a Baseline Report
Take a baseline report – track your traffic, orders, revenue, keyword rank, and number of links the day before the migration. This tells you where you were before you pushed go. You’ll want to track these same items for at least two weeks, if not a month or longer, post migration. You can stop tracking when the numbers return to your pre migration levels.
Migrating your blog doesn’t have to be scary. It just needs to be done in an orderly fashion and with plenty of prep work. There will almost always be migration related issues; it’s up to you to find and address them in a timely manner. Most sites will experience a slight decrease in performance right after a migration but you should see performance return to normal within a month in most cases. And never fear, I’ve seen clients with 1 million 404 errors (URLS not found) and they’ve still been OK once the issues were addressed.