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When you’re considering the possibility of building a new website, migration is something you should have top of mind. Different systems hold content differently and migrating it to a new platform might not be as easy as waving a wand.

A few questions you should ask:

• Do you even have enough content to worry about migrating your content programmatically?

• If so, are you currently on a CMS (content management system)? If so, are you migrating to the same one? Example, moving from a Wix site to a WordPress site

• Are the two systems compatible? 

• Are there any automated CMS to CMS migrations currently existing?

• Does your current CMS allow for export? If not, can we perform a web scrap? If performing a web scrap, do the items you’re wanting to migrate have any commonalities to ease with scrap and organization?

So you see, it can get complicated quickly if you aren’t aware entirely of what you are getting into. 

When you’re considering the possibility of migrating to a new host provider, probably the first question that comes to your mind is how you’ll accomplish the movement of all your current content to the new host. If the provider offers that service as part of their hosting package, then you don’t have much to worry about. They will have the expertise necessary to accomplish the move with minimal if any, issues as well as minimal work on your side of things. 

However, if you’re obliged to carry out the move on your own, you might have some serious concerns. While there aren’t usually too many problems that occur when you take the time to organize your content prior to migration, there can definitely be some problems that crop up if you ignore the task right up until migration time. Here are some things you need to know about large website migration before the actual event, so you don’t run into any mishaps. Read on to learn how to limit any mishaps and major headaches.

checklist for large website migration

What is a large website migration? 

Website migration is the process that involves moving all of your content from its current website over to a new website. This will invariably include moving the old structure, as well as all your text, images, video, and everything else you have stored on your current website under the umbrella of the new host provider you’re working with.

However, in most cases, you won’t really want to move the entire collection over to a new site just as it is, but you’ll want to re-structure, re-organize, and maybe even re-write some of that old content before installing it in its new home. Of course, if you do this, you’ll be adding a level of complexity to the migration and you’ll be moving a little further away from the typical ‘smooth migration’, but it can still be a fairly easy process if you take your time and prepare for the move properly.

 

Why do I need to migrate my content?

If you’re wondering, “Can’t I just start with a new website?”, the answer is ‘yes’ but you will lose all of the authority that you’ve built with your current website. This includes backlinks from other websites you’ve earned, the history of your web pages, which heavily factor into your SEO rankings, and any content that your users have found useful in the past. – 

If your website was situated on a database, e.g. MySQL, you likely have vast amounts of data that you’ve accumulated over the years through business transactions and communications. Most likely, you won’t want to lose all that data. You might be able to live without some of the images, text, and videos from your old site, but you’re probably going to want to keep all your business data, because that represents the history of your company, and once it’s gone, it won’t be retrievable unless you’ve backed it up ahead of time.

 

How can I prepare to migrate all of my website content? 

If you’re working with a developer, they should have the knowledge and the skills to make the migration a fairly smooth transition, and you should definitely avail yourself of their talents to make sure there are minimal hassles. The key to any migration, including one to a WordPress website, is a careful analysis of your existing website.

Go through all the pages on your current website and categorize them in terms of the kind of content they contain. For instance, they might be standard pages, photo galleries, FAQ page, Contact Us page, resource pages, etc. Make note of any special considerations which any of the pages might have associated with them. For example any custom forms or custom post types that may exist. Establish a list of the number of pages, the number of images, the volume of text, the number of videos, and the overall volume of content that needs to be migrated. Your developer should be able to help you with this as well.  A free software to quickly grab a list of all of your web pages is Screaming Frog. It’s a great tool to find all of your web pages, images, and internal links. 

This should make it obvious whether you need some kind of migration tool to help you pull it off, or whether you can import everything manually. Next, you’ll need to figure out if the URL structure will change, and whether some of your old URL’s must be redirected on the new site. Make note of any special forms which need to be migrated, and whether you have any restricted-access pages.

When you’re considering the content to be migrated, you should review all this well before your intended migration date, otherwise, you’ll end up just moving it as is, and you will have lost the chance to do some house-cleaning before the migration. You might need to enlist the aid of your developer or someone else you trust to accomplish this content review, but it will be worth your while to do it. First, you should consider how old each piece of content is, and whether it’s still relevant. Make sure your content has been optimized for mobile, and that you have it organized accurately into categories, so those categories can be moved as a group.

What are some of the pitfalls of migration?

If you fail to optimize your new site for loading speed, you’ll probably find that you have fewer and fewer visitors to your site. Users are very impatient people, and when they have to wait for text or images to load, they’ll just abandon your site and go visit one of your competitors. Search engines will even start to lower your ranking if your website loads too slowly.  If you fail to redirect your new site’s URL’s, that will cause a navigation breakdown and that will instantly plummet your site to the bottom of the search rankings.

During migration, it’s fairly common to lose some pages or to change the structure of your site, and that will generate some 404 errors which will harm your site ranking. These need to be cleaned up right away by mapping all pages during the migration, so there’s no chance these dreaded messages will appear to your site visitors. If you don’t prepare a new XML sitemap and submit it to the Google Search Console, it’s very possible that you’ll have navigational errors, and that search engine crawlers will be confused by your existing sitemap, and just trash your search engine ranking.

Lastly, as you migrate your site pages, the URLs will change, and that means your internal site links will also have to be updated. If you don’t update these internal links to reflect the new site structure, you will undoubtedly get more 404 errors, and that will send your visitors leaving your website or just having a frustrating experience not being able to find what they were looking for. This is where your developer can be a big help, ensuring that these are updated all across the site, so there are no nasty broken pages on your brand new website. 

It’s necessary to update your website every few years, and sometimes a major overhaul is needed. Be sure that you are taking all of your content and pages into consideration when planning a new website.


As a full-service digital marketing agency and Seattle based website design company, we’re happy to be here as a resource for you. If you have questions, just ask! We migrate websites all the time, so if you want a hand or even just some guidance on how to tackle a large website migration, just drop us a line!