PART ONE: PLANNING | TIME FRAME: 1-2 WEEKS BEFORE LAUNCH
- Generate a list of all the URLs that make up your website. Your developer might be able to provide this to you. Alternatively, you could use a tool like Screaming Frog. (Love this tool)
- Import the list into an excel spreadsheet and match these pages to the best page on the new website. Do NOT think about re-directing all the old pages to the new homepage. Sometimes, old or irrelevant pages should be left to 'die' (404) and that's OK.
- Generate a record of your keyword rankings for all major terms. For a free tool try 'Rank Checker', a plugin for Firefox.
- Generate a list of websites that link to your current website. We'll be trying to contact these people so try and include contact details. You may also want to include services that you've setup yourself, such as your social media profiles, Google Places/Google My Business, online directories.
- Have a chat with your developer and ensure that there is a friendly 404 page in the works for visitors that have gotten lost. The 404 page should have the goal of re-orientating lost users and allowing them to continue their browsing with little distraction.
PART TWO: MIGRATION DAY | TIME FRAME: LAUNCH DAY
- Today your website developer should kick that list you made above into action. Once they have confirmed it's done, when you visit one of your old URLs you should be re-directed to the new URL specified.
- Test a few of your most important pages manually. Test the rest have the correct response code (301) with a tool like Screaming Frog. (Seriously, this tool is awesome)
- If you have Google Webmaster Tools setup on your website, you should register your website URL in there.
- If you have Google Webmaster Tools setup on your website, you should inform Google using the change of address that your domain has now moved.
- Through GWT, you can also submit the most important pages of your website to Google immediately, these are pages like your homepage and your main service or category pages, about us page.
- Using a tool like screaming frog, you can create an XML sitemap of your new website. Get your developer to upload it to www.website.co.nz/sitemap.xml and you can also submit the sitemap in GWT.
- Ensure the 404 page is up and looking good.
- Remember that list of websites linking to yours? Contact each of the websites if necessary and ask them if they could update your link to your new website address.
PART THREE: REVIEW AND ANALYSIS | TIME FRAMCE: 4 - 6 WEEKS AFTER LAUNCH
- Every week or so in Google Analytics, keep an eye on your traffic and conversion levels for any unreasonable drops. Google can take up to 6 weeks to crawl and re-index your website.
- Check GWT every week to see if there are any crawl errors or important messages. Also check to see the number of pages they crawl, you can compare this to the actual number of pages on your website. No idea how many pages there are on your website? Use Screaming Frog :)
- Chase up and verify that those websites you contacted to update their links to your site have done it. Try bribery.
- Maintain control of your old website domain and 301 re-directs for about 6 months after the website migration.
When you're building a new website, remember to 301 re-direct all your old URLs to the most relevant page on your new website.
So I hope that helps you the next time you're doing a website migration. I know it's a lot of admin work, not exactly the most glamourous. But please believe me when I say that a couple days of work could save you years of wasted effort.
Written by Kim Voon
Kim is the founder of Insight Online. A small online marketing consultancy focused on helping people grow your business. He is passionate about demystifying online marketing and helping people use it to generate more sales and leads.