Everything You Need to Keep in Mind About SEO Before Migrating a Website

The term “website migration” means a lot of different things to different people. Sometimes it’s changing a website from where it’s hosted (for example, on WordPress) to another platform (like Shopify). Sometimes it means switching domain names entirely when a company rebrands. That means each and every page on the URL must include the new company URL. Sometimes it’s completely redesigning your website. Think of this as taking an old bank and turning it into a restaurant. The building still may have safety deposit boxes, and you may want to keep them. But instead of storing goods in them, you’ll store spices there. In short, though, a website migration means that you are making changes to your website that are so large that they will impact the site’s structure, performance, or traffic.

search engine optimization website migration

How Website Migration Affects SEO

Something a lot of marketers and web developers overlook is how search engines will react to a website migration. Remember that Google and Bing have ranked your site based on what it once looked like. A new URL, new site loading times, new pages, and new content will all affect SEO. 

Migrating a website shouldn’t be done without a lot of thought if you don’t want your SEO to suffer. An SEO migration takes research, planning, execution, and monitoring to ensure your post-launch site keeps and builds on its former rankings. It takes the resources of multiple players – your content creators, designers, developers, and marketers. If you don’t have all these people on your team, a third-party vendor, like us at SEO Design Chicago, can handle website migration for you. 

What Are Some Different Types of Website Migration? 

In a website migration, your online site undergoes substantial URL, structure, content, usability, design, or platform changes. Here are some examples of changes that might take place:

  • Security: Changing your website URL from http to https
  • Subdomain: Switching your website from “www.yoursite.com” to “newsubdomain.yoursite.com”
  • Domain Change: Changing your website URL from www.olddomain.com to www.newdomain.com
  • Changing Your Website Type: Changing your website URL from a .com to a .org, .net, etc., or vice versa
  • Switching Content Management Systems (CMS): Moving your website from your current CMS to a new one such as from WordPress to Shopify
  • Big website redesign: Making major visual changes 
  • Structural: Changing the website architecture, which usually means changing the ways people complete actions on your site

Why Do You Need to Consider SEO?

Your site has built up where it ranks in SERP over time, based on factors like keywords. When you change your URLs, content, and/or website design, you change what search engines know about your website, like how long it takes to load. This could lead to losing your search engine rankings, which can translate into a dip in website traffic and your bottom line. You may eventually recover but it can take a very long time. Why lose any money or traffic if you don’t have to?

seo website migration

How Long Should an SEO Migration Take?

The length of an SEO migration comes down to the size of your website and how much of the content you’re moving. A 10-page website is going to take substantially less time than a 100-page website, which will take substantially less time than a 1,000-page website, and so on. Some SEO migrations take a month to prepare and execute, while some take three months. It’s important to give yourself enough time to plan, develop a staging site, audit the site, and then implement. We recommend allowing at least three months to be safe. But, as always, it depends on you and your team’s resources.

Website Migration Checklist

For ten years, we’ve handled hundreds of website migrations for small to enterprise-level businesses. Over that time, we’ve developed an SEO migration plan that helps keep the process moving on time. This checklist also ensures that our clients’ websites don’t lose ground in search engine rankings.  

Plan the Migration

The first step in any website migration is planning. We know – people want to jump to the fun stuff like seeing new designs. But before you do anything, you must set clear goals for why you’re doing this. What is it about your current site you don’t like? What is it about your website traffic you don’t like? What ROI are you hoping to achieve? It’s vital that everyone on your SEO team is on the same page and understands the overall strategic reason for this migration.

Pick a Smart Migration Date

Pick a launch date that works best for your team and your business. For example, if you own a garden nursery, you probably don’t want to do this in Spring and Summer. While there will never be a “perfect” time to complete the migration, you should pick one where it will cause the least disruption.

Back-Up Your Site

Create a backup of your website and every page so that if the launch hits roadblocks, you can revert to the old version. Again, this is where a migration expert comes in handy. We don’t encounter a lot of issues because we’ve done this a lot. 

Create a Staging Website

A staging website is a duplicate version of your new website that users don’t see so you can make sure it’s perfect.  By creating a staging website, you give your team ample time to review how the content looks and how the website functions. 

website migration

Consider Migrating in Phases

If you have a large website or multiple stakeholders, consider migrating the site in phases. Some pages can have the “old look” and others will be new.

Do a Backlink Audit of the New Domain

Google penalizes sites with broken links. So you may want a third party to do an audit of every link on your website. It can be a painful process, but important especially if you have a lot of internal links. You can use Moz Pro to fix issues on your staging website and to map old URLs to new URLs in your 301 redirect map.

Update Google My Business and Bing Places

If you’re updating your domain, make sure to also update your website link to the new domain on Google My Business and Bing Places. This is a critical step you can’t overlook if you don’t want to lose local traffic. 

Update Your XML Sitemap

Create a new sitemap XML that can be attached to your website (https://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml), and upload it to your Google Search Console. This helps Google and other search engines find your important service, product, or business information pages. If they can do this, they are able to index and return your websites in search results the right way. 

Focus on Mobile-Friendliness

Google is mobile-first indexing, meaning they look at your website’s mobile experience first before indexing your website, even on a desktop. So make sure your new site is easy to navigate on a phone. Google even has a Mobile-Friendliness tool that offers suggestions on what to fix.

Update Your Robots.txt

This is another spot during which people often want an expert’s help. A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages or files the crawler can or can’t request from your site. It usually lives at www.yoursite.com/robots.txt. Make sure you update your robots.txt so that search engines can understand it. Then, submit your robots.txt URL in Google Search Console so that Google can crawl it.

website migration checklist

Don’t Give Up Your Old Domain

Keep control of your old domain so that you hold the domain name real estate and can ensure that all backlinks pointing to it are as they should be. Also, it only costs about $10 a year to keep your domain. Don’t let your competitors get it. 

Perform a Pre- and Post-Launch QA and SEO Audit

Before and after you migrate and launch your website, conduct an SEO audit to confirm that all pages, content, links, tags, and mobile items are where they should be. To do this audit, you need to:

    • Run a Crawl: Use ScreamingFrog to conduct a quick crawl of your website. 
    • Check Analytics: Check that Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are both correctly installed on your website and collecting data. The quickest way to do this is to leverage the Real-Time Analytics report in Google Analytics.
    • Test on Mobile: Pull out your phone, and test your website. Use a variety of different phones and devices. 
    • Make Sure All Social Profiles Are Updated: Go to each of your social media profiles and check that all links pointing to your website are the right ones.
    • Make Sure Google My Business and Bing Places Are Updated
    • Check For Broken Backlinks

What’s Next After Your Website Migration?

Once you’ve hit publish, your work isn’t done. Now you’ll have to monitor the SEO on your new site! Whether you need help with the website migration itself or with the ongoing SEO monitoring, you can always reach out to SEO Design Chicago. We have a talented team of digital marketing and SEO experts who would love to help your business! Get in touch with us to learn more about our services.


  • What is a website migration?
  • How does website migration affect SEO?
  • How long does a website migration take?
  • What goes into a QA and SEO audit?
  • How do you fix broken backlinks on your website?

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