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SEO Migration Checklist

Migrating your website from one server, domain, or CMS to another may be necessary if you're seeking to upscale your site or simply rebrand. However, it isn't the easiest move to make, especially if you want to keep your site optimised and avoid losing traffic after migrating.


So, how can you ensure a seamless SEO migration process? To help you do just that, this article provides an essential SEO migration checklist to follow for effective results. Let's first consider the circumstances in which you would need this checklist.


SEO Migration Checklist

When Do You Need an SEO Migration Checklist?

The checklist will come in handy whenever you're carrying out website migration. Migration simply means changing your site's location or technology and is usually done to improve your visibility online. The following are some website migration instances that require using a migration checklist –


Changing your domain name

If you're rebranding, you may consider changing your domain name. This will definitely require you to migrate from your current domain to a new one.


Moving to a new server

Sometimes, such as when you constantly experience slow site speed, it becomes necessary to change your server. The process of moving to a new server is essentially migration.


Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS

HTTPS offers better security than HTTP and, as such, http:// sites face the challenge of visitors being wary of their pages. So, to assure visitors of their safety, switching to https:// via site migration is key.


Moving to a different CMS or platform

The content management system you currently use may no longer be efficient as your site grows. Perhaps, you face functionality, security, or performance issues. If so, you would need to migrate your website to a new content framework.


SEO Migration Checklist - 31 Essential Steps for Site Migration

Efficient SEO migration involves planning, mapping URLs, migrating, and monitoring your migration. Here is a list of every individual step you should take to ensure optimization when migrating your site –



1. Make a Plan

Having a detailed plan before setting out to migrate your site would ensure you do not miss any essential aspect of the migration. When creating your plan, take note of your objectives, deadline, and what tools or specialists can help.


2. Collect all relevant data

As part of mapping out your plan, having a collection of the data needed for your site's migration at hand will make the entire process easier. The data you would require are for referencing and analysing. You can get these data from analytic tools.


3. Test site with a copy

First copy your site and upload it to a new server before making any structural changes. This allows you to tweak and test the changes you intend to make on the site and then migrate seamlessly.


4. Prevent search engines from indexing

Allowing Google to index your site when migration is yet complete puts you at risk of having incomplete pages indexed. And the new site could compete with the existing one on the SERP. You can exclude Google from indexing your site by using a Noindex tag, Robots.txt, or password protection.


5. Audit your new site

Before launching your site, run an audit to check for technical errors. You can do this with SEO Audit tools such Semrush, Moz, Ahrefs, and JetOctopus, to mention some. Once the errors are detected, take necessary steps to correct them.


6. Confirm Google's access to your website

This is how you ensure that Google has temporary access to your site. And it is necessary for detecting any indexing issues your test site may have. To do this, use the Coverage Report on Google Search Console to run a check on the hostname of your test domain.


7. Check for manual actions against your new domain

For a newly acquired domain, you need to check if Google has any penalties issued against it. You can do this by viewing the site’s history under the Manual Actions report on Google Search Console. Then, address any found penalties by following the steps recommended by Google.


8. Reduce the TTL values of your Domain Naming System (DNS)

Time to Live (TTL) values determine how long the records of your DNS are kept. Reducing the TTL value would reduce the time spent updating your DNS records if there is a change in your site's IP address. Upon migration, you can change the values to normal.


9. Run a server performance check

Slow server performance hinders Google crawl rate and also slows down your overall site performance. So, at this point of your migration, check your site speed and server performance with tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights, New Relic, Datadog, Sematext, and so on.


10. Transfer your GA data

To transfer your data from Google Analytics, copy your site's tracking code and implement the same in your new site's Analytics.


11. List out all your current URLs

You’ll need two lists – one of your existing site and the other of your new site. You can use your Sitemaps, if they are up-to-date. Cross-check and merge both lists to confirm all the content you want on your new site. Ensure there are no duplicates.


12. Sort out URLs that need redirects

This step is necessary if your site's URL structure changes. From your list of links, find out which ones are missing on the new site and need to be redirected and save them as a separate list. Double check to include your landing pages that contain ads.


13. Set up 301 redirects

At this point, address the missing URLS by finding relevant pages or creating new pages on the new site to receive the traffic. Using server-side 301 redirects will ensure that your old URLs are not indexed and cancelling your hosting would not affect your redirects.


14. Update all URLs

Add a self-referencing rel=“canonical” to each URL. If you have a multilanguage site, then update the rel-alternate-hreflang annotations. And if it has a mobile version, then the rel-alternate-media should be updated. This is also the time to update all internal links from old URLs to the new ones. Also update your site’s URL in websites linking to yours.


15. Backup site status and content

It is important to backup all your site content, including meta titles and tags. You can either do this through the cPanel of your hosting or a plugin for your CMS.


16. Perform sectional migration

Migrating in bits, especially for a large site, will ensure that less mistakes are made and you can easily identify any errors through tests.


17. Review SEO structure

If your migration involves structural change, then review the site structure of the new site and ensure it remains organised and optimised for SEO.


18. Update the settings for your DNS

Changing your DNS settings to point to your new IP address is necessary if you migrate to a new server. You may have to contact your hosting company to do this.


19. Allow access to users and search engines

Previously used temporary blocks should now be lifted, allowing both search engine crawlers and users to access the site.


20. Fix redirection issues

Test all redirects and confirm that they are performing properly after going live. Once you find any incorrect or broken links in the form or 404 not found errors, endeavour to fix them immediately.


21. Confirm site ownership in Search Console

On Google Search Console, check to see if you still have valid ownership of your site. Ensure that your new site has the verification HTML file, if that is your verification method.


22. Request a change of address form Google Search Console

Use the Change of Address tool on Google Search Console to indicate a domain name change, if necessary.


23. Submit your sitemaps to Google

Submit both your old and new sitemaps to Google to help its bot discover your redirects. However, ensure that only the new URLs are indexed.


24. Update all links, as is possible

As much as possible, update all links to your site. Do this for ad campaigns and backlinks. And where not possible, ensure you have redirects in place.


25. Resubmit disavowed links

Simply re-upload any disavow list you may have submitted to Google Search Console. If your disavow file is not found on your new site, spammy links to your old site may affect your new site.


26. Check for any new issues

This is the time to rerun a site audit and see if there are any new issues or if old ones have been resolved.


27. Monitor site performance

Ensure that your pages are quickly indexed. Making sure that your site speed is fast will help Googlebot crawl your site faster.


28. Track your page indexing

Especially if you missed step 23, monitor how Google indexes your new URLs. If you haven't already, submit the sitemaps of your old URLs and your new URLs, so Google knows which URLs to remove and which to index.


29. Assess your site's ranking

Now track your position on the SERPs with a rank tracker. Your rankings may drop a little but monitor it as it is expected to recover soon. If it doesn't, run a troubleshoot.


30. Cancel old hosting

After Google completes indexing your new site, simply cancel your old hosting. But do this only after ensuring that there are 301 redirects where appropriate.


31. Troubleshoot

If, after migrating, you experience issues such as a difference in audience behaviour and your traffic not being restored, you'd need to troubleshoot. You can seek help from Google Webmaster Help Forum.


Why Is an SEO Migration Checklist Necessary?

Migrating your site without a blueprint will do more harm than good to your site's optimization and, by extension, your brand or business. Below are some pitfalls you are likely to get into if you attempt migrating without the help of a migration checklist as a guide –


  • Lost rankings: Your site may experience a significant drop in its position on the SERPs if, while migrating, you alter features that affect rankings such as your backlinking, mobile responsiveness, indexing, and so on.

  • Missing content: Without taking the right precautions, you may lose some content while migrating your site.

  • 404 errors: Closely related to the above, poor site migration could cause absent pages, resulting in several "404 not found" errors. Having several of these can, in turn, negatively impact your site's performance, user experience, and rankings.


Tips to Note about SEO Migration

Even with a checklist, knowing the following will help you better manage your expectations during site migration –

  • Unforeseen issues are common, even amidst planning. So, be adaptable and ready to face unexpected outcomes.

  • Bear in mind that every search engine has differing speeds for crawling and indexing migrated sites. So, SEO migration duration on Google may differ from Bing and other engines.

  • After migrating your site, visibility, traffic, and rankings might fluctuate. Note that this is natural and the shifts usually stabilise after a while.

  • Because SEO migration is a complex process, it should not be rushed. That way, you can avoid mistakes that could hamper your SEO.


Final Thoughts

Having a guide you can refer to before and during your site migration will reduce the likelihood of making errors that would negatively affect your SEO. Essentially, with the right steps, you would not need to start from scratch with your SEO efforts simply because you’ve migrated your site. Whether you're new to SEO or already a pro, crossing out each step in this article ensures that you stay on top of your optimization game.

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