Thinking of changing your business name and in turn your website URL? Then you’ll want to preserve all of the hard work that you’ve put into your current website. Here’s a simple SEO migration checklist to follow that will enable you to maintain your ranking and traffic.

Note: website migrations normally result in a short term traffic drop as it takes Google a while to process and make sense of the migration. So it’s advisable to perform a site migration during a quiet period of business.

Pre-Migration

  • Perform an automated site crawl of your current website to ensure that you have a record of all URLs and assets. Later you’ll be able to use this as a point of comparison.
  • Generate an XML sitemap for your existing website.
  • Create a spreadsheet that maps all old URLs from your current website to the most appropriate destination on the new site.
  • Factor in the need to create new content to ensure your redirects have a suitable place to go.
  • Agree on bench-marking metrics, these could be: rankings, pages indexed, organic traffic, organic conversions, organic revenue and bounce rate.
  • Register your website (if you haven’t already) in the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
  • Create a custom 404 page with a targeted link – this will help keep users on your website if the content they’re searching for no longer exists.
  • If you have business critical pages that already rank well organically then it may be worth creating some paid ads to have on standby just in case there are any major issues with the migration.
  • Ensure Google Analytics and other tracking software is switched on and tracking data.

 

During Migration

  • Annotate the launch in Google Analytics and other analytics programs.
  • Take your URL map and implement as 301 redirects.
  • Avoid redirect loops by updating internal links manually (don’t just rely on 301 redirects).
  • Test URL redirects and check indexation. It’s worth automating this with a tool like Screaming Frog. I like to back this up with a manual check of the SERPs (site:www.yoursite.com).
  • Generate a new XML sitemap for your new domain.
  • Submit a change of address only for the migrated website in Google Search Console. Do not do this for the domain that isn’t moving.

 

Post-Migration

  • Monitor and resolve errors daily.
  • Keep crawling the site and checking the SERPs to ensure that the redirects are working as intended. Do this daily for a month.
  • Update social share buttons to contain the new domain.
  • Reach out to sites linking to you (top tier sites first) and ask them to manually update their links to you. Don’t rely on 301 redirects for this.
  • Re-submit your link disavow file.
  • Check benchmark rankings to ensure organic visibility.

Following this checklist should result in a pain-free website migration and provide an excellent platfrm upon which to build a great local SEO strategy for your business. If you need any help with this feel free to get in touch.