Website migrations are going to happen throughout the life of your website. When done well, they can result in growth for your website and your business. When done wrong, they can tank your site and stilt your business growth from that channel. It’s important to know what a site migration is and the common website migration mistakes to avoid. This can help ensure your site continues to help your business instead of hurting it.
What is a Site Migration?
Although changing platforms, hosts, or domains are usually the first things that come to mind when you hear “site migration”, it can refer to so much more than that. Site migration can also refer to anything that would cause a website to go through substantial changes.
This could include a site redesign or overhaul that would affect the structure, content, UX, design, etc. of your website. It could also encompass anything that would change a site’s current URLs like moving from HTTP to HTTPS.
All of these changes can have significant effects on the look, feel, flow, traffic, etc. of your site. So, it’s important to keep that in mind, take the time to identify the details involved, and create a plan to handle them properly.
6 Common Website Migration Mistakes to Avoid
When dealing with your website, especially big changes on your website, there are a lot of moving parts to get right. This also means there are a lot of things that can go wrong. By being aware of them and avoiding common website migration mistakes, you can help make sure it all goes as smoothly as possible. Here are some of the most common website migration mistakes to avoid:
1. Not Having a Plan or Thinking About Risks
Thinking about the risks a potential change on your site carries and having a plan is essential. On top of being a common website migration mistake, poor planning is also one of the top reasons why web development projects fail.
Depending on how your site is built and the platform it lives on, it could be really easy to change things on your website. Normally, this is a good thing. But, it can also provide a false equivalence between the ease of changes and the weight of the consequences of those changes.
Just because a change is easy to make on your site doesn’t mean that you can make it, move on, and not see issues arise afterward.
When you’re getting into changes on your site that would fall under the site migration category, it’s important to evaluate why you want to make the change. You should be able to lay out the goals you want it to accomplish and the potential risks that may come along with making those changes.
Knowing this, you can get a better idea of how those changes need to be made and what else needs to be done in order to minimize risks. All of these details will help you create a plan that gets you what you want while also making sure all of the necessary steps are covered to keep your site growing.
2. Forgoing Backups
Anytime you make a change to your site, you should make sure you have a backup in place in case something goes wrong. It’s important to have a stored copy of your current site and database that allows you to revert back to the previous version if needed. Or, worst-case scenario, it allows you to recreate the site if something catastrophic were to happen during the migration.
3. Getting Robots Access All Wrong
Search engine crawlers, or robots, access your site and crawl the pages in order to show it in their search engine results pages (SERPs). In most cases, you want these crawlers to access your site. But, there are areas you don’t want them to access. Allowing or disallowing robots in the right situation makes a big difference.
Crawlers Should Not be Able to Access the Staging Site
If you’re building a new site in a development area, you don’t want search engines crawling and indexing those pages because they’re not meant to be public.
One of the ways to keep them from accessing the site is to disallow them from the robots.txt file. There are other things you can do to help keep staging or development sites out of the search results, but this one is important to get right.
Crawlers Should be Able to Access the Live Site
It’s also important to allow these robots access once everything is complete and your website is live. Blocking crawlers from your live site means search engines can’t crawl and index your pages, which means they won’t show up in search results.
A mistake like this can be detrimental to a website and can have serious negative effects on a business’s bottom line.
Could you imagine the hit in sales Amazon would take if people couldn’t access their pages from search engines anymore?
Sure, Amazon is a well-known brand and a lot of people will just go directly to their site. But, what about a business without that massive brand awareness that relies on their website to generate traffic?
Whether you’re building something new or dealing with a live site, it’s important to get the robots access right.
4. Ignoring Redirects and Canonical Tags
No matter what you’re doing on your site, if you’re changing URLs, you need to think about redirects and updating canonical tags.
Without redirects, your old URL will serve a 404 not found error and any authority it had will not be passed on to the new URL. It’s also important to take stock of current redirects in place before the migration in order to take them into account.
Not only can ignoring redirects hinder your SEO efforts, but it can also cause serious navigation issues for potential customers. By adding and testing redirects, you can make sure people can still find what they’re looking for and ensure that authority is getting passed along to the new URL.
Canonical tags are references in the code of a page that tells search engines what the primary, preferred, or “master” version of the page is. In many cases, the canonical tag is “self-referencing”, which means the URL in the tag points to itself.
Proper canonical tags can help reduce duplicate content and help move things along after a migration. However, canonical tags are not a replacement for redirects and should be used in conjunction with them when needed.
Search engines treat redirects as directives while canonical tags are suggestions. So, it’s important to avoid common redirect mistakes and to use both redirects and canonical tags appropriately.
5. Declining to Check for Errors
It’s important to check for errors before, during, and after a site migration. Identifying errors beforehand allows you to fix them before migration begins or during migration.
Checking for errors during migration lets you get ahead of issues and fix them prior to launch. And, checking once again after a site migration allows you to catch issues early and fix them before they cause bigger issues.
One errant comma, spelling error, or miscellaneous line of code can cause a ton of issues on your website. Aside from the code itself, there are a lot of other things that can affect how your website performs for users and whether it shows up search engines.
By taking the time to check for these errors throughout each phase of the migration, you’re minimizing risks for your site and avoiding the negative consequences that can come from site migration mistakes.
6. Forgetting to Update Information Off-Site
Usually, websites are not the only online properties a business maintains. Google My Business profiles, social media profiles, business directories, and more – all of these online properties are “off-site” in that they are not your website.
But, they all contain information about your business and your website. So, you don’t want to forget to update business information across those profiles, especially if your website domain has changed.
Whether it’s a complete redesign, some general restructuring, or something else, site migrations are a necessary and exciting part of website growth. Avoiding these common website migration mistakes can help the whole process run more smoothly and turn out for the best.
How is your website stacking up? If it’s been a while since your site was updated, it may be time for a refresh or redesign. Contact us for a meeting of the MINDs to see how we can help get your site back on track!