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Why Website Migrations Fail

SEO 5th Feb 2020

(This is the transcript from our new video so it may not read as well as a normal blog post would)

– Hi, Ben from Koozai, here, and today I wanna talk to you about website migrations and, typically, why they fail.

As you can imagine, we get quite a few panicked phone calls, from people goin’, ‘Uh, we’ve migrated our website, ‘and, yeah, all our rankings have dropped, ‘and we really need some help, in fixing it.’

I’m gonna share with you four reasons why we find that this tends to happen. Generally, poor planning. Most people don’t plan for it, it’s just, design the new site, switch over to the new domain, website, platform, and Google will just work that out, right? No. And the other thing is, that, then, comes from number two, which is just a poor general knowledge of the risks involved in migrating a website, what can happen if best practices aren’t followed. Three, just a general lack of knowledge, on what to do, to do the website migration. And even, number four, if all of that is there, poor checklists.

So there’ll be things like, you’ve planned, you’ve missed a few bits, or you’ve done everything you can, up to a certain point, but there’s no checklist in place, so, as soon as you go live, nobody’s checkin’ to make sure that, ‘Ooh, hang on, did we turn that no follow off?’, or, ‘Have we checked, in Search Console, ‘to make sure that we’re not getting a load of ‘errors returned, and that people are tryin’ to find pages, ‘and the redirects haven’t happened?’ And the problem is, that, then, because the checklist isn’t in place, it’s not followed, the processes aren’t going through, because things aren’t done in a thorough way, bits get missed.

Website migrations are overly complex processes, most of the time, depending on whether it’s just a simple change of host, for example. It can be relatively straightforward; however, a lot of people will, say, design a new website, and decide to move to a new platform, at the same time. So you’ve, then, got this cluster of potential issues, whereby we’re changing all of the different pages, we’re changin’ all of the navigation around, so the linking structure’s potentially gonna change. The URLs aren’t kept the same, so all of that, then, changes. The design changes, the UX, the contact forms. Everything, so, everything that has been changed should be falling into this checklist.

So they’re the four main problems that we tend to see. And, although a website migration is typically quite a complex process, if you’ve got somebody, internally, that is competent in it, and understands it, and can follow a checklist, and can go through and merry up things, like makin’ sure all of your redirects are in place, the Search Console has been updated. Even down to loggin’ into Search Console, and telling it that you have changed website domains, or these little things. Everything should have a place, on the overall checklist. And, really, even when people with the knowledge, with the forward planning, there will always be something, you will go live, there will always be something that you’ve overlooked, or that doesn’t take properly, or you’ve missed a redirect, and it’s an important one, or you’ve not taken account for some linking, anything, there can be any little part of that, that’s missed. But if you’ve got a strong planning stage, and you’ve eliminated most of the issues, and you’ve got a really good checklist in place for before, during and after, you’re gonna find that that migration process goes a lot smoother.

You’re never gonna, 100%, avoid all issues, especially if you’re doing things like changing a website domain. There’s gonna be some short-term pain experience. If you’re redesigning a website, in all likelihood, you are gonna have to monitor that quite carefully, because, even if everything took amazingly, the fact that you’ve redesigned a website, and you’ve changed the overall design and user experience of that website, you’re gonna need to monitor things like your conversion rates, to make sure that, actually, you are converting people at the same rate that you used to. So, a good tip, before and after, if you’ve got certain high-traffic pages, you can use things like Hotjar, so watch what people’s behavior is, before. You shoulda done this, if you’re redesignin’, you shoulda done this way before, when you were lookin’ at the redesign. But, to understand where people are going, how they behave on that page, because, what you can also find, you can design even a nicer lookin’ site, but the site might actually perform worse, because you’ve changed the layout. It’s not quite what your clients are used to, or what they expect.

When you’re doing these changes, if you’ve changed the loader copy, not only is that gonna, potentially affect your rankings, and everything else, but it can also affect your conversions. So there’s so many different variables, you’ve gotta make sure that your metrics, you’ve benchmarked them before, and you continue to monitor them, afterwards. You should be in things like Search Console, if you’re not usin’ tools like Screaming Frog, before, to crawl your site, and work out where everything is, so that you can, then, merry it up, and make sure that your links are gonna go to the right place, that everything is gonna merry up. The main four takeaways are: if you’re gonna do a website migration, make sure that you plan it properly.

Understand the gravity of that change, and what’s needed. Identify if you’ve got the skillset, internally, to actually perform that, yourself, or whether you need external help. If you’ve got someone that’s very competent, they might be able to download a very in-depth guide, they might be able to get a very small bit of consultancy to get the plan, and the checklist, to be able to implement it, internally. But you’ve gotta make sure that the skillset is there, and that they do fully understand the gravity. Also understand the risks involved with doing that. You’ve gotta make sure that you’re comfortable with those risks, because if a website migration goes wrong, your traffic can just go, and nobody, nobody wants that.

Nobody suddenly wants to watch their leads totally drop off. Ask yourself the question, if the worst happened, and you dropped off 80% of your traffic, or 80% of your leads, how’s that gonna impact your business? Are you ready for that? Have you got time to be able to recover? If you’re not already doin’ things like paid search and paid social, have you got strategies in place that, if the worst happened, if you were relying purely on organic, that you can turn something else on, in the short term, to be able to bolster those leads, to get you through. And also, you need to make sure that you have got a thorough checklist of before, during and after.

Plan the work, work the plan. As long as you’ve got it, there, and as long as you’re monitoring Search Console, and things like that, at least you’re able to react quickly to what’s happening. No one wants to just flip the switch, go live, fingers crossed, everything’s gonna be okay, and a month later, you find out there are all these issues that you’ve now gotta fix. It’s gonna so much harder to do, after the fact.

So I hope you found that video useful. If you want more help and advice, reach out, also, we’ve got a white paper, somewhere, on website migration, so, if you are looking at doing it, then feel free to grab that, have a look through, and see what’s involved in the process.

Ben Norman

Founder and Chairman

Ben’s the big boss, so we can’t pick on him. He’s a bit of all-round digital marketing geek and loves coming up with new unique strategies. Ben lives and breathes the industry so we’re not sure what else he does with his time. We don’t even think he sleeps.

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