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Handling the tricky parts during site migration.

Summary: Ensure the best parts from the legacy site are retained in the transfer

By Alexander Rauser, Special to Gulf News

Over the past year, site migrations have become increasingly more popular, especially as a responsive site is no longer just an option but a must-have. Google is regularly updating its algorithm to penalise websites that are not mobile-friendly and businesses have had to be quick to react to save the rank of their website in search results.

A site migration can be risky however, and SEO (search engine optimisation) problems can occur if valuable content is lost, the URL structure changes or the website transitions to an entirely new content management system. With this in mind, it is always a good idea to hire an agency to assist your business with a site migration.

A site migration can be a daunting prospect, especially with so much at stake; so this article offers some helpful questions to ask an agency responsible for your website migration.

1. What is your process for ensuring my high-ranking, most valuable content won't get lost during the site migration?

The goal here is to make sure the agency thoroughly reviews your current content and takes steps to ensure any high performing content doesn't get lost in the migration. You may decide to trim some content, but your agency should advise you that any page that has gained significant page authority should be migrated to aid minimum traffic loss and minimum ranking drops.

2. Will I need to change the domain for my business website, or will you change the directory structure? If yes, what is the reasoning behind this?

Changing the domain adds another layer of complexity to a site migration and changing the directory structure makes it even more complicated. You should only choose to do this if there is good reason to make this switch.

3. What steps will you take to create a migration plan for my website, and what will it include? Site architecture?

Your migration plan should take into consideration the legacy site architecture, the new site architecture and the technical limitations of both platforms. Use this question as an opportunity to explore the knowledge your agency has behind each platforms and what issues they can foresee.

4. What kind of testing will take place before we launch our new website? Will there be a roll out?

It is always wise to test one section of a website with changes before implementing the changes site-wide. Depending on the size of your website, the changes could be made in two stages or several more.

5. What will be the 301 redirect strategy? Will you implement a page-to-page 301 redirect or use regular expressions to send bulk URLs to the same pages?

Site migrations can produce many 404 errors because old URLs will cease to exist once the new website launches. The goal here is to minimise the amount of errors associated with your website. Find out what tools your agency will use to ensure the crawl errors are kept to a minimum.

6. How will you deal with internal and external links? How will you ensure there are no old links on the website internally?

You do not want existing links on the site to link to the old website and then 301 to the new site. Ask your agency how they will ensure all internal links are updated to the new links as accurately as possible.

7. We understand that 404 errors are likely - how will you help to improve the user experience for visitors that receive a 404 error?

Will they update the 404 page to help push users towards the content they are looking for? How will they get creative with this page to impress users instead of irritate them?

8. How will we measure the success of the new website?

What will success look like for your new website? Will you base it on traffic? Rank? Keyword rank? CTR? Engagement metrics? Make sure you set specific digital KPIs for the short, medium and long term goals of your website.

9. How will we continue to monitor the old site to ensure it isn't receiving traffic after the migration? Which tool do we use to do this?

This is done using Google Webmaster Tools. Again, use this question to test the knowledge of your agency and what they plan to do with the old site. Ideally you will keep the old site in a place where you can monitor and manage it.

10. What is the timeline for the site migration? Will you take into consideration our seasonal popularity?

Choosing the right timeline for a site migration is vital. It isn't something you want to do in the middle of your busiest season. Make sure your agency understands your timeline and what time of the year is best for this type of a digital move.

The writer is CEO of Prototype.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Jul 12, 2016
Words:839
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