Nothing will 100 percent guarantee the success of your website migration.

You never know how Google will treat your new site, which is why migrations are a major source of fear for most SEOs.

But here’s the good news: I'm here to provide crucial insights that will increase your chance of success – plus an incredibly valuable business requirements document that you can download for FREE. In addition, I’ll also highlight ten critical mistakes to steer clear of during your migration.

This information will help you significantly minimize the risk of harming your site’s SEO performance amid this substantial transition.

Table of Contents:


How to Prepare for A Successful Site Migration

Completing a successful site migration begins way before you officially launch your new site. It requires careful planning and preparation. 

Below, I’ve outlined three crucial steps to take before beginning the migration process.


1. Understand the Risks and Prepare Stakeholders

The first step in ensuring a successful site migration is preparing stakeholders for what's about to happen. A lot of people oversimplify the migration process and don't realize what’s at stake (i.e. a drop in rankings, decreased traffic, loss of historical data, downtime, etc.)

Even if everything goes smoothly throughout your site migration, it won't be perfect and some things will inevitably go wrong. 

Stakeholders should know that it’s common to see a decline in organic traffic, at least initially, depending on how complex the migration is. 

If you’re getting significant traffic and revenue from organic traffic, your SEO team must be tightly intertwined in every aspect, and continuous communication among stakeholders is essential.


2. Designate a Strong Project Manager

A site migration may be the most complex undertaking you’ve ever gone through professionally. 

As such, you’ll need a strong project manager to keep all the different pieces together. If you’re the SEO, inject yourself very early. 

As the SEO, you’re the one responsible if organic traffic tanks when you launch the website. You’ll want to be involved in absolutely every decision when it comes to migration.

I can't tell you how many times I've come in to help with a migration and it's too late. They've already settled on a design, selected templates, and chosen a CMS without talking to me.

If you’re the CMO, CTO, CIO, Designer, or Developer, engage with SEO very early. This advice is especially critical if SEO is a significant part of your revenue.


3. Understand the Long-Term Reward 

With so much at risk, executives may hesitate to complete a site migration in the first place. 

That’s why, in addition to preparing stakeholders for the potential risks of a site migration, you should also make them aware of the long-term reward for doing it right. 

By taking the steps to complete a site migration correctly (i.e. doing thorough testing on any changes you want to make before launching) the long-term impact can be remarkable.

For example, a successful site migration has the potential to significantly improve user experience, enhance site performance, resolve technical issues, and, as a result, increase traffic and conversions.


6 Tips to Make Sure Your Site Migration Is a Success

Now that you’ve prepared for your site migration, it’s time to get the ball rolling. To increase your chances of success, here are six key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure all stakeholders have input on objectives (executives, operations, sales, marketing, advertising, content, development).
  2. Conduct a thorough audit of your entire web presence (all domains and sub-domains) to determine what you want out of your new website.
  3. Complete an analysis of the web presence of your top competitors. This should include topic and content gaps, performance, frameworks, etc.
  4. Establish a minimum viable product (MVP) of what your new website is going to look like and, from that, SEO business requirements.
  5. Create realistic estimates of the cost and timeline of your site migration.
  6. Carefully outline your SEO business requirements and make sure everyone working on the website migration is aware of them.

For a more in-depth guide on all of the steps involved in completing a successful website migration, check out our FREE site migration checklist

Follow the Site Migration Checklist

While all of these steps are important, I can’t emphasize how crucial step number six is in particular. 

It’s important to remember that developers and others working on the new website typically don’t know much (if anything) about SEO. As such, it’s very common for SEOs to realize that the new website is completely wrong from an SEO perspective once the staging site has already been created.

By giving developers a list of your SEO business requirements before they start, they essentially have a guidebook on how to ensure the new site is SEO-friendly right out the gate. 

This is not a step you can skip. If you do, your site will likely need a lot of reworking post-launch after your traffic and rankings have taken a nose-dive.

In addition to ensuring that your new site is SEO friendly, outlining your SEO business requirements will also help you get an accurate quote when using a third-party developer.

Due to the importance of this step, I’m going to provide you with an invaluable resource – my complete SEO business requirements document that I’ve been developing and updating for over a decade.

This document includes a detailed list of up-to-date SEO best practices compiled into a spreadsheet that you can easily share with everyone working on your new website. 

To access our free SEO Business Requirements download, just fill in your business email below!



10 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Completing a Site Migration

In addition to doing all the right things throughout a site migration, it’s also important to be aware of what to avoid doing. 

Here are some of the biggest and most common mistakes to avoid throughout the process:

  1. Not testing a beta version.
  2. Migrating to a new domain that has been tarnished or penalized.
  3. Improper redirects (i.e. 302s instead of 301s, redirect loops, long redirect chains, redirecting all pages to the new homepage).
  4. Failure to think mobile-first in the new design.
  5. Forgetting about legacy content (do some testing to see what’s indexed by Google and clean any unhelpful content out).
  6. Migrating everything without being selective (i.e. you don’t need to migrate paginated pages in my opinion).
  7. Setting up a new Google Analytics account which means you won’t have any historical data.
  8. Meta-robots noindex or robots.txt block on new site.
  9. Forgetting to update paid campaigns, your Google Business profile, and social profiles.
  10. No reset button in place – failing to save a backup of your old site.


The Difference Between a Successful and a Botched Migration

So what's the difference between a successful and botched migration? 

The answer is simple: a successful migration means that your new website is better than your old website in pretty much every way. 

To be more specific, there are four key indicators of a successful site migration.


Four Signs Your Site Migration Was Successful

Four critically important things have to get better when you launch your new website in order for the site migration to be considered a success:

  1. SEO Fundamentals
  2. Content Quality
  3. Core Web Vitals (CWVs): user experience, page speed, and performance.
  4. Information Architecture

If any one of these turns out worse, you're at risk for seeing a downturn in traffic for a long period of time and you may have to go back and redo or fix things.

Let’s go over each of these aspects in a bit more detail.


1. Nailing the SEO Fundamentals

In the initial audit you conduct of your existing website(s) before completing a site migration, you’re going to capture a few baselines and develop requirements for the new site:

  • Find technical issues that shouldn’t be carried over to a new site
  • Identify the most valuable content to preserve
  • Identify low-value content for removal
  • Capture baselines on page speed/performance, types of URLs, site structure, internal linking, and link depth
  • Develop URL source for redirect map

You will continue auditing your site several more times throughout the migration process, including during the development phase and the deployment stage. 

When auditing your site post-launch, all of these SEO fundamentals should have been taken care of or improved upon in order for the migration to be successful.


2. Enhanced Content Quality

A migration is a great opportunity to prune low-quality or unhelpful content. Doing this will often significantly shorten the time it takes for your site’s SEO to recover after a migration. 

Ultimately, the less low-quality content your new website has, the less Google has to crawl through to find and index your good content.

If you have a lot of content that’s performing well, however, make as few changes as possible.

Enhanced content quality following the migration is an indicator of its success.


3. Improved Page Speed and Performance

Following a site migration, all areas of Core Web Vitals should be improved, including:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
  • First Input Delay (FID)
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)

These are some of the only things that Google gives us very specific numbers to hit in terms of what it looks at when determining a good page experience.


4. Optimized Information Architecture

Strong information architecture helps users and search engines easily find your content and related information. It also showcases your depth and breadth of content, enhancing your site authority.

So when you complete a site migration, take the opportunity to organize your content by topics.

Your most important content should be no deeper than three clicks from the homepage. And your very most important content should only be one click from the homepage.


Get a Complete Picture of Your Site Migration with seoClarity

In addition to our Site Audits capability to crawl and audit 301 redirects, the four seoClarity capabilities below provide the most complete picture possible of your site migration.


Monitoring Ranking Keywords

With the power of rank intelligence, you can look up any domain and track its ranking keywords. If you’re migrating multiple domains, you can type them all in to see how well the migration went.


Simply adjust the date range to before the migration took place to see how many keywords were in the top ten ranking positions on the original site. Then see how many of those keywords shifted over to the new site. 

This is step one in monitoring the success of your site migration.


Monitoring Rank Position

Just because your top-ranking keywords transferred over to your new site, doesn’t mean they kept the same ranking position

To make sure the rankings for those keywords didn’t drop, the next step to take from a monitoring perspective is to look at the rankings of those keywords post-migration.

Start by looking at all the keywords where the original site used to rank in the top ten and tag them in the platform. Then, look at the new site’s rankings and see if the new domain started ranking for those keywords just as well as the previous domain did. 


Monitoring Traffic Changes

If you have multiple Google Search Console (GSC) profiles for each domain you are migrating, you can connect each domain's profile in Search Analytics. 

So if you were migrating five domains into one new domain, all six of those profiles could be viewed here and it's very easy to connect them.


Then, go to the “by profile” tab and switch to the “line view” to see how this traffic has changed by profile. If a migration took place, one of the profiles would show dip in traffic and the other profile would show an increase. 


Summarizing Data: Parent-Child Relationships

We also have a super advanced feature called “parent-child relationships.” 

When clients are doing a migration, they typically have a list of URLs that they're going to migrate and a new destination URL. 

So if shoes now becomes sneakers, they have those redirects. In addition to using our crawler to audit the redirects, you could also upload all of them into the platform. 

Then, we will automatically roll up all the data for the old URLs into the new URL. In other words, we will summarize all the data for the old URLs into the new URLs using what we call our parent-child relationship. 

Doing so just requires a simple upload in our settings page. Give us your migration list that you are 301 redirecting and we’ll upload it!



It’s no secret that migrations are messy and more than a little terrifying – especially for SEOs. 

But by following these steps and avoiding the common mistakes listed, you can significantly increase your chances of a successful migration while keeping your SEO performance intact. 

Still a bit nervous about the process? Our all-in-one SEO platform has capabilities designed to simplify and streamline every step of the site migration process. 

In addition to our advanced technology, you’ll also receive the support of our dedicated SEO experts who are committed to helping you monitor performance and achieve success.

Learn more about our pain-free site migration process and get started with a quote today!