The Only Website Migration Guide You Need for 2021

Robert Hoang

So, you’ve developed a kick ass new website that’s going to take your website to the next level. Sounds exciting right? And it is but hold your horses for just one moment. We need to tackle one very important question.What is going to happen to your existing website and all the loyal site visitors you’ve already built up over the years?That’s where website migration comes in. Switching over to a new website takes some planning. Lucky for you, we’ve put together the one and only website migration guide you’ll need for a successful relaunch in 2021.We’ll be covering…1. What is website migration?2. Why might I need to migrate my website? The different types of website migrations.3. The downside. Website migration is a tricky business.4. Why does website migration affect search results?5. Why do so many website migrations fail?6. How to avoid migration failure7. How to approach a successful website migration8. The website migration process and best practices9. The best tools to aid website migration success10. FAQs

What is website migration?

Website migration is a term used to describe the process of changing a website’s setup. Website migration is about large-scale changes. Simple updates, for example, usually do not warrant such a solution. But if you want to change the platform, server, design or location of your website, a migration might be in order.Website migration is not something to be undertaken lightly. The process can be challenging. Without moving forward with a robust plan in place the consequences can be damaging. Especially when it comes to maintaining your website’s lead generation and search engine rankings.For this reason, any successful website migration must – I repeat must – consult closely with your digital marketing and SEO team. That way you’ll be able to stay on top of the leader boards and take those all important leads with you to your new platform.

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Why might I need to migrate my website? The different types of website migration

There are many different reasons why you might want to migrate your website. Depending on the type of changes you wish to make to your website, there are a range of migration options at your disposal. For example, you will need to migrate your website if you move to a different server (with or without URL changes) or wish to carry out a heavy redesign process or relaunch.The following scenarios are all typical reasons why someone might need to migrate their website.

Restructure or redesign

If your current website setup isn’t generating the results you hoped for, then it might be time for a restructuring or redesign. Conduct some testing first to isolate the factor impeding your progress. If you find that your website design or user experience are the main culprit causing lacklustre conversions rates then it’s time to act. This is one instance when a website migration might be in order. Web migration can be used to improve website usability with new designs, layouts, architectures, and taxonomies.

Moving to a new framework

This is a very common cause for website migrations. If your current site is running on an outdated platform there will come a time when you want to change things up. Switching to a superior platform or CMS will help you enhance your current setup and prevent any more sales losses.

Adding a mobile version

Making sure that your website runs seamlessly on web browse and mobile devices is a must. This is non-negotiable in today’s market. Did you know that 52.2% of all website traffic is generated from mobile phones? Optimizing for mobile platforms should be our top priority. Does your current framework support seamless experiences across all media platforms? If your answer to this is no, you might need to consider a website migration to make this happen.

Moving from HTTP to HTTPS

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and is the secure version of standard HTTP. HTTPS protocol implementation is super important for the security of your website and for maintaining consistently great user experiences. If your web pages currently run on standard HTTP, it’s time to start thinking about making the switch.

Relocating to a new server or hosting provider

Some website migrations happen because the website owner decides to move to a new hosting provider or web server. There are a number of reasons why somebody might choose to do this. Perhaps the old server was underperforming, or the hosting conditions weren’t ideal. In such cases the best options is often to switch over to a different host entirely.

Changing a domain name

If your business is about to undergo a rebranding, then you might want to change your business domain name and secure a more competitive URL. This is a common cause for website migration but should not be taken lightly. Rebranding your business entirely is risky so make sure you’ve got a killer digital marketing campaign up your sleeve to help you hold onto your existing clients.

Merging websites

Last but not least, website migrations often come about if a company wishes to merge one website with another. This could be the case if you want to consolidate two previously separate sites into one website to facilitate a website acquisition or if you’re switching from a multi-domain to a single-domain setup.

The downside – website migration is a tricky business

Sometimes, migrating your website is the best choice you can make. But be aware that this is not always an easy process. Website migration comes with plenty of risks. Especially when it comes to search engines. Whenever we make changes to online pages, our search rankings are going to change accordingly. If your existing site was ranking well on Google, for example, there’s no guaranteeing that these ranking will remain intact post-migration.

Why does website migration affect search results?

A website migration can seriously impact your search engine optimization (SEO). In other words, when you migrate your website from one platform to another, this can have a lasting impact on your business’ online visibility in search engines.That’s because, when we make structural changes to our websites, this impacts how search engines pick up and rank our content. And if a search engine like Google is not able to link your old and new platforms seamlessly, then all the work you put into ranking your original site could be lost forever. And nobody wants that.So what can we do about it? Well, we can ensure that we combine our website migration process with a seriously robust SEO strategy. Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing website content for search engines. It’s essential that we get our new website ranking on search engines as soon as possible so that we don’t lose those all-important clicks and conversions.

Why do so many website migrations fail?

It’s time for a dose of realism. Many website migrations fail due to lack of awareness, poor planning, and a fundamental lack of knowledge and preparation. But don’t fret. This doesn’t have to be you. The key to a successful website migration is to educate yourself first. And that’s exactly what we’re doing here together, so simply by reading this guide you’ve already got step one exactly right!There are a number of factors that contribute to a failed website migrations. Avoid these eight migration mishaps and you’ll be off to a flying start.

1. No planning

One of the top reasons why website migrations fail is due to lack of planning. Failing to create a migration plan could cost you dearly. But developing an in-depth project plan early on will give you the best chances of success. Your plan should make provisions for time and resource management, contingency for delays or unforeseen circumstances, dependencies and stakeholders. Make sure that your plan provides enough flexibility for any unexpected issues that may arise.Pro-tip: plan your website migration to launch outside of peak season. You don’t want any user disruption during typically busy trading periods such as the holidays.

2. Poor strategy

As part of your planning process ensure that you and your team have a clear strategy in place for your website migration. Poor strategy could put your website migration at risk. By building a robust strategy upon realistic and measurable objectives, you’ll prime yourself for success. We advise building a strategy around retaining traffic generation and revenue as this is what tends to suffer most during the site migration process.

3. Ignoring SEO

We’ve already talked about the importance of SEO for successful website migrations. So it’s no surprise that ignoring SEO is one of the biggest contributing factors when migrations fail. Make sure that you have an SEO expert on staff to help with your site migration. They will be able to help you maintain web traffic and protect your business revenues whilst your site transitions. Ensure that every change you make to your website is SEO and UX (that’s user experience) optimized.

4. Lousy resources

If you don’t have the right resources in place, then your site migration is destined for failure before it’s even started. So, don’t be that person. Make resource planning part of your migration plan. For example, if you need to hire a web design agency or SEO specialist then make sure your budgets provision for this expense. And keep some contingency finances in place for any unexpected expenses along the way. That way you’ll know that any resources you need aren’t out of reach.

5. Lack of testing

When making such significant changes to your website, testing is of utmost importance. But so many people neglect this critical process. Those companies who skip testing risk overlooking bugs, sacrificing on optimal user experiences, and site designs. Testing is the best way to identify critical issues before launch. So make sure you get your new prototype tested by an SEO and UX specialist before offering it up to the public.

6. Not reaching out

Depending on your team’s technical knowledge, you might need to reach out for a bit of additional help when the time comes to migrate your website. Site migration is no laughing matter and getting it right is essential for retaining leads and revenues. Many website migrations fail because website owners do not reach out for help and professional support. As a result, they inevitably miss crucial steps in the process and miss critical errors along the way. So make sure you’ve got enough money set aside to hire professional help if you need it. You won’t regret it in the long run when you’ve got a high-functioning, bug-free website to your name.

7. Slow to fix problems

In any web development process, bugs inevitably show up from time to time. As long as we fix these bugs as soon as possible, there shouldn’t be undue cause for concern. But when bugs are left unfixed for a long period of time, you can expect to encounter some major technical problems. Quick fixes are key to overcoming these obstacles without any catastrophic consequences.

8. Lack of foresight

Last but not least, those that fail to apply foresight often fall down at the last hurdle. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. A site migration is no laughing matter. Website migration is a big deal. It’s complicated, time-consuming, and resource-heavy. Therefore, it’s essential that website owners know this before taking on the challenge. Remember, when it comes to website migration, fixing oversights is much harder than avoiding them.

How to avoid migration failure

Enough with the doom and gloom. We’re here to tell you that your website migration doesn’t have to end in failure. In just a moment, we’ll be laying out our amazing approach to successful website migration. But before that let’s break it down in simple terms by discussing how to avoid migration failure in the first place. All of the pitfalls we’ve just mentioned can be easily avoided with some simple, but strategic, prior planning. Here are our top-six steps to avoiding migration failure.

  1. Create a realistic timeline
  2. Write up a robust strategy
  3. Anticipate potential challenges
  4. Estimate what resources you will need
  5. Calculate a realistic and flexible budget
  6. Plan in any professional help you need

This last step is super important. If your team doesn’t already have a resident SEO and UX expert on board, then make sure your budget allows for outsourcing one. Having the right expertise to hand will help you execute your plan to its highest potential. Many businesses outsource all or part of the website migration process for this very reason. Luckily, there are tons of web design, development, and SEO agencies out there with the right minds for the job.

How to approach a successful website migration

We now know that planning is the critical ingredient when it comes to the perfect site migration. But how can you go about executing the perfect migration process from start to finish? That’s what we’re here to tell you. We’ve put together the go-to website migration process. We recommend using this as a template when you start planning your own site migration. So, without further ado, it’s time let you in to our fool-proof site migration method.Ready. Steady. Go!


Take a step back and start by planning. The planning stage needs to cover everything from resource distribution to objective checklists, team briefing, and risk analysis. The following planning prompts will help you devise a comprehensive and fool-proof website migration roadmap.

Scale your project

Identify what changes need to be made to your current website and who will be most impacted by these changes. How significant in scale are the changes you plan to make? Is it a simple content migration or a comprehensive redesign and restructuring?

Tag your teammates

Who will be your main support system during the migration process? And who will do what? Assign roles and responsibilities to your team – no matter how big or small your network may be. Start by recruiting a project manager, system administrator, head developer, designer, copywriter, and SEO specialist. Depending on the nature of your project you may also want to onboard some legal and managerial staff to support your migration.

Define goals and concerns

What are your key, defining goals? Is it to improve user experience? Is it to rebrand completely? Whatever your goals are make sure everyone in your team is clear about the end destination and united in a common objective. From there you can identify any concerns and put in place systems to manage these issues before they arise.

Identify risks and expectations

All website migrations come with an element of risk. And your whole team needs to be briefed on these potential roadblocks. For example, one of the most common risks associated with a website migration is a temporary drop in traffic post relaunch. This is a very common occurrence that everyone needs to be prepared for. By knowing what to expect, you’ll be able to make provisions for rectifying this problem immediately (with robust SEO to get your new site ranking immediately).

Schedule essential tasks

Now it’s time to start plotting your project roadmap. Pick out some essential tasks and milestones and schedule them in your project timeline. This will give you and your team some fixed deadlines to work towards and keep the project’s momentum going. We recommend using a shared management platform to create a clear, visual roadmap – e.g. a spreadsheet or cloud management tool like Trello.

Pick a realistic launch date

Once you’ve created your roadmap, pick out a realistic date for launch. Don’t try to rush the process. Remember problems are harder to fix that they are to avoid in the first place. Consider when your launch will be able to generate the most visibility. Don’t even think about launching on a Friday afternoon, for example, when everyone is clocking off for the weekend.


With an absolutely fabulous plan in place, it’s time to start making those all-important preparations. So, what exactly should you and your team be preparing for? Well, that’s a great question, and we’ve got the answers right here.

Prepare your SEO requirements

This will vary depending on why your are migrating your site. But, in general, you want to prepare the following SEO requirements for your development team: URL structure, meta data, content & headings, XML sitemaps, structured data, and load times.

Prepare your design specifications

Get your design plan seen by your SEO team for a once-over. They will need to ensure that SEO optimized content are links can be positioned strategically in your new design layout.

Prepare your content inventory

Assess what content from your existing website will stay and what will go. What content is going to be impacted by your site migration? We recommend creating a 360-degree overview of all your existing content and all of your anticipated new content.

Prepare your tracking tools

To do this, you’ll need some rank-tracking tools to help you out. Analytics software will identify where you’re already generating traffic so that you can apply these patterns to your new site.

Prepare a redirect plan

A redirect plan outlines which exact domains and URLs need to be redirected when you launch your new site. Set up any page redirects and domain redirects and ensure correct configuration. Failing to do so could lead to diminished rankings and redirect hops.

Prepare URL updates

Make sure everybody in your marketing team is aware of which URLs are going to change after relaunch. Consider all of your existing platforms including by not limited to Google ads, social media ads and accounts, newsletters, emails, brochures etc.

Prepare paid campaigns

To give your search rankings a boost it is sometimes worth setting up paid ad campaigns to ensure you retain and capture as many new and existing site visitors as possible after relaunch. Will mitigate any temporary drops in search engine rankings as search engines index your new site.

Prepare a separate testing environment

Last but not least, set up a separate and secure testing environment where you can conduct all of your pre-launch testing. By using a separate environment you wont risk impacting your current website visitors negatively. Here you can test new content, designs, and frameworks without risk.


With your new environment set up, it’s time to start testing. This is where the exciting stuff starts. You’re going to want to trial redirects, SEO, URLs, page speeds and much, much more. We recommend you start by testing the following vital functions.

  • Redirects
  • SEO
  • URL structure
  • Content
  • Links
  • Crawler traps
  • Structured data
  • Status codes
  • Languages
  • Page speed
  • Sitemaps
  • Robots.txt


We’ve reached our launch date. Congratulations!It’s time to make your new site accessible to the world-wide-web. All you’ve got to do now is remove any accessibility limitations and release your new website to the search engines.


Shortly after your launch, the time will come for your first review. This is an opportunity to make sure that your website relaunch is working optimally and achieving your anticipated goals. Get your team together and try to answer the following questions as accurately as you can.

  • What are your top-performing pages? Are they working optimally?
  • Is your new site being accessed by the right crawlers?
  • Are redirects in place and functional? Are search engines accessing your redirects?
  • Is SEO in order?
  • Is your new XML sitemap correct? Is it being picked up by search engines?
  • Is your analytics software working efficiently?


Once everything from your review has been cleared up, it’s time to register your new website with the appropriate tools. Register all versions of your domain to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Use GSC Fetch and Render to ensure Google can request and render your pages, push on with any paid campaigns, update your backlinks, and remove your old staging environment.


We’re almost there. Just because you’ve conducted one review doesn’t mean it’s time to stop, sit back, and relax. Not just yet anyway. Website migration requires constant monitoring. After launching your new platform, conduct regular monitoring to ensure everything is working as it should be. Monitoring checks should cover everything from key performance indicators (KPIs) – e.g. your click through rate, bounce rate, or conversion rate - to unexpected errors in your server logs.


You’ve done it!You’ve planned, executed, and monitored your website migration to success. Now all that’s left is to gather your team together for an informal group evaluation. This is a really useful process and can help consolidate all of your achievement and highlight and concerns or goals for the future. Try do identify the following:

  • Were our initial objectives met?
  • Were all of our concerns addressed?
  • What have we learned during this process?
  • What would we improve next time?
  • Has the project been successful overall?

The best tools to aid website migration successWe’ve briefly touched on some tools that can help with the site migration process. But let’s take a look at the top-three in some more detail. These tools are incredibly useful for evaluating and monitoring your website pre and post launch.

Crawler tools

Crawler tools identify any pre-existing issues in your old website making it much easier to deliver a successful site migration.

Monitoring tools

Monitoring tools help us track key performance indicators (KPIs) like search engine rankings, loading speeds, and click-through rates. That way we can better see how our site is performing.

Backlink tools

help us increase the reputability of our sites by including credible backlinks. High-authority backlinks are a fantastic way to boost SEO rankings.


How long does it take to migrate a website?

The length of time needed to migrate a website varies from project to project. It depends on the scale of your migration. A basic migration could take as little as two or three days, but a full structural reboot is likely to takes weeks or months to complete. The important thing to remember is that site migrations should never be rushed as this can cause serious problems in the long-run.

Should I migrate my website?

Website migration is only recommended if your current website is failing to deliver the results you want, and nothing can be done to improve your website without migration. Website migration is a delicate process and, if not undertaken properly, can do more damage than it does good. If you’re not sure whether you need to migrate your current website, consult a professional first.

Can I redirect an old site to a new site?

Yes, you can redirect an old site to a new site. This is called a 301 redirection. You’ll have to create a redirect map and share it with your develops who will implement the redirect to the server.

Website migration 101

So there we have it. You’re primed, ready, and fully-prepared to conduct your very own website migration. Whatever your reason for migrating your existing site, one thing’s for certain. Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. With proper planning and a robust strategy under your belt, there’s nothing stopping you from taking the search engines by storm.

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Robert Hoang
Robert is a member of the SEO team at Local Digital. He spends his days implementing the SEO strategies we've put together for our clients, from ensuring onsite optimisation is on point to preparing technical audits to link building strategy... if it's an SEO must-have chances are Rob is on the case!

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