A site migration refers to changes to a website that affects its visibility on the search engines. These changes are usually the ones that are made on the site structure, the content of the pages, coding for the site, UX or site performance. Google doesn’t really cover site migration in depth, which can result in traffic loss and loss of revenue. This can even last for several months, depending on how much the search engine signals have been affected. The length of time a website can suffer from site migration can also depend on how fast you can carry out a recovery plan.
The “expected traffic drop” myth
If you have ever experienced site migration, you must have already heard the common theory that it will automatically result in traffic and revenue loss. While this is true in some cases, it does not happen to all cases of site migration. It is possible to undergo site migration without losing your traffic or your revenue. In fact, if you do it right, you can even enjoy the perks of a revamped website. You can also have a growth spurt in terms of traffic and revenue. However, it is impossible to achieve unless you plan your site migration properly and make sure that all the steps are executed well.
When Site Migrations Become Unsuccessful
In some cases, site migration can be a huge failure. Even major retailers can lose its visibility when switching from HTTP to HTTPS. When this happens, it could take even up to six months or more to recover, especially for huge retailer websites. Of course, this will have a really huge impact on traffic and revenue. Failed site migrations are usually caused by poor planning and even poorer implementation. Unfortunately, not all stories have happy endings and not all cases of failed site migrations show signs of recovery. The visibility loss can be permanent too!
How to Know If a Site Migration Is Successful
Site migrations can come in many forms, so it can be difficult to tell which one is successful and which one has failed unless there’s outright loss of traffic and revenue. Site migration can vary depending on the objectives for it, the site migration type and the KPIs. However, there are some characteristics that are common in successful site migrations. First, there is little to no visibility loss in the first few weeks. Next, there is an obvious growth in terms of visibility, although this depends on the type of migration that was done.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when planning for a site migration is that you should avoid introducing several changes at the same time. It can be really difficult to track issues when something goes wrong when so many changes have been made. Of course, it’s also not ideal to leave all the major changes for a later time. It will cost you more in terms of resources. It’s important to know what you’re doing when you make the changes. Doing a couple of changes at the same time would be cost-effective. However, you need to make sure that you are only making the changes you can handle at a time.
Types of Site Migration
There are several types of site migration. The types depend on the changes that will take place. There are basically two categories of site migration. The first one is site migration with URL changes and the other is site migration without URL changes. There are really so many types of site migrations with URL changes. It includes:
Protocol change – this typically happens when you are migrating from HTTP to HTTPS.
Subdomain and Subfolder Change – When one or more ccTLDs are moved into subdomains and subfolders, this can happen. Also, when a mobile site located in a different subdomain becomes responsive and desktop and mobile share the same URL.
Changes in Domain Name – This usually happens when there is a rebranding of the business, causing you to move from one domain to another.
Changes in Top-Level Domain – This happens when a brand launches an international website or a couple of international websites. Usually, in such cases, the site has to move from country code top-level domain (ccTLD) to a generic top-level domain. Of course, it can also work the other way around.
Site Structure Changes – when there are changes in the architecture of the site, the internal links, and the URL structure can also be affected.
There are also other types of site migrations with includes:
Re-platforming – this occurs when the site is moved from one platform to another. For instance, if you have been using WordPress originally but you want to upgrade to the latest version of the platform or moving to a different platform altogether. This can result in changes in design and URLs because there will be technical limitations between platforms. When you are re-platforming, do not expect your website to look exactly as it did before.
Content Migration – when you do major changes with the content such as mass content rewrites, consolidation, and pruning, these changes can impact the organic search visibility of the site, depending on the scale of the changes made. This can often result in changes to internal linking and taxonomy of the site.
Changes in Mobile – There are many options available for your site’s mobile setup. Partial site migration can happen when you enable app indexing, build an AMP site or a PWA site.
Structure Changes – structural changes to the site is often caused by changes in its taxonomy that can affect navigation and internal linking. This can also affect the experience of the user.
Redesigns – site redesigns can also cause site migration. Redesigns can vary from changes in the looks of the website to a complete change in design including the site’s media, code, and copy changes.
Hybrid Migration – hybrid migration types can be combined together for practicality. However, the more changes are done at the same time, the higher the risk. It will also be more complex. It would be great if you plan well for your hybrid site migration scheme before you execute it to minimize errors and issues.