How To Migrate a New Website on the Same Domain

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How To Migrate a New Website on the Same Domain

Migrating a new website on the same domain is a complex task that demands precision and thorough planning. 

Whether updating your site for a fresh look, enhanced functionality, or improved performance, ensuring a smooth transition is crucial to maintaining your SEO rankings and user experience.

This guide will walk you through the essential steps of pre-migration and post-migration processes to ensure your website functions correctly and efficiently after the migration.

What Do You Need to Get Started?

First, here is a checklist of what needs to be done to ensure a successful migration.

I. Pre-migration

  1. Set up the staging environment
  2. Review each aspect of the staging environment
  3. Make a list of all URLs on the production website
  4. Determine what scenario your website migration project falls into (there are 3 different scenarios requiring different steps if you’re wondering)
  5. Update internal links on the staging environment (if needed)
  6. Set up robots.txt & XML sitemaps
  7. Push the staging website to production

II. Post-migration

  1. Double-check robots.txt & XML sitemaps
  2. Double-check canonical tags
  3. Double-check all meta tags
  4. Double-check all 301 redirects (if needed)
  5. Double-check internal links

Now, let’s get to work.

I. Pre-migration

1. Set up the staging environment

This step is non-negotiable because the new website must be developed while keeping the production site live. This allows you to ensure your production site remains available for clients, visitors, and search engine crawlers while you work on the new website in the background.

It’s crucial to set the staging environment to noindex,nofollow to prevent search engines from indexing it, which could cause duplicate content issues.

2. Review each aspect of the staging environment

Before you proceed, review every aspect of your staging environment to ensure it accurately mirrors your production site.

You don’t want to publish an incomplete website for the world to see. Sometimes, a small mistake can undo years of hard work, so it’s crucial to be extra careful.

Some of the most important things you should check, preferably manually, are:

– Logo
– Favicon
– Placeholder content (lorem ipsum content – this is extremely common during the developing phase)
– Main menu
– Contact information (phone number, address, email, etc.)
– Checkout process (if you’re selling products) or contact process (if you’re selling services)
– Heading structure

3. Make a list of all URLs on the production website

If you have access to tools like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb, crawl your current website to get a complete list of URLs with all relevant data, including:

– URLs
– Meta titles
– H1s
– Meta descriptions
– Clicks
-Sessions

After obtaining the meta tags from the crawl, you should review the staging website to confirm everything is in order. It’s important to double-check the meta tags when the staging website is pushed to production.

You may wonder, “Why do I need Clicks and Sessions data?”

You need this information to prioritize URLs and verify everything once the website is live.

Also, if your website has only a few pages bringing the majority of the traffic, you don’t want to lose sight of them and must treat them carefully.

If you don’t have access to these SEO tools, using Google Search should be enough to give you a list of URLs, at least the best-performing ones.

This list will serve as a reference throughout the migration process.

Once you’re done, you should have a spreadsheet that looks like this:

4. Determine what scenario your website migration project falls into

Depending on your specific scenario, the steps required to ensure the new website functions correctly will vary.

Read this section carefully, as it can be confusing. We’ve done our best to make it as clear as possible. 

If the URL structure & all pages will be kept the same on the new website

If you plan to keep the same URL structure and all existing pages, you can skip the URL and redirect mapping steps. Focus on updating the staging environment’s content, design, and functionality before moving to step 7 (note: add bookmark link).

If some pages won’t be kept on the new website

There are two possible scenarios here:

If your website falls into one of the two scenarios, proceed with the following two steps:

1. Map out the 301 redirects accordingly

For pages that will not be carried over to the new site, map out their new destinations using 301 redirects. This step ensures visitors and search engines are redirected to the appropriate pages when the new site is launched.

Using the spreadsheet you made in step 3, review & map out the 301 redirects for pages that won’t be available on the new site.

Once it’s completed, the final spreadsheet should look like this:

2. Set up the 301 redirects on the staging environment

Setting up the manual 301 redirects should be straightforward. Most major CMS platforms, such as WordPress, Magento, and Shopify, support importing redirects via CSV files, either natively or through plugins.

You can set up 301 redirect rules in your htaccess file for the remaining URLs with a new structure. 

Here is a simple guide on how to do it https://help.dreamhost.com/hc/en-us/articles/215747748-How-can-I-redirect-and-rewrite-my-URLs-with-an-htaccess-file

If the URL structure will be changed & ALL pages will be kept on the new website

1. Set up redirect rules in the htaccess file

If you change the URL structure but keep all pages, you need to update your htaccess file with the necessary redirect rules. This step ensures that old URLs seamlessly redirect to their new counterparts on the new website.

Again, you can refer to this guide for more information on how to set it up — https://help.dreamhost.com/hc/en-us/articles/215747748-How-can-I-redirect-and-rewrite-my-URLs-with-an-htaccess-file

5. Update internal links on the staging environment 

The 301 redirects should ensure a seamless browsing experience for visitors, provided they are set up correctly.

However, having 301 redirects on the site for search engine crawlers can slow down load times, potentially causing crawling issues. This is extremely critical if your website has tens of thousands of pages. In such cases, replacing 301 redirected URLs is essential to maintaining optimal performance.

Additionally, servers can occasionally have issues, causing redirects to take several minutes to load. If this occurs, you’ll be glad you addressed these issues during the developing phase.

Lucky for you, in these cases, this step should be easy to carry out because the new website will only have a handful of URLs that need to be updated manually (when some pages will no longer be accessible); the rest can be replaced in bulk with either a plugin/app, htaccess rules or dev help (when URL structure changes).

6. Set up robots.txt & XML sitemaps

If your existing robots.txt has been performing well and the URL structure of the new site is kept the same, you should be fine with keeping the old setup.

However, if you change the URL structure, it’s always good to double-check the robots.txt to ensure that it does not block your new URLs from being crawled.

For robots.txt, you want to set it up so crawlers don’t waste time with redundant, low-value pages (filtered, parameter, internal search result, etc.) but have access to all the essential stuff (landing pages, collection and product pages, etc.).

The principle is the same for XML sitemaps. In XML sitemaps, you want to present only essential pages, and anything of low quality will be removed.

You should also add the XML sitemaps to the robots.txt to make them easier for crawlers to access.

7. Push the staging website to production

Once you thoroughly test and review the staging environment, it’s time to push the new website to production. 

Remember you should choose a convenient time to go live, ideally not on a Friday, to ensure support is available if any issues arise during the launch.

II. Post-migration

1. Double-check robots.txt & XML sitemaps

If you follow the preparation steps correctly, you should be fine. Verifying your work here will only take a few minutes, but it can save you from a month of headaches trying to fix the crawling/indexing issues.

Ideally, as long as your robots.txt allows crawlers to access all essential pages and XML sitemaps are clean with only pages you want to be indexed, you should be good.

A simple tool like https://technicalseo.com/tools/robots-txt/ can help you verify how well your robots.txt works.

2. Double-check canonical tags

During the transition from staging to production, canonical tags from the staging site can sometimes be carried over. In our experience, this can lead to several potential issues with your pages on the new production site:

Here is an example of pages canonicalized to the staging site for your reference:

If you can’t check everything, it’s worth checking the top-performing ones to ensure everything looks good.

3. Double-check all meta tags

Using the spreadsheet created during the pre-migration phase in step 3, you must ensure all meta titles, descriptions, and H1 tags are correctly implemented on the new site.

If you don’t have the time or resources (i.e., crawler tools), prioritize checking the top-performing pages. The last thing you want is to see your hard-earned rankings drop due to incorrect meta titles.

4. Double-check all 301 redirects (where applicable)

With the redirects you’ve mapped out during the pre-migration process, you can use a crawler tool (such as Screaming Frog) or a simple tool like https://httpstatus.io/ to check them in bulk.

If everything will be migrated over & redirects are set up via htaccess, you should be fine most of the time. 

But, if the new site requires a few manually deployed 301 redirects, this is your fallback plan. As the number of manual redirects should be low, you should check every single one to make sure everything is working properly.

5. Double-check internal links (where applicable)

If you carry out step 5 in the pre-migration process correctly, the new site should be OK with no issues.

It’s still a good practice to check your internal links again, as there might have been some misconfiguration during the launch without you knowing.

Need Help Migrating Your Website to a New Domain? We Can Help.

Do you still need clarification on the migration process? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Migrating your old website to a new website can be confusing. Faults and issues lurk around every corner, but with this article as a guide, we hope you encounter a smooth and stress-free transition.

If you want to alleviate the headache and ensure minimum service disruption, the SwishDM team can help with your website migration. We’re experts in site migration and know what we’re doing on projects big and small. 

We’ve seen it all. Get in touch to see how we can help.

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