Firstly it’s important to note that a thorough testing process via a development version of the new website is absolutely vital if the aim is to minimize the risk of a loss in natural search visibility. This means that the structure for the new website should be determined prior to any migration planning taking place and ideally with all content in place, which will help determine the mapping of old URLs to new. Additionally it should be noted that the very nature of redirecting one URL to another will result in a slight loss of external link equity. Therefore the very best case scenario would be to simply maintain current search engine visibility levels however bear in mind there may be a slight drop in visibility; particularly if the new website contains fewer pages than the previous site. The following process is designed to minimize this risk as much as possible:
Benchmarks: Rankings and visibility levels will be recorded for each of the four websites, along with site speed, indexation levels and a list of all pages currently receiving traffic. This will provide data by which to test the success of the migration process and quickly pinpoint any issues if necessary.
Legacy websites: A thorough crawl of each website will be made to ensure all pages have been accounted for when planning the migration. This will also help to detect any URL related issues with the current websites, such as 404 errors, which can be remedied through the migration process.
URL mapping: This is the most important stage of the process and involves matching all URLs from the legacy websites to the relevant page on the new website. With the help of a development team it will then be necessary to create specific redirect rules from the old to new URL structure.
Testing: On a protected development website all redirects will be tested to ensure they resolve to a valid page on the new website. Additionally this stage will also include the creation and testing of a new XML sitemap, which will be important to allow indexation of the new website to happen as quickly as possible.
Launch: With all international subfolders verified in Google’s Webmaster Tools, the new XML sitemaps will be submitted to Google.
Monitoring: All previously recorded benchmarks will be reassessed following the migration to identify any potential issues as early as possible. This will also involve monitoring of Google’s Webmaster Tools for any crawl errors and indexation levels for the new XML sitemaps, which will highlight the transition from old to new URL structure if applicable.
External links: For any particularly powerful backlinks it may be beneficial to contact each source directly and request an update to point directly to the new domain thus avoiding any loss in link equity associated with redirects.
To discuss our team migrating your site and ongoing digital marketing to improve your Google search performance, contact us today