When you want to move your website to another platform / content management system, it is crucial that you go through the necessary checks and balances to ensure that your website does not lose any previously established value.
The following checklist was initially put together for my own purposes, but I figured that this information was useful to many other people as well – especially any website owner that plans to move their current website somewhere else.
Why Should You Migrate Your Website?
Before we jump into the migration checklist I found it very important to cover why, or why not, to migrate your website in the first place. Many times a website migration may not even be necessary, or recommended, so make sure to ask yourself the following questions before you move anything.
Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE Migrating Your Website
Does my website have any established search engine value?
Use the SEOBook Toolbar to determine if your website has any established search value, which may include PageRank, backlinks, numerous indexed pages and/or top organic search engine placement.
Does my website have valuable web pages that need to be maintained?
Check your Google Analytics to determine if any pages on your site are getting top organic placement and/or driving the majority of your visits and conversions. Besides this, a good rule of thumb is that if you have written any unique content for your website, then you absolutely should be giving it a lot of attention and consideration.
What benefits will my website get from a new content management system / platform?
Often times, some simple additions or programming can make your existing content management system or website platform optimal for your needs. In cases where your website’s current CMS or platform are so dated or restrictive, then migrating your website to something like WordPress can often be the best strategy.
What functionality, features or elements will my website lose if moved to another CMS / platform?
Perhaps your website was originally built with some special functionality made specifically for you or your visitors. Before you move your website you need to make sure that your new platform can replicate or, better yet, improve this functionality.
Will my website’s architecture be the same when it is migrated?
Many times when a website is moved to another CMS or platform some fundamental things are changed by default. One of these is the architecture of the site and/or the sitemap. Another is the URL structure for each web page. If either of these are going to be different than your current website, then the proper checks and balances need to be in place before you make any moves.
TIP: Create a spreadsheet of all of your website’s current pages. The spreadsheet should include the URL of the page, the title tag, the meta description, any header tags, any image tags and any content.
What to Check After a Website Migration
The following checklist has been put together to provide any website owner with a quick overview of the most important items to check after migrating a website to another platform or content management system.
For more detailed instructions be sure to consult a web development / SEO expert as recommended below.
Go through the following checklist BEFORE launching your newly migrated website:
- Verify that the website renders correctly in all browsers
- Double check spelling and grammar on important pages
- Run a link checker, like Xenu, to find and fix any broken links
- Double check important redirects to make sure that they are working correctly
- Implement the proper redirect code in your .htaccess file (don’t rely on any native features of your new platform) to avoid canonical issues
- Add any necessary conversion tracking codes (if applicable)
- Retest all forms
- Upload a favicon
- Upload the proper robots.txt file (if certain pages need to be blocked from search engines)
- Ensure that all social buttons / links are in place and working correctly
- Run the site through the W3 Validator
- Check and customize any error pages (eg. 404 error page)
- Create a backup of the entire website and database
- Give the website one last general run through
There are many things you can, and should, do yourself to know your website better and save on unnecessary costs. However, one of the things that we would highly recommend you spend some money on would be hiring a consultant or paying a little extra to your new web development firm to properly migrate your website for you. Any consultant or company worth their weight will know what to look for before and after the migration to make the transition as smooth as possible.