Is your site on the move to a bigger and better future? Whether you’re changing hosts or conducting a full redesign, it’s critical to properly migrate your site to its new destination.
Not sure exactly what that means? You’re not alone. Site migrations are a vague concept for people not well-versed in design, development, and search engine optimization (SEO). Let’s break down what migrating your website means and why it matters for the success of your business.
WHAT DOES MIGRATING A WEBSITE MEAN?
The term site migration is a tricky term to because it’s open to interpretation. For SEO professionals, a migration is an event where you make substantial changes to your website that can impact the visibility of your site on search engines. For developers and designers, a migration is an act where you move your site from one place to another.
The truth of the matter is that both are correct. There’s a lot of overlap in terms of what’s considered a site migration – these events can range from relatively simple hosting changes to complete website overhauls. The key is that if you need to move your website to a new place and redirect all your old webpages, you’re dealing with a site migration.
Think of a website migration as if your business moved to a new physical location. Your business has migrated to a new place, but you need to take measures to makes sure that your customers can reach you at your new establishment. You also have to make sure that your new space has all the utilities you need to run your business. With a proper site migration, you can make sure your users can reach your new website and that you can conduct business as usual.
WHY WOULD I NEED A WEBSITE MIGRATION?
Site migrations are pretty common – you just might not realize that you require one. There are plenty of reasons that a business would require a site migration, many of which can overlap depending on your exact needs. Common reasons to migrate your website include:
- A hosting change
- A new CMS or ecommerce platform
- Platform updates
- A domain change
- A website redesign
While any one of these events can require a site migration, many of them can, and will, overlap. For example, you may undergo a hosting change during a website redesign.
A HOSTING CHANGE
A hosting change is typically the simplest of all the site migrations your business might need. In this situation, you’ll need to migrate your site’s files and database to a new server. Even if you aren’t making any other changes to your site, that shift alone will require a migration to make for a seamless transition.
There are multiple reasons why you’d move your website to a new host – you’ve outgrown the capabilities of your current host, you’ve found a more cost-effective solution, etc. Whatever the reason, you’ll need to migrate your site over to make the hosting change.
A NEW CMS OR ECOMMERCE PLATFORM
Another common reason for a site migration is if you move your website to a new content management system (CMS) or ecommerce platform. There are a variety of reasons that you’d need to change platforms – better functionality, key ecommerce capabilities, etc. Regardless of your reason, you’ll need to migrate your site to this new platform to make for a seamless transition.
If you’re changing your CMS or ecommerce platform, the complexity of the migration depends on your goal. Each platform can dictate how you transfer your old site over to its new home. It’s like moving into a new building – every location has a different layout, so you’ll need to pick up everything and move it into its new spot before the whole office is ready to go.
For example, you’d need to create new templates for all your old content if you plan to migrate your site from a platform like WordPress to a more robust CMS like Umbraco. Ecommerce platform migrations are even more complicated because there are so many more factors that directly impact key business functions. You’ll need to make sure your new ecommerce platform has all the features you need – CRM integrations, content capabilities, etc. – so that you can successfully migrate your old information over.
Sometimes you need to migrate your website even if you aren’t changing platforms. Various platforms release upgrades of their product over time. Many of these upgrades are minor and include small new features, bug fixes, and other similar types of updates.
Other times, your platform may come out with a major version of an upgrade – even the best technology needs a big update from time to time. When that time comes, you may need to migrate your website from the old version of your platform to the new one.
The reason for this migration is that while your platform is still the same, it’s not the exact same product. Think of this process as going from a PlayStation 4 to a PlayStation 5 – they’re both PlayStation systems, but you’ll need to make the update to benefit from certain features. For your website, that can mean migrating your old information and making sure everything fits just right in the new major version of your platform.
Whether your business is rebranding or needed up to update its URL address, a domain change is another typical reason for a site migration. Changing your domain incurs a lot of the same needs as changing your content architecture because you’re updating your site at its lowest level. It’s like having your physical address changed – you’re going to need to move everything to your new location and let people know to go there now.
The technical part of this type of site migration is relatively easy. Once you get a new domain, you can point it at your web server and maker sure that your server answers to that domain. The tricky part is making sure that there aren’t any negative side effects caused by this migration. You certainly don't want your move to lead to 404 errors and a negative impact to your organic traffic.
If the internet knew your business as one domain and you changed it, you’ll need to make sure Google and your old users associate your new domain with the old one. Proactive measures like maintaining hosting or using Cloudflare for the old domain will send users to your new site even if they look for the old one. It’s like forwarding your mail to your new location, except that it helps you prevent a major drop in site traffic because Google and your customers don’t know where you went.
A website redesign is a bit different than some of the other reasons on this list because it doesn’t have to result in a site migration. If you’re keeping all your information in the same places and simply giving your site a design update, you aren’t really moving anything anywhere. Of course, the average redesign requires more than just a facelift.
Website redesigns often overlap with new hosts, domains, and platforms. In addition, your website redesign is also a perfect opportunity to analyze your current content architecture and site layout for potential improvements. Any and all of these changes will require you to migrate your information and set up 301 redirects for your new URL structure to make sure your site is all set for Google and your users.
MAKE YOUR WEBSITE MIGRATION A SUCCESS
With all the potential needs for a site migration, half the battle is figuring out which ones apply to your business. Many of the reasons for a site migration can and will overlap, which can lead to serious drops in traffic and other long-term problems if you’re not careful. That’s why it’s best to have a team in place to guide you through a successful website migration.
Fortunately, Aztek Web is here to help with your site migration needs. We have both the website design and development team and digital marketing experts to handle your site migration and protect your business. Contact us today to see how we can help you grow your business online!