11 Critical Takeaways From Completing Over 50 Website Migrations

2023 was all about website migrations for us in the SEO team, over fifty of them, and do we have stories to share…

2023 was a landmark year for us at iCrossing. It was a year marked by growth, challenges, and an unparalleled commitment to excellence.  

Embarking on a journey through more than fifty website migrations, we have navigated the complexities of one of the most difficult tasks & risks brands can undertake especially for SEO. 

We worked across a broad spectrum of industries and client sizes from small B2B sites to global ecommerce brands. Each project, with its unique demands and intricacies, was not just a task but an opportunity to refine our strategies, expand our expertise, and solidify our position as industry leaders in digital transformation. 

We are excited to share the eleven invaluable approaches from these migrations. These insights are more than lessons; they are a testament to our team's resilience, our clients' trust, and our collective journey towards positively affecting brand’s transitioning. 

  1. Prioritise damage mitigation

  2. Forecast, anticipate, and overcome

  3. You need to be immersed in the brand

  4. Tech Mastery is Non-Negotiable 

  5. Redirect map earliest as possible 

  6. Embrace AI & intelligent automation

  7. Every migration is different

  8. Be Flexible or Fall Behind

  9. Setup a "War Room"

  10. Start tracking the moments its live

  11. Migration is just the beginning

Dan Liddle

Senior SEO Director

1. Prioritise Damage Mitigation

Every URL change, every page transition, holds the potential to disrupt. Safeguarding & preserving should be the main KPI for any migration. This principle is not just about maintaining current standings; it is about recognising the intrinsic value of the established foundation. 

Setting this expectation is not just about risk aversion; it is about valuing what you've built and ensuring its continued success. Failure to prioritise this can lead to significant setbacks.  

Misaligned stakeholder goals are one of the biggest challenges, competing focuses can lead to fragmented efforts and last-minute changes. Causing delays, increased costs, and potentially compromising migration outcomes.  

Setting the narrative from the start and bringing everyone on the journey together from the get-go is crucial.  

2. Forecast, anticipate, and overcome

Forecasting is pivotal for clearly defining what success looks like: 

  • Set Clear Expectations: Begin with a comprehensive analysis of current metrics. Understanding where you stand before the migration sets a baseline for comparison. 

  • Define Success KPIs: Identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that will signal success post-migration.  

  • Use Historical Data: Leverage previous website traffic, revenue, goals & keyword data. But also use past migration experiences and industry benchmarks to forecast potential outcomes. This historical insight can guide realistic goal setting. 

3. You need to be immersed in the brand

From a migration standpoint, knowing everything about the brand is necessary. This means understanding internal processes, key decision-makers and most importantly the brand’s voice, values & goals. 

Failure to do so can lead to misinformed decisions that can cause upheavals during the migration and not connecting with the brand’s audience.  

Deep immersion in our clients' brands is not by chance but a result of our profound data literacy. This expertise allows us to navigate the complexities of a website migration, ensuring every decision, from keyword strategy to traffic analysis, is informed by a deep understanding of the brand's core goals and market position. 

4. Tech Mastery is Non-Negotiable

Having a seasoned technical SEO expert is not just beneficial – it is essential. Migrations are fraught with pitfalls that only deep technical knowledge can navigate.  

Understanding the intricacies of technical SEO—from the architecture of a website to the nuances of crawlability and indexation—is crucial for ensuring a smooth transition and maintaining a site's search engine visibility. 

Outside of knowledge there are other facets that benchmark outstanding approaches to technical SEO: 

  • Prioritise effectively: Distinguishing high-impact SEO tasks from lesser ones, ensuring that efforts are directed toward strategies that deliver the most significant benefits to the site's visibility and user experience. 

  • Simplify complex concepts: Exceptional ability to demystify SEO jargon and technical details for non-SEO stakeholders, ensuring clear understanding and alignment across teams. 

  • Communicate with developers: Excel in translating SEO needs into technical requirements developers can act on. Especially when this can be done within the sprints, ticketing and contextualise within the developer’s backlog. 

5. Redirect map earliest as possible

Ensuring everyone is onboard and all considerations are meticulously accounted for from the outset is crucial to sidestepping last-minute changes. Central to this process is finalising the latest information architecture as early as possible. 

By establishing a clear, agreed-upon architecture early, we lay a solid groundwork that guides every subsequent decision, minimising disruptions and keeping the migration on a steady course. 

6. Embrace AI & Intelligent Automation 

Use innovative technologies where you can particularly for complex data analysis and for scaling routine tasks. This can help ensure more time is used for strategic decision-making and effective communication. 

Underpinning this is not underestimating the need for human quality assurance for accuracy & ethical use when it comes to AI. Ensure your working with a partner that has a robust standpoint and a clear view of when to use automation.  

Download our 2024 migration guide

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7. Every Migration is Different

No two migrations are the same, ensure you are properly scoping for the tasks required dependent on what the goal is.  

Whether it is transitioning to a new CMS, merging multiple sites, or overhauling the site architecture, the scope of work must be meticulously defined to address the unique aspects of each migration. 

For example, in a CMS transition, our scoping process begins with a thorough audit of the existing content and structure, identifying any custom functionalities that need to be replicated or adapted in the new environment. We assess the SEO implications of the change, from URL structures to metadata compatibility, ensuring that every detail is considered.  

This comprehensive scoping ensures that we not only anticipate potential roadblocks but also seize opportunities to optimise and enhance the site's performance post-migration. 

8. Be Flexible or Fall Behind

Things do not always go as planned whether it is unforeseen technical issues or changes in project scope.  

Adaptability is the cornerstone of success in website migrations, where the best-laid plans often need re-evaluation in the face of unexpected challenges.  

This flexibility demands not just internal resilience but also a collaborative partnership with experts that has the resource to be agile and that is ready to tackle these surprises head-on. 

9. Setup a “War Room”

When possible, towards launch date when evaluating the staging environment, we have found enormous success with establishing a non-virtual dedicated space where key players converge to collaborate in real-time.  

This means bringing together, SEO specialists, developers, project managers and key stakeholders to discuss, QA and act upon decisions collectively ensuring we are prepared for launch. 

10. Start tracking the moment its live

The real insights come from tracking its performance the moment it goes live. Immediate, real-time monitoring allows us to capture and respond to data as it unfolds, ensuring any discrepancies are quickly identified and addressed. This initiative-taking approach not only safeguards your site's health but also optimises its performance from day one. Here is what you should keep an eye on: 

  • Technical Audit: Conduct a comprehensive crawl of the new site to identify any issues that could impact performance or SEO. Validate that redirects are functioning as intended and accurately reflect your redirect map. Compare the live site against pre-launch and staging environments to spot any discrepancies. 

  • Google/Adobe Analytics for Real-Time Insights: Monitor traffic patterns, user behaviour, and engagement metrics as they happen. 

  • Keyword Tracking: Keep tabs on your rankings for crucial keywords. This will help you understand how the migration has impacted your search visibility. 

  • Google Search Console Data: Once available, review Search Console reports for notable changes in search performance.  

  • 30-Day Post-Migration Report: After the dust has settled, compile a comprehensive report detailing the migration's impact on site performance, SEO rankings, and key metrics. Use this analysis to inform future strategies and optimisations. 

11. Migration is just the beginning…

Successfully transitioning to a more robust platform marks a significant milestone but it is not the destination. Now it is crucial to continue to evolve your SEO strategy for the migration to translate into a robust ROI for your brand.  

It is a perfect opportunity to reassess, realign and optimise for SEO to ensure the newly migrated site is positioned for success.  

Dive into our Migration Playbook for a sharper edge on your migration journey. Packed with step-by-step guidance and proven strategies, it is an essential companion for ensuring every migration is a leap towards transforming experiences.

Download our migration guide

Originally published in 2018 and updated annually, most recently for 2024, the steps within this Guide help anyone embarking on a site migration to plan for the expected and unexpected, ensure the correct SEO elements are built into the site specification from the start and that SEO is monitored throughout the project. iCrossing has a tried and tested process for site migrations and its checklist is the base used by all SEOs within the business.

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