SEO Concerns When Migrating Your Site

Thu 24 December 2009 14:15, Barry Adams

SEO Concerns When Migrating Your Site

It's one thing that goes wrong more than often, a site gets renewed or migrated and when they're done they forgot that they had to do SEO. Barry Adams adressed this problem in his post "SEO Concerns When Migrating Your Site". A must read and well worth a spot in the top 10 of 2009.

SEO Concerns When Migrating Your Site
Originally posted on May 19th 2009

Often when you do a site-wide update of your design, your content and/or your site structure, it can affect your website's rankings in search engines negatively. Facing a huge site update project myself, I recently spent some time doing research on how to prepare for a big site update and ensure your high rankings stay high. I wanted to share my findings with you here on SearchCowboys.

My research soon lead me to an article on the popular Dutch blog, providing a site migration checklist. The key takeaways from this article are:

  • Try to keep your URL's the same. Use 301 redirects for URL's that have to change and ensure you redirect all changed URL's to the content's new location.
  • Don't change too much too quickly. If you do a redesign, content update and rebrand all in one, too many changes are happening and you're likely to lose rankings on many keywords.
  • Don't change your domain's WhoIs information. A changed WhoIs can give search engines the impression your website has changed owners, and they could reset all your rankings across the board.

An article from Jennifer Osborne on added several considerations:

  • Do a phased change-over: start with a small section of your site and evaluate, then proceed with the rest.
  • Keep your internal link structure in mind when doing a redesign. Internal link juice is important as it tells search engine spiders which pages on your site are important. Don't divert attention from your key pages with a poor structure.
  • Track your web analytics and pay extra attention to 404 errors after the migration. This may indicate broken links, both internal and external, pointing to moved or deleted content.

Denver SEO adds the following point:

  • Expect to see your rankings drop regardless of your preparations. A 25 to 30 day drop in search engine rankings is normal before levels return to normal or better.

Of course we can't skip Google's own recommendations:

  • Add and verify your site on Google's Webmaster Tools.
  • Update your Sitemap XML file to reflect the updated site.
  • Keep track of crawling errors to detect 301 redirect problems and 404 errors.

And here are a few other tips I came across on various sites and blogs:

  • Create a custom 404 error page to try and minimize the impact of broken links.
  • If your site update is significant enough, publish a press release.
  • Use PPC ads to supplement your (temporary) drop in rankings.
  • Update your robots.txt file to reflect any changes in off-limits content.

After this research I feel well-equipped to handle the SEO aspect of my own site migration project. If you have any further tips or ideas, please leave them in the comments.

Once my migration project is done I'll write an evaluation here on SearchCowboys to let you know how it went and what we learned from it.

  • Comments (4)
  • SEO
  • Tell-a-cowboy

Comments (4)


  • This can be a very frustrating thing to go through. Especially if things don't bounce back. It is important to keep an eye on everything after you make the changes for sometime.

    Di 19 mei 2009, 17:47

  • Quite useful, thanks.

    One interesting thing, specially for redesign changes: make an effort to mantain you on-site SEO optimization the same way it was before (h1 tags, titles, keywords..).

    Vr 22 mei 2009, 14:47

    • Dudibob

    I've done a pretty big migration, mainly swapping from asp to and re-constructed all URLs to be more SE friendly. The main thing I did was redirects, buckets and buckets of 301 redirects with the old pages pointing to the most relevant new pages. Text book stuff maybe but the site lost I think about 10% search traffic for a week then was better than ever! :)

    Vr 22 mei 2009, 17:40

  • Nice article thanks!

    Last time i did a big migration the site dissapeared from google for a couple of days..

    Zo 27 dec 2009, 10:28


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