SEO tips for Migrating a Website

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By Dave Ashworth
on 25/1/13

So you are getting a new site built but what steps need to be taken to ensure that the move between the old website and the new site is seamless?  Below are the steps we recommend to ensure that your digital marketing campaign isn’t affected during the move.

Scrape The Site

Firstly, before any work has commenced on the new site, I would recommend you run the current site through a scraper tool such as Screaming Frog to list all of the pages on there. This will give you incredibly valuable information for the site, including the Meta and Header tags, and will highlight any 404 errors. Save this file, as you will need to use it later on during the migration.

Block The Site

If the new site is built on another URL, a sub-domain or any file that will be accessible, you will need to “Block It”.  Most of the more common CMS systems such as WordPress and Magento have the ability to put the sites into “Development Mode”.  This essentially puts this tag across all of the site’s pages “<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">”.  This tag will stop the site being indexed in the search engines and eliminate any duplicate content issues.

Mapping Meta and H1s

When all of the content has been added to the site you will need to go back and open that site scrape that you did. This will help you map the Meta data and Header tags to the relevant pages and identify any pages you are missing from the new website.

301 Redirects

The next step is the longest but will have the most benefit to the site. If you run a scrape of the new site whilst it’s in development you will be able to get a list of the new URLs.  You then need to get the default .htaccess file that comes with the CMS or create a blank one if it is a flat file structure.

The quickest and most effective way to do this is to open an Excel document and follow the instructions below:

    1. Paste the old URLs in Column A.

Step 1

    1. In Column B you will need to trim the old URL that it removed the domain – e.g. to be trimmed to /old-site.
    2. Add 301 Redirect to Column C.
    3. Add a space to Column D.
    4. Replicate Column B, C, D so that the information appears for all of the old URLs.

Step 5

    1. In Column E, you will have to match up the URLs from the new site to match up the related pages.
    2. In Column F you will need to concatenate all the information from Columns B, C, D, E in the following order - C,D,B,D,E
    3. Then you will just have to copy all of Column F into the .htaccess file.

Step 8


Just remember, when adding in the new URLs you will need to change the domain form the test server to match the destination one.

Robots and Sitemap

Also you will need to make sure that you have the new Robots.txt file and the Sitemap.xml file prepared. Just so that when the site is indexed it has a list of the new URLs on the site and doesn’t Index any core files from the CMS.

Check Tracking

Once all the pages have been mapped you will have to check things such as tracking from Google Analytics and any other tracking tools you might be using are correctly implemented on the site.

Backup The New Site

Before you put the site live it is always best to grab a backup of the existing site as well as any databases that it might be using. The worst case scenario is that you can put the old site live if there are any problems with the new site.

Timing A Site Launch

Now you think you’re ready to put the site live, before you do, just have a glance at the time.  My rule of thumb is that you don’t want to put a site live after 2pm or later than a Wednesday. This is so that if there are any problems they can be addressed by you or your team. There is nothing worse than a site not working or going down and everybody has gone home for the day.

Remove Tags

Now you have the new site ready it’s time to go live. Make sure you remove the following Meta tag “<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">”.  Then you will need to upload the site to the server with all of the relevant files.

Removing Development Server

After the site has been uploaded I also recommend removing the site from the development server as it will not be required any more. To monitor and track the performance of the new site I would recommend that a note is added to Google Analytics and performance of the old site is benchmarked so that progress can be easily compared.

If you have any questions about any of these steps please contact the SEO team.