- Mar 05, 2022
- by Kate Meda
Whether or not you’re aware, website migration affects SEO. Anytime you make drastic changes to your website, you put your SEO at risk. Many web hosts offer free migration services, or you may opt to migrate yourself using your developer. Still, although the migration is free, it doesn’t mean the migration is optimized for SEO. Our team migrates websites every day, and through our experience, we made our checklist to help your migration unfold smoothly without your SEO taking a hit.
So, Does Website Migration Affect SEO?
Any server change carries a slight SEO risk with or without modifications to your website, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You see, migrations primarily affect site speed. So if you’re migrating to a host like A2 Hosting, you’ll notice increased site speed. As loading time is a top SEO ranking consideration, this can only help you, not hurt you. Unfortunately, this means the opposite for migrating to a slower host (maybe it’ll make you think again about migrating to a cheaper host?).
When users experience slow loading times, they’re less likely to revisit your site in the future, especially when more than 50% of visitors abandon a website if a page takes over 2 seconds to load. Since 2010, speed has been a ranking factor for desktop searches on Google. When researching new hosts, look for speed optimizations or determine how the web hosting company optimizes its servers for speed.
For example, at A2 Hosting, we use only SSD and NVMe storage. “Our speed, your success” is our motto because we believe that speed is the most critical factor in attracting, maintaining, and increasing traffic and conversions. Additionally, our Turbo servers offer Litespeed caching, and specific servers also offer the AMD EPYC processors. When combined, these three elements contribute to lightning-fast speeds.
Changing web hosting providers can also come with risks, especially if you lose certain functionalities at the new host or move from Apache to Nginx or IIS (Internet Information Services). If you’re wary about changing hosts, talk with someone on our sales team about the process and ensure your server needs match up with what we can offer you.
Now that we’ve discussed how website migrations affect SEO, let’s review the migration process. Use our SEO checklist to prepare your website for its migration:
- 1. Set up a staging site on your new server. Before canceling your other web hosting plan, compare your existing site’s page load speeds against the new server’s load speeds. Hopefully, the new server improved your site speeds!
- 2. Pick a slow time. After testing your new site on the server, pick a quiet time to perform the DNS propagation. Your site may be down for up to 24 hours as the DNS propagates around the world, but choose a time when you experience low traffic, so you’re not missing opportunities for leads and conversions.
- 3. Perform checks on your site. For example, check the organic health of your website. Is there any penalization for spammy backlinks? Are your current backlinks relevant for the content? We recommend tracking your site’s domain authority with Moz Pro.
- 4. Crawl your site. With Moz Pro or ScreamingFrog, you can crawl your website to receive a full URL and content inventory. Then, you can fix issues while you’re staging your site and map old URLs to new URLs in your 301 redirect map.
- 5. Update Internal Links. Test your website and update internal links to avoid internal redirects or broken links. ScreamingFrog allows you to find internal links and their attached anchor text and their respective pages.
- 6. Create a custom 404 page. When visitors experience a broken page, engage them with a custom 404 page. It should direct them to your homepage or additional pages on your website. Otherwise, a blank 404 page frustrates users and makes them want to close the browser tab altogether and find a site that works.
- 7. Update your Robots.txt file. The robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages the crawler can or can’t request from your site. It lives at www.yoursite.com/robots.txt.
- 8. Test your website on mobile. Is your site responsive or rendering correctly on a mobile device? Google offers a Mobile-Friendly Test tool to determine if Google views your site as mobile-friendly.
- 9. Measure your performance post-launch. Once you’ve ensured your site launches appropriately, there are no broken pages or backlinks, your site is mobile-friendly, and you’ve updated your robots.txt file, analyze your performance after you launch your website. Check your ranking performance, organic traffic users/sessions, check for site crawl issues, and monitor your backlink profile. Track any 404 page traffic in your Google Analytics post-launch to catch and add any redirects to your 301 redirect file.
SEO doesn’t need to be significant when migrating your website concern. With a few preparations, you can efficiently execute a website migration plan without worrying about lowering your website’s ranking.