There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a website and trying to navigate an outdated webpage. Actually, one thing might be worse: the dreaded 404 error status code. These are warning signs that a website needs to be migrated or was migrated incorrectly.

A website migration gives your website a polished look and involves the work of moving links and content from an old website or markups to a new one. The big benefit is increasing SEO.

Wondering if a website migration is right for you?

Website migrations are useful if you’ve found that your site has areas that are in need of a major update in the SEO department. For instance, if visitors have trouble with navigation and can’t find it on search engines, then it may be time to look into migrating your website.

In a nutshell, if you migrate a website successfully, you’re likely to experience an increase in traffic, happier customer experiences, and a cleaner website.

What this means is that your pages of impact should be cleaner, free of status code errors, and have minimal redirects. Website migrations can be done professionally or on your own. If you’re thinking of getting a migration done professionally, HubSpot offers migration services, as well as other CRMs or freelance SEO specialists.

If you’re considering a website migration, keep in mind that you must leave yourself time to prepare and execute. Migration specialists usually take about three weeks, so be sure to plan accordingly.

Another preparation tip is to crawl your website. This ensures that you have a full list of URLs to refer to in case something gets lost in translation.

Now, let’s get into the details of migrating a website.

Website Migration Checklist

When preparing for a website migration, HubSpot Migration Specialist Katelyn Eklund recommends to focus on these main steps:

1. Maintain URL structures on webpages.

2. Implement redirects for changing URLs.

3. Make sure pages and descriptions are the same.

4. Keep the same HTML markups.

5. Set up forwarding.

We’ll explain what these steps mean below. For a deeper dive into these steps, download our checklist.

1. Maintain URL structures on webpages.

When updating URLs, the structure of every single URL should be in the same format. For instance, the URL should have the same hypertext (HTTP/HTTPS), domain (.com, .gov, .net) and paths (content after backslash).

To illustrate, if I were to map the URLs for HubSpot’s marketing blog, they should look like this:

Instead of something like this:

This helps with SEO optimization. To do this, you’ll need to update and create a few things. The annotations in the HTML and internal links should be updated and saved in your sitemap. For more information on how to update URLs, check out this article.

2. Implement redirects for changing URLs.

Improper redirects would mean a big hit for your SEO. They tell search engines and visitors of your website that a page has changed, whether it’s been removed or no longer exists. They also tell search engines what new pages have replaced old ones.

Redirects can be done manually by mapping every URL of the old site into a URL on a new site. But if you have tons of pages, that probably isn’t in the cards or you, so to save time, look for patterns in your URLs that can be redirected in groups or sections.

Existing redirects should be migrated as well. Try to keep as many existing redirects as possible to lessen the workload, and make sure your URLs are mapped before you test redirects, to make sure you have backups if you lose them.

3. Make sure pages and descriptions are the same.

Recall that website migrations help with website organization. As such, pages should be uniform and contain the same information as they did before. To illustrate, if the HubSpot Marketing Blog underwent a site migration, the content and descriptions for each blog post would be the same, just look different.

You can always update or rewrite the information, but this is the step where you make sure that what needs to be there for pages are still there. This process is continued in the next step.

4. Keep the same HTML markups.

Again, because one of the main purposes of website migration is to emerge with an updated, organized, and optimized website, headings need to be maintained as well. This includes other HTML markups.

So if you have pages with H1s, H2s, H3s, and so on, they should have the same tags within your website. Similarly, don’t forget the alt text on images, because they tell search engines what your photo is, meaning your pages can rank higher.

5. Set up forwarding.

Another essential step is to implement domain forwarding. This means you need to make sure the root domain forwards to the subdomain. For a visual explanation:

A root domain looks like this:

A subdomain looks like this:

This step includes implementing the forwarding in website pages, so when visitors want to go to your site, they can type in the root domain and immediately get brought to the subdomain website.

Website migration can be a lengthy process, but it’s not impossible. With preparation, you can have a migration that’s successful and raises your SEO. And if you’re worried about missing a step, our full checklist on steps to take can be downloaded here.