Last updated - February 24, 2020
Migrations come in all shapes and sizes, hosting migration, architecture migrations, platform migrations, domain migrations, subdomain to subfolder, HTTP to HTTPS. Although migrations can do wonders for your site and with that your business, they are a pretty complicated task even for the professionals. They are intimidating because if you don’t do them absolutely right, you risk losing traffic, visibility, and of course revenue. A slight deterioration in traffic is normal after a migration, but a big plunge in the traffic rates are an indicator that something has gone seriously wrong.
Steps to overcoming a migration disaster
Once you have realized that you have a disaster on your hands the only thing you can do is try and repair the damage that has been done. The following steps are what you should do to try and repair it. And while working on it, it would be a good idea to have a plugin like WP Reset ready.
Determine which are your most meaningful pages
The first step you should take is pinpoint which pages on your site have suffered the biggest decline in traffic, visibility and conversion rates. You should research which pages were your most popular pages, which of them had the most impressions, clicks, highest-ranking positions, large amounts of traffic and/or were referred a lot by other sites prior to the migration happening. This can be determined by analyzing current and historical data through Google Analytics.
Compare the old and the new
Not all changes are necessarily good, your old pages might have been exactly what your audience wanted, and your new pages aren’t as relevant and captivating. You should do this comparison for the pages you deemed as the most meaningful in the first step.
To do the comparison you can view the old pages through a closed development environment if you still have them at your disposal, or you can use a service that will allow you to look at a former version of your site, the Wayback Machine for instance.
Create a list of keywords for which your pages were ranking
Before the migration, the pages of your site were appearing and ranking in the search results for particular topics and keywords. Go through the list of related keywords and see if your new pages are ranking or even showing up in the searches of the keywords their former versions were ranking for.
A loss in visibility could be devastating for your site and its business so you have to make sure you know if it is happening to your pages.
“Crawl” through your pages
Do crawls through your old site and your current one to see clearly the gaps and the issues between the two versions. Indexation, metadata and even your content should also be analyzed in case it was affected by the migration.
Check your redirecting
The integrity of your URL structure is maintained through proper redirecting. Redirecting is how you make sure that a person will end up at the new version of a page and not on the infamous 404 page, after clicking a link for the old version.
Broken links will make Google look at your site as untrustworthy, not worth any indexing or crawling. This will result in you losing a spot in both paid and organic searches, basically non-existent on the internet.
Redirecting needs to be done in a number of places, on internal links but also external sites containing links to your site. You should find out what were the top external sites pointing to your pages and make sure the links they contain are correct, so you can reclaim the traffic they were once sending to your site.
Make sure you haven’t created any unwanted redirect loops and that all external links go directly to the new pages.
Bad redirecting can lead to something referred to as duplicated content. It occurs when the HTTP to HTTPS redirects aren’t site-wide and permanent, and/or when your links aren’t pointing to just the WWW or non-WWW version of your site. Google really isn’t a fan of duplicated content and will sometimes heavily penalize you for it.
Dedicated attention should be given to your site’s mobile version and check if all the redirect logic is working properly on it as well.
Get Expert Help
As you can see redirecting holds a very important role in your site’s success, especially after a migration has gone wrong, so it’s absolutely necessary to do it right. Unfortunately, doing all the work around redirecting isn’t easy and assistance is needed most of the time.
One plugin that will take care of your redirecting problems is WP 301 Redirects. With WP 301 Redirects your visitor won’t have the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the 404 pages, only the pages they actually wanted to see. All the changes made on your post and pages will be monitored, and when necessary, a redirect rule will be created following those changes so absolutely no action is needed on your part.
No bots (except Google’s) will be allowed on your site, so you can leave that worry in the past. You shouldn’t worry about this plugin slowing your site’s performance either since it is not going to load any external CSS or JS files. It will work with any WordPress theme or plugin you have installed already and can be removed easily without leaving anything behind.
If you like Google’s bots but not their analytics, WP 301 Redirects will provide you with their own information charts about your site and dedicated professional support. Basically, WP 301 Redirects is everything you need for handling redirects, all in one plugin.
When you have all your redirects set up correct, double-check the pages they are pointing to, maybe the redirects weren’t the only cause of your site’s traffic problems, but also the pages themselves.
Create new content and be active on social media
A good indicator for google that they should pay attention to a site and monitor its performance is when the site is putting out new content regularly and has active social media accounts. This way you will get Google’s attention and it will sooner or later give your site another chance by recrawling and indexing its pages.
Use paid searches
Getting your organic traffic to its previous rates won’t come overnight. In the meantime, after you have completed all the above-mentioned steps, you can use paid searches to create steady traffic on your site and have a decent number of people visiting and exploring your site.
Migrations are no joke, and they should require even more planning than launching a website. The damage done after a migration disaster can unfortunately, be long-term. Luckily, it is not too difficult to fix, if the steps we went through in this article are done right. When you get yourself in a situation of this sort, regardless of who’s fault it is, what you need to do is convince Google to trust your site again. Hopefully, this article can serve as a guide for you in that entire process.