Website migration refers to the process of moving your website from one hosting provider to another. It can be a challenging process with lots of potentials for things to go wrong, but it doesn’t have to be. This article will go over the steps you need to take to migrate your website with minimal fuss or downtime. First, let’s talk about why you might want to do such a thing:
Introduction to website migration
As time goes on, companies will change, technology will improve, and website hosting environments will become more secure, faster, and user-friendly. Eventually, you’ll face the challenge of migrating your website simply because you’ll outgrow your current hosting environment, or it will become less secure. Not to mention, operating systems and hardware are updated over time which can also lead to website downtime if not properly configured. In those instances, you will need to pick up your existing tech stack and move it, upgrade it, or merge it. This is called a website migration.
Reasons for website migration
You’re unhappy with your current CMS
Having an outdated platform makes it very difficult for your visitors to navigate it, almost always equating to a loss in sales. If you aren’t getting the performance you need from your current framework or CMS, it might be time for a change. That being said, there may also be options that allow you to update and improve your current framework without migrating it.
Your business got acquired and you need to merge your site with theirs
A common reason for website migrations is when one company acquires another. The two companies will need to merge their websites and content into a single site in these cases.
You are changing your site’s current structure or design
This isn’t something you should do on a whim, but if major reworks to your website can increase conversion rates, then it might be worth the time to migrate your site.
You are adding a mobile site
When considering Google’s mobile-first indexing (and the large amount of mobile traffic to your site), implementing a mobile-first platform is one of the best things you can do for your business.
You need to move from HTTP to HTTPS
Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS certainly requires you to know this process. Not only are your URLs changing, but the entire infrastructure of how you handle traffic needs to be migrated over to support secure certificates on all connections.
You want to change your domain name
Whether it is a whole rebrand or simply getting your hands on a new URL, you are going to have to move your website in order to do so.
What you need for a successful website migration
Before you even start migrating your website, there are a few things that you need to take care of. Here is a checklist:
The pre-migration checklist
Let your visitors know that you plan to migrate your website – Put up a banner announcing the migration and include a date by which everything will be completed. This will let your visitors know in advance what is happening and when they can expect the transition to be complete.
Check your DNS settings – Make sure that your DNS settings are correct and that all of your domain names are pointing to the proper IP address and server.
Check your server – Make sure that your hosting provider provides you with a stable enough environment for traffic after you make these changes to your DNS settings. Otherwise, it could cause downtime or slow speeds during migration.
Make sure you have backups – If there’s one thing we can’t stress enough, it’s to make sure you have backups of your website. If something goes wrong during migration (or even after), you’ll be able to quickly restore your site without any data loss.
The migration process
Now that we’ve gone over some of the things you need to do before migrating your website let’s go over the actual process.
The first step in any migration is to plan out the project. This includes figuring out what you want to migrate, how you’re going to do it, and what could go wrong as well as creating wireframes for the migration. Here are a few key things to think about:
What data do you need to migrate? – Not everything on your website needs to be migrated. It is best to keep large amounts of data off-site. This includes your CMS configuration and any third-party integrations with other companies/apps (like CRMs).
What do you need to change? – Take a look at how much content there is on the website that needs to be migrated over. If it’s a lot, you might want to consider doing a staged migration where only a portion of the website is moved over at a time.
What are the risks? – Migration can be very risky. Things can go wrong, and it’s important to have contingencies in place should something happen. Test your migrations before putting them into production and always have backups handy.
Once you have a plan in place, it’s time to start preparing your website for migration. This includes making changes to your DNS settings, setting up redirects, and creating backups.
DNS Preparation – The first step is to update your DNS records with the new information. This will include the IP address of your web server and any subdomains you might be using.
Redirects – In order to keep your visitors from getting lost during the migration, you’ll need to set up redirects from your old URLs to the new ones. This can be done with a simple .htaccess file or through your web server’s configuration files.
Backups – The last thing you want to do is lose all of your hard work during the migration. You should set up a backup schedule for your website before starting any changes to avoid this.
Data migration – The last step in preparation is to actually migrate over the data that’s on your old site into the new one. This includes everything from content and images to third-party integrations.
Testing and launch
Once everything is prepared, it’s time to start testing. This includes doing a dry run of the migration process as well as testing your backups and redirects.
Migration – The actual migration process can be done in a few different ways. Here are a few common methods:
FTP/SFTP upload – This is the most common way to migrate data. You can use a tool like FileZilla or Cyberduck to easily upload your files to the new server.
CVS – If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, you can export your content as a CVS file and import it into the new installation.
SQL – Another common way to move data is by using an SQL dump. This can be used to export your data from a database or import it into a new one.
Third-party integrations – Finally, you may have content on your website that is being pulled in from other sources. If this data needs to be updated (for example, Twitter information), make sure it gets migrated over before the launch so everything runs smoothly.
Once everything has been tested and approved, all that is left is to launch the new website. The best way to do this is by redirecting your old content over to the new one and updating any out-of-date links or references.
While launching a brand new website can be an exciting time, it’s important not to let that excitement make you forget about maintenance! Once your site is live, make sure to keep an eye on things and update it as needed.
While your new site replaces the old one, there is a good chance that your site will be down. When this happens, make sure not to panic. Instead, a 503 server unavailable response should pop up, telling both visitors and search engine crawlers that the website is temporarily unavailable.
Once the migration is complete, there are still a few things you need to do in order to finish the process:
First, make sure that you have updated all your links and references to the new site. This includes anything from your email signature to social media profiles.
Second, set up a 301 redirect from the old website to the new one. This will ensure that any traffic to the old site is automatically redirected to the new one.
Finally, keep an eye on your analytics, including crawl stats and server logs. This will allow you to keep an eye on your rankings and prevent unwanted penalties.
Remember, measuring your overall site migration performance doesn’t need to happen right away; typically, you won’t see significant results until around 2-3 months after launch. Once you have waited that amount of time, you can go back in and optimize your website performance in any way that you need to.
Website migration is a massive process that should not be taken lightly. Since no two are the same, there is much room for error. Make sure you do your research and plan everything out completely before moving forward. Once your new site is up and running, make sure to keep an eye on things like analytics and rankings. This will ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. Finally, don’t forget about the maintenance once the website launch has been completed. While it’s a good idea to celebrate, you still need to keep things running as smoothly as possible.