I was recently asked about the SEO implications of migrating to a new domain. This can be scary! If you do a migration incorrectly, there’s definitely a chance of losing a significant amount of traffic. With that said, I know plenty of people that have done successful migrations. Let’s cover the big ones, so you can get back to what you do best. Business.
The 2018 Site Migration SEO Checklist
Check off items as you go along.
Use Screaming Frog, or a similar crawl tool, to get a comprehensive list of your URLs. A tool like this will definitely show you URLs you didn’t know you have. This is your survey of the universe. Export these URLs to a new sheet in Google sheets and call it “All URLs”
Export the “Top Pages” report in Google analytics, paste them into a second tab of the Google sheet and call it “Top URLs”
Use a link analysis tool like Ahrefs.com to sort your pages by links. Ahrefs calls this “Best by Links” under the “Pages” tab. Paste them into a third tab of the Google sheet.
You now have 3 tabs. All your URLs. Your top URLs by traffic. Your top URLs by links.
Compress all of this data into just 3 columns. Your URLs, the traffic over the last 30 days, and if you’re using Ahrefs, the link score (you could also use “total linking root domains” as a link metric if you’re using another tool – that works too). Your file might now look something like this:
Once you have this, add filters to it, decide if you want to 301 it, 404 it, or something else. Mark it down in the sheet and write down the URL you want to point it to. It might look something like this:
Setup the new site. You can use robots.txt to block search engines from indexing your new site until you’re ready. Make sure to remove this when you actually launch, ya bozo.
301 redirect your old stuff to your new stuff!
Double check and make sure that users and bots are actually being redirected when they hit the old URL. You can use a tool like Browseo to test.
Make sure to remove canonical tags on the new domain that are pointing back to the old domain, and make them self-referencing canonical tags.
Evaluate live pages and your new XML sitemap with the Google Search Console “Fetch and Render” feature to spot any additional bugs.
Once your new site has all the content moved up, and you’re ready to migrate, use the “Change of Address” feature in Google Search Console to let Google know you’re on the move.
Make sure to re-create your XML sitemap for your new domain. Test both your old sitemap and new sitemap heavily before submitting to Google. You want to make sure every URL in your old sitemap is correctly doing a 301 redirect to your new pages. Once both your old and new sitemap are error free, submit both to Google Search Console. There are lots of tools to help you create sitemaps in WordPress. If you’re not using WordPress, checkout xml-sitemaps.com.
Watch for 404s, crawl errors, number of indexed pages, organic and referral traffic on the new domain.
Do outreach for your links. If you can get people to update their content and link to your new URL, great. This is generally seen as better than a 301 redirect, even with Google’s announcement that 301 redirects now pass 100% of the link value.
Throughout this entire process, be sure to keep an eye out for any easy optimizations you can grab related to missing, duplicate, or under-optimized:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Broken links
- Img ALT tags
- Schema markup
- Site speed
- Crawl & server errors