Never Mind the Bullocks – 26 Steps to Site Migration Success

I started my freelance business in early 2006 when we lived in Brighton, a bustling city. Helpinthecity seemed like a decent url, even though it didn’t contain the word ‘copywriting’ or ‘copywriter’. It was memorable, and I liked the way it referred cheekily to the TV series Sex and the City.
Now we’ve moved to north Devon, to a rural idyll of a house with an acre of stream-bordered woodland garden. We couldn’t be farther from city life, and my url doesn’t feel relevant any more.
The other day the our farmer neighbour moved a load of enormous creamy-brown bullocks into the field opposite our house. Being curious beasts they bundled straight across the field to meet us en masse, a jostling crowd of enormous, gentle creatures with fragrant, grassy breath and great big, moist brown eyes.
I was inspired. Back indoors I searched to see if was available. It was, and I bought it. Now I’m faced with the complex task of migrating my original site to the new URL, something I haven’t got round to yet. It isn’t something I want to do willy-nilly without thinking things through. So I’ve made myself a basic checklist to follow.

New URL? Here’s a site migration checklist

Any change to a website’s structure can affect its natural search visibility. Unless you get every aspect of site migration right search engines might not even realise your site has moved. There’s more. Your new site might not rank as well as the original, and in some cases it could disappear from the SERPs altogether.
Every migration is different, of course. I jotted down 26 tips to help me master the basics and migrate to my new URL successfully. Here’s hoping I haven’t missed anything crucial. If you spot a glaring omission, let me know!

  1. First of all, establish which keywords the existing  site ranks for, and which drive the most traffic my way
  2. Keep the keywords that I rank well for in the titles and body copy
  3. Assess which content to keep and what can be discarded
  4. Take advantage of the move to rewrite anything that isn’t perfect
  5. Build a spreadsheet containing a list of every URL in the current site and another list for the new site, using suitable software
  6. Map each old URL to its new URL so I can 301 redirect them properly
  7. Build a sitemap of the new site
  8. Identify the most potent backlinks in the current site so I can switch them to the new URL
  9. Add the new domain to my Google Search Console
  10. Make an XML Sitemap for the new site
  11. Test all the 301 redirects at page level – crawlers can do it quickly and efficiently
  12. Check all the self-referring canonicals are right
  13. Password protect the new domain, blocking crawlers in my robots.txt file until the new site is ready for indexing. For belt and braces safety, use meta noindex tags too
  14. Publish the new site and check it has migrated properly, including all the internal links
  15. Implement 301 redirects at page level and verify they’re working
  16. Take the disallow rule out of the robots.txt file so search engines can crawl the new site
  17. Let Google know the site is a ‘change of address’ via the Search Console
  18. Go to the new domain area and click on Crawl > Fetch as Google, then press ‘submit to index’
  19. Submit your sitemap of the new site and check it
  20. Change the URLs in my social buttons
  21. Ask people who have linked to my old pages or posts to change the destination of the links so they point to the right place in the new site
  22. Check for 404 ‘page not found’ errors and fix them
  23. For at least 4 weeks after migration, check the Search Console for crawl errors
  24. Crawl the old URLs twice a week for the first month to ensure my 301s are working
  25. Make sure the indexation is right for the new and old site – indexation of the old one should decrease and the new increase
  26. Set up new email addresses and redirect old addresses to the new ones

Wish me luck creating my new site, assuming I ever get round to it. I’m very busy right now, with no spare time in the foreseeable future to tackle the project. Such is life…

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