The Risks of Website Migrations & How to Avoid Them

website migration

Do you own a website or rely on your online presence for business purposes? If so, at some point you may be considering switching your website over to a new provider. Maybe the platform you’re using is outdated, support isn’t fast enough, or there aren’t as many cool features offered with your current Content Management System (CMS) Whatever the case, migrations can be a risky undertaking if not done properly. They can cause irreversible damage to your website, which in turn can have detrimental effects on your business. That’s why it’s extremely important to consider the risks of switching to a new CMS, and if you do decide to make a switch, let Aronson Advertising be your guide.

 

What is a Migration?

Before you can understand the risks of a full website migration, it’s important to understand what exactly it means to migrate. A website migration is the transfer of an entire website from one server to another (e.g. switching CMS providers). While it sounds simple enough, there are a lot of moving parts that go into a full website migration. There’s carrying over content, getting redirects properly placed, ensuring content is linked properly, and many other crucial steps that ensure you keep the same quality online presence you had prior to migration. By not completing these steps, you run the risk of putting yourself in a position to completely destroy your online authority and presence.

Before migrating, it’s important to really consider the risks and whether or not the end result will be worth it. A website migration should only occur when absolutely necessary. With all that goes into a migration, it’s not worth the risk of ruining your online presence because of one feature your current provider doesn’t have.

 

The Risks of a Full Website Migration

Website migrations are risky for a variety of reasons. The URL structure could change, content can be left behind, or maybe your new provider isn’t even aware of all that goes into a successful migration. If your business relies heavily on maintaining an  online presence, then neglecting any of the above aspects won’t only hurt your web performance, but your wallet as well.

 

Transferring Content

One of the most important aspects of a successful migration is the transfer of quality content. If you aren’t going with a CMS provider that’s willing to transfer over all of your requested pages, look elsewhere. Some providers may also charge you extra to carry over additional pages. If you have pages that consistently perform well, then it’s worth it to transfer them.

Your content is the backbone of your website. It’s what drives sessions, brings in leads, and helps build your overall authority and online presence. If you fail to transfer over content that performs well, then you’re essentially starting from scratch and losing all of your built up authority. You’ll see an almost immediate decline in traffic and leads when high performing pages aren’t brought over since the pages that were once driving them were left behind. Take a look below to see just how big of an impact high performing content has on a site and why carrying these pages over is so crucial to continued success post-migration.

 

Aronson Custom Landing Page Sessions (Jan 1, 2019 – May 31, 2019)
Organic Users Sample 1 (Jan-apr)

This image shows data for organic traffic coming from custom landing pages built by Aronson Advertising. As time progresses, there is a steady rise in sessions with a peak of 380 and an average of roughly 300-325 daily towards the end of February. During post-migration in early March, we see an immediate drop because none of the custom landing pages were carried over during the migration process. With roughly 72% of all organic traffic coming from those custom landing pages, the client lost a good deal of potential business and leads. Another thing to consider is that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. This lost traffic is going to take time to build back up to where it once was.

 

All Organic Sessions (Oct 1, 2018 – Dec 31, 2018)
All Users Sample 1

This image shows all organic traffic data from the same sample. In February, the client reached a peak of 533 total organic sessions with an average of roughly 450 daily. In March, there is a steep decline post-migration to where sessions drop to an average of 150-200 a day. The drop you see again is from the new CMS not carrying over any of the pages that were previously performing well. This shows just how big of an impact those pages from Aronson Advertising had, and by not carrying them over, traffic has been cut roughly cut in half along with a significant loss of potential leads.

 

Redirects

While transferring content is extremely important, redirects are also something that cannot be ignored when migrating. What is a redirect you ask? Simply put, a redirect is when you direct one URL to another (i.e. when users click on the old URL, they are brought to the new URL you’ve redirected them to). This is important for migrations because if the URL structure changes even a little bit, you’ll have to redirect all of the old URLs to the new ones. If you don’t, the links to your old pages will be given what is called a 404 or “page not found” error. This offers poor user experience and it’s likely they’ll go elsewhere for their needs. Typically URL’s don’t change. If they do, pay extra close attention to ensure all redirects are properly placed to avoid major traffic loss.

During a migration, URL changes aren’t the only thing you have to worry about when getting redirects placed. If there are some old pages that just aren’t worth carrying over, then you’ll need to redirect those old URLs too. Ideally you want to redirect to a similar page that focuses on the same topic. The issue in the auto industry is that many CMS providers will blanket redirect every page to your home page or inventory pages. This isn’t effective because if the original page has nothing to do with the page you’re redirecting it to, Google recognizes this and you’ll lose all the traffic from that page. Even if it’s a low number of sessions, it’s still important to remove all 404 errors for a clean site and positive user experience. For example, if you properly redirect 10 pages that get 50 sessions a month, that’s 500 sessions you’ve just redirected. Alone, one page may not make much of a difference, but properly migrating all of your under performers can be beneficial in the long run. Overall, it pays to have a redirect strategy in place during every migration.

 

All Organic Sessions (Oct 1, 2018 – Dec 31, 2018)
Organic Users Sample 2

This is an example of a different client whose content was properly carried over, but redirects weren’t properly placed. In November, the client was averaging roughly 200 organic sessions a day. When the new site went live and not all of the redirects were placed properly, the session count dropped about 50%. In this scenario, the old URLs were all sent to either inventory pages or the home page. Google recognized this as not serving the user’s intent properly and essentially devalued many of those performing pages. While we were eventually able to recover most of the traffic by getting the redirects properly placed, it just goes to show how important it is to get them done right initially.

 

Changed Page Titles and Meta Descriptions

Making sure your page titles and meta descriptions transferred over correctly is another important part of any CMS migration. More often than not, page titles and meta descriptions won’t be transferred during migration even if the content is. Instead, they’ll more than likely be replaced with generic filler text provided by the CMS. It’s important to update and fix these titles and meta descriptions as soon as they’re identified. Page titles carry a lot of weight when it comes to ranking and they also tell users exactly what to expect on your page. It’s important to keep these updated to maximize your pages performance and provide the best possible user experience.

 

How To Avoid a Risky Migration

Unfortunately, there will always be risk when migrating a website. Not just because of the issues mentioned, but also because you’re relying on the fact that the person helping you knows what they’re doing. More often than not, CMS providers aren’t taught how to properly handle migrations or aren’t thorough enough when setting the redirects and transferring over content. This leaves website owners vulnerable to botched migrations, which can severely  affect your websites and business. That’s where Aronson Advertising steps in.

At Aronson Advertising, we’ve worked with countless CMS providers to help business owners in the automotive industry successfully migrate their site from one platform to another. Our experts understand how important a business’ online presence is and take the necessary steps to ensure a smooth transition and to mitigate traffic loss. Between analyzing and pulling appropriate content, running pre- and post-migration analysis, and staying on top of CMS providers, our team makes your transition as smooth as possible. Get in touch with our team by calling us at (847) 297-1700 or message us online!

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About the author: Tanner Landes

Tanner Landes
As an automotive digital marketer, conversion is the game and Tanner Landes is the name. He's been doing digital marketing with Aronson Advertising for three years where he works as an SEO Strategist.

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