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Written by Caroline Cox on Jan 7

New year, new URL? Here’s how to successfully pull off migrating your site.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Different types of site migrations
  • How to plan a site migration
  • What to do during a site migration
  • Common migration missteps to avoid

Whether you’re opting for a more secure site, getting a design refresh, or moving to a new CMS, there are plenty of reasons to take on a site migration. But this project is one that shouldn’t be taken on lightly.

Migrating your site is a technical, multi-step process — and a misstep can result in broken links, a poor mobile experience, and loss of significant SEO you’ve worked hard to build.

But before you break into a cold sweat, keep reading! Jessica Weber, one of HawkSEM’s SEO & SEM managers, is here to help us break down just a few of the big steps to take before, during, and after a site migration.

There are different types of site migrations

First things first: It’s important to acknowledge that site migration comes in many different forms. For example, a migration from an http to https URL is completely different from a redesign, which is different from a domain migration. 

The nature of a site migration is often a wildly complicated and technical process. Because of this, it’s crucial to have a plan for how to tackle this project before, during, and after the migration itself.

Other types of site migrations include:

  • Moving to a new domain
  • Changing URLs
  • Updating navigation or architecture
  • Adding mobile functionality  
  • Migrating part of a website
  • Moving to a new host or server
  • Moving to a new CMS or framework
  • Website redesign or template change
HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

When you’re working on a site migration, you always want to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. (Image via Unsplash)

Before the site migration

According to Jessica, the “before” stage is the most important phase of a site migration. That’s why our #1 advice for site migration is to plan ahead

One of the first steps you take should be to create a site mapping document. This includes a list of your URL redirects — it works from the old site to the new site to make sure you’re passing all of your site equity onto the new site vs. losing it.

Essentially, this makes sure that your new URLs (if applicable) reroute from your old URLs so no pages are lost or dead-end with a 404 error. Equity refers to the fact that your old URLS have been around longer and thus have had more time to drum up page authority and traffic. You don’t want to lose that when you migrate your site. 

Pro tip: When you’re working on a site migration, you always want to execute and test everything in a staging environment before it goes live on your actual website. Sites like WordPress can walk you through the creation of production, staging and development environments.

During the site migration

As you’re migrating your site, you want to implement your comprehensive list of 301 redirects. Moz explains that, when the new site URLs are different from the old site URLs, 301 redirects “tell search engines to index the new URLs as well as forward any ranking signals from the old URLs to the new ones.”

You need to use permanent 301 redirects if your site migration entails:

  • Moving to or from another domain or subdomain
  • Switching from http to https
  • Parts of the site being restructured in some way

Next, you’ll want to update all of the canonical tags on your new, old, and other sites, if applicable. If your site has a page that can be accessed via multiple URLs, Google will view this as duplicate content — that’s where canonical tags come in. 

As the search engine explains, “Google will choose one URL as the canonical version and crawl that, and all other URLs will be considered duplicate URLs and crawled less often.” So make sure the canonical URL you’re directing to is the one that already has the most site equity.

Pro tip: Google recently launched a Change of Address Tool for sites migrating from one domain or subdomain to another. However, this isn’t the tool to use for changing from http to https, redirecting pages on your site, removing www from your domain, or moving without making user-visible URL changes. 

Additional steps to take during the migration process

Along with the above, don’t forget to check these to-dos off your list:

  • Updating all of the internal links on your sites so that they point to the new URLs
  • Updating all of your tracking codes
  • Setting up Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for your new site (if applicable)
  • Updating your XML sitemap (if you don’t have a plug-in that will create it automatically) and submitting it to Google and Bing
  • If you have any high-value backlinks, reach out to the owners or editors and ask them to update the link
  • Updating outside links you control, such as Google My Business, social profiles, analytics, and anywhere there are citations, NAP (name, address, phone number), or links back to your site, so they point to the new URLs 

Pro tip: Launch your new site during an “off” or slow period of time, if you can. That way, your team can test out all the live links and address any issues quickly before customers and prospects see them.

HawkSEM: How to Successfully Perform a Site Migration

There are endless reasons why site owners may see SEO changes after migrating a site, regardless of the type of migration. (Image via Unsplash)

After the site migration

Finally, the finish line! Once you’ve successfully moved over your site content, tweaked it all in a staging environment, and followed the steps above, it’s time to launch. 

After your new site is up and running, it’s a good idea to continue monitoring 404s and Google Search Console to make sure everything is tracking properly. You also want to monitor your rankings — if you migrated and, after a few weeks, your rankings aren’t where they were (or better), it’s time to audit and see what might’ve gone awry.

How do avoid a drop in SEO after a migration

No matter how thorough you are with your site migration, it’s still possible to see a dip in your SEO performance. There are endless reasons why site owners may see changes after migrating a site, Jessica explains, regardless of the type of migration. 

A big part of this is because the Google algorithm is wary of bit site changes, so you’ll almost always see a dip after migrating while Google reassesses. If you’re migrating to new URLs, you may lose some equity through redirection. 

To ensure your SEO suffers as little as possible, avoid these common site migration mistakes:

  • Waiting too long to start the site migration process
  • Launching before you’re ready
  • Not comprehensively redirecting the proper way
  • Not updating canonical tags
  • Deciding to launch new sites that are not as well optimized as the old sites
  • Not making a copy of the old site
  • Failing to transfer your disavow file that tells Google which of your backlinks should be ignored
  • Not completing and saving a crawl for reference (you can crawl your site with a tool like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb)

Website crawler tools allow you to crawl your websites’ URLs to better analyze and audit your technical and onsite SEO. 

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional

It’s natural to be overwhelmed by the idea of a site migration — it’s an involved project with a lot of moving parts. While we’ve laid out the main elements of a site migration, much more goes into it along with the above.

If it seems like too much to take on, we suggest consulting an experienced professional who can ensure your migration goes smoothly.

The takeaway

Planning and preparation are the most important phases of a successful site migration. Along with this, it’s key to remember that SEO is part of every page, and it should be one of the first things you consider during a migration. 

Give yourself peace of mind during a site migration by following every step necessary to ensure you don’t look site equity, and keep a record of everything you do and need to do during the process. (Or, better yet, consider giving the job to a pro who can work with you to ensure the migration is a success.) Happy launching!

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her nearly 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Dec 11

Sure, you’ve got an impressive, well-designed website — but is it set up to convert?

Here, you’ll find:

  • How site design plays into conversion rate optimization (CRO)
  • Ideas for reducing e-commerce cart abandonment
  • Ways to make pop-up ads work for you
  • How to leverage heat-mapping and click-mapping data

You know an attractive website is integral for drawing users in, and you’ve taken the time to build one that dazzles. The design is clean, the images are eye-catching, and you think it’s ready to go. But there could be one component missing.

Your website might not be designed to convert.

HawkSEM: How to Increase Conversions Through Website Design

For the vast majority of businesses today, their website is what brings in customers and makes sales. (Image via Unsplash)

If your page has a high bounce rate — meaning that people are visiting your page and leaving almost immediately — despite a great look, you may want to consider redesigning for CRO.

If you haven’t started designing yet, you can build your site the right way from the ground up and save time later.

Let’s go over what exactly a conversion rate is, why you should care about optimizing it, and some ways you can design your site for CRO.

Why you should care about CRO-focused website design

As we said above, CRO stands for conversion rate optimization. While “conversion” means different things depending on your company, industry, and goals, the idea is that a user who takes the action you want once they reach your site is converted.

Say you want them to browse through your e-commerce line and purchase the product that’s right for them, or you’re in the service industry and want visitors to request more info via a form.

In each case, the number of users who do so are conversions, and the number of conversions relative to the total number of people that visit your site is your conversion rate.

That rate is expressed as a percentage. Naturally, you want this to be as high as possible — that’s where conversion rate optimization comes in. For the vast majority of businesses today, their website is what brings in customers and makes sales.

If you haven’t implemented CRO-focused website design, you’re going to end up losing money. Smaller businesses are particularly at risk of dissolving into the ether if people can’t find them online.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be that way.

How do I improve my conversion rate?

You can optimize your website for maximum conversions by approaching design with a few simple rules in mind. Most of these guidelines revolve around user experience, and how intuitive your page is to visitors:

  • Don’t overwhelm the user with too many choices
  • Optimize your checkout process
  • Don’t bombard users with popups
  • Take advantage of heat-mapping and click-mapping data

Don’t overwhelm the user with too many options

This comes down to the paradox of choice: when confronted with an overwhelming number of things to choose from, people tend to burn out and not choose anything. This may seem counterintuitive — wouldn’t more choices mean happier users? Don’t people want more variety? Not necessarily.

Instead of including images of every clothing item you sell on your homepage, consider highlighting just one area (women’s jeans, for example) every week or so, and letting that item shine. If you’re worried you may turn people off who aren’t looking for that item, just make sure your top navigation bar makes it clear that there are other items on the site that might be more their taste.

Targeting a specific demographic not only helps you refine your message but lets you speak to the customers most likely to need or want your product.

This also goes for the design of your site. Design with your ideal customers in mind. Don’t confront them with too many buttons and sidebars — simple is almost always the way to go. Let them know exactly what’s available and where they need to go to get it. Guide them through each page with a good user experience (UX) design.

This also applies to calls-to-action (CTAs). It’s usually wise to include only one CTA button instead of several. Too many might make it unclear what the user is supposed to do first, and they’ll bounce from your site. Make sure buttons are clearly visible, appealing, and easily identified.

Pro tip: This may seem obvious, but design your site navigation menu to be easily navigable. Even the colors you use for certain elements on your page can have a significant effect.

Optimize your checkout process

You may think you’ve got the customer hooked when they get to the checkout phase, but beware. Cart abandonment — where users add items to their cart and leave them in limbo without paying — is a real issue. In fact, the global rate of cart abandonment as of 2019 is over 75%, according to Design Advisor.

As the owner of your site, it’s your job to prevent that from happening as best you can. You want to be sure a customer’s curiosity converts to sales. One way to do that is to refine your checkout process, making it streamlined and simple for the user to get right through to the end. There are several ways to accomplish that, including:

  • Minimal data entry fields
  • Not having customers enter the same data multiple times
  • Prominently displaying shipping charges, taxes, and any other fees associated with the purchase (don’t surprise them at the end)
  • Having a preview of the customer’s item in the cart so they can review their purchase
  • Including multiple shipping options

No one likes a tedious checkout process. With CRO-focused website design, you can make your customers’ buying experience an easy one so they don’t give in to second thoughts and click away.

Don’t bombard users with pop-ups

This should go without saying, but being met with multiple pop-up ads, especially right away, may annoy potential customers.

This isn’t to say that they’re not effective or shouldn’t be used — it’s all about how, how often, and when. For instance, maybe you have one pop-up message when a user lands on your page with a special offer or incentive, like 15% off their purchase if they sign up for your email newsletter.

Even that may be too much, and some companies are ditching the entry pop-up all together. According to the Online Marketing Institute, it takes up to 13 interactions with your brand on average before a customer decides to buy, so a pop-up ad probably won’t be the thing to convince them, especially if it’s their first time visiting.

A better alternative? Exit-intent pop-ups. These activate when a user is about to leave the site after they’ve had a chance to look around. They’ve engaged with your product, know whether or not they like it, and are more likely to commit. In fact, exit-intent pop-ups can increase conversation rates by up to 27%.

HawkSEM: How to Increase Conversions Through Website Design

Click mapping can show you if those CTA buttons are actually working, or if almost no one is motivated to click them. (Image via Unsplash)

Take advantage of click-mapping and heat-mapping data

Heat-mapping software converts your page into a color-coded scale, with the “hotter” colors showing where users spend the most time, and cooler colors like blue showing where they spend less or no time at all. Click-mapping works on the same principle by showing you where on your pages users click the most.

Heat mapping can show, for example, how far a reader makes it through a post on your blog. Click mapping can show you if those CTA buttons are actually working, or if almost no one is motivated to click them. You can use this data to deduce what part of each page is getting the most traffic, and change your site design if that traffic doesn’t line up with your expectations.

The takeaway

Now that you’ve got a better idea of CRO-focused website design, you can start making the changes you need to get visitors converting into customers.

Use our tips to build a foundation, then branch out and research what’s right for you. The right tweaks could make a world of difference.

Need more assistance in the website department? We can help.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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