Mastering SEO Website Migration: Your Ultimate Checklist

by Jeremy Tang

The implications of SEO website migration can be as significant as the difference between a well-planned move and an unplanned one. A poorly executed migration can lead to reduced visibility, traffic loss, and, ultimately, decreased revenue. To draw a real-world parallel, it would be like attempting to move an entire house overnight without preparing – you’d likely lose some furniture, damage others, and leave your belongings scattered.

To avoid such a predicament, this article presents a detailed checklist, seasoned with expert insights and debunking common misunderstandings, to ensure an optimal SEO website migration.

Table Of Contents:

Pre-Migration Planning

  1. Determine the Scope: Just as you’d survey your belongings before a move, define the scope of your website migration. Determine whether it’s a simple site move, replatforming, content migration, structural change, site redesign, or a combination – often referred to as a hybrid migration.
  2. Assemble Your Team: Website migration requires a well-coordinated team. Envision this as recruiting the most efficient movers, electricians, plumbers, and decorators to work in harmony. A dedicated developer is essential to ensure that the SEO requirements for the migration are expedited. An internal stakeholder, acting as a project manager, ensures that SEO requirements are clearly communicated and understood within the organisation. Lastly, an SEO expert should be on board to set up the migration plan and test its implementation. This role can be filled internally or externally. If you have an internal expert, the project manager role might be merged with the SEO expert role.
  3. Set a Smart Migration Date: Just as you wouldn’t move houses during a city-wide parade, avoid migrating during peak traffic periods. Instead, choose a quiet period, allowing time for any unforeseen issues that might arise.
  4. Pre-Migration Audit: Think of it as assessing the condition of the items you plan to move. Conduct an extensive audit of the existing website to identify issues that need to be addressed in the new website. While planning is essential, it’s also critical to understand the existing site’s strengths and weaknesses. This helps to address potential problems early, avoid replicating them in the new site, and can contribute to the improvement of the overall SEO performance in the new site.

Benchmarking and Data Collection

  1. Benchmark Your Current Site: Take note of your site’s current performance, much like documenting the condition of your items before a move. Use tools like Google Analytics or SEMrush to gauge your existing site’s performance, focusing on aspects like traffic, rankings, and key metrics related to user experience.
  2. Create a Backup: This is like insurance for your belongings during the move. In case something goes wrong, you need a fail-safe plan to revert to the old version of your site.

Preparing for the Move

  1. Create a Staging Site: Building a staging site is akin to having a mockup of your new home to plan where each item fits best. This site is a playground for testing changes before making them live.
  2. Perform a Site Audit: Given that the new site is still in staging environment this audit serves to confirm that the key issues and opportunities identified in the pre-migration audit have been effectively addressed, paving the way for a successful migration.
  3. Map Your URLs: This is like labeling each box with the corresponding room in the new house. Map old URLs to the new ones. The prioritization should be based on SEO importance, typically measured by the amount of SEO traffic a page receives. At a more advanced level, other attributes that can provide SEO value, such as external backlinks, can also be considered. This is crucial for setting up effective 301 redirects later.
  4. Server Response Validation: This step involves ensuring that the new server responds appropriately to the requests, especially for handling 404 (page not found) errors and 301 (permanent redirect) instructions. If the server does not handle these responses correctly, search engines may not index the site correctly, potentially leading to loss in traffic and rankings.
  5. URL Parameters Management: Proper management of URL parameters is essential for a successful website migration. If not handled properly, URL parameters can lead to duplicate content issues. Setting up parameters correctly in Google Search Console (or any other search engine’s webmaster tools) is an essential part of a successful site migration. Canonical setup is also important to ensure that it handles any changes to parameter logic.

During the Move

  1. Set Up and Test Redirects: Redirects are like the moving trucks of your website migration, guiding your visitors from the old pages to the new ones. Try to keep these redirects in place for as long as possible. Key things to check are: 
  • Existing pages that haven’t been removed or replaced return a 200 status code.
  • Redirected pages return a 301 status code.
  • Deleted pages return a 404 or 410 status code.
  • Your server doesn’t return a 404 status for a page that has moved and it doesn’t return a 200 status code for a URL that is now redirecting.
  1. Update Internal Links and Backlinks: This is like telling your friends and family your new address. Update all internal links to reflect the new URLs. Additionally, reach out to owners of external sites linking to your pages and request they update their links.
  2. Migrate and Test: With everything prepared, it’s time to move. Start migrating your site, then conduct thorough testing. Check each page and function to ensure they work as intended, just like you would check each room after moving into a new house. Use crawling tools to check for broken links and redirect errors.


  1. Monitor Your Site: Post-move, you should always keep a keen eye on your new home for any potential problems. Constantly monitor the site’s performance using analytics tools. Be on the lookout for 404 errors, unexpected traffic drops, and issues with page loading times.
  2. Resubmit Your Sitemap: Just as you would register your new home’s address with the local post office, resubmit your updated sitemap to search engines. This will help them quickly understand the new structure and content of your site.
  3. Update Your Social Media and Online Profiles: Don’t forget to update your website URL on all your social media and online profiles. It’s like letting your social circle know you’ve moved.
  4. Analyze and Improve: Last but not least, use the post-migration phase to analyze the impact of the move. Compare the performance data to your pre-migration benchmarks and strategize for improvements.

The Bottom Line

Executing a successful SEO website migration is much like planning and carrying out a well-coordinated move. By following this comprehensive checklist, you can help ensure a smooth transition that retains, and even boosts, your website’s SEO performance.

Remember, website migration isn’t a one-and-done task. It requires regular monitoring, adjustments, and optimization post-migration. Like a new home, your website will need continuous attention and care to thrive in its new environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is SEO website migration?

SEO website migration is the process of making significant changes to your website that could potentially impact its visibility on search engines. This can involve a wide range of changes such as changing your site’s domain, redesigning the layout or structure, moving to a new content management system (CMS), or switching to HTTPS from HTTP.


Does website migration affect SEO?

Yes, website migration can significantly affect SEO. If not properly handled, it could lead to a drop in organic traffic, reduced visibility on search engines, and potentially, lower revenue. However, with careful planning and execution, you can maintain or even improve your site’s SEO performance through the migration process.


How can I migrate my website without losing SEO?

To prevent SEO losses during website migration, you should:

  1. Conduct a thorough audit of your existing site to identify key SEO factors.
  2. Benchmark your current site’s performance for post-migration comparison.
  3. Create a detailed migration plan that includes SEO considerations such as URL mapping and 301 redirects.
  4. Test thoroughly before going live with the new site, checking for broken links, proper redirects, and server response codes.
  5. Monitor performance continuously after the migration to identify and resolve any potential issues.


Will domain migration increase SEO traffic?

Domain migration itself does not directly increase SEO traffic. However, if it is part of a broader strategy that improves your website’s SEO factors, such as improved site structure, better content, faster loading times, or more effective keywords, then it may result in an increase in SEO traffic over time.


How long does SEO for site migration take?

The duration of an SEO site migration can vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the website, the extent of the changes being made, and the skill and resources of the migration team. A simple domain change with proper 301 redirects might take a few days to a week, while a complex site overhaul could take several weeks to months.


How to assess the impact of an SEO migration?

Assessing the impact of an SEO migration involves comparing key metrics before and after the migration. These metrics may include organic traffic, bounce rates, average session duration, conversion rates, page loading times, and keyword rankings. Tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and SEMrush can help monitor these metrics. A successful SEO migration would maintain or improve these metrics over time.


Note: It’s important to remember that some fluctuation in these metrics is normal immediately after a migration. However, if declines persist beyond a few weeks, you may need to investigate and address potential issues.

Remember, every website migration is unique, so these answers should be seen as general guidelines. Always tailor your approach to your specific situation, and don’t hesitate to seek expert help if needed.

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