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June 21, 2022

How to plan a successful website content migration

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In today’s disrupted digital reality, companies frequently go through changes, adjusting their offer, communication and content. Some of these changes require redesigning a website or even creating a new one from the ground up. If your previous website was developed and rich in texts, the process of migrating a website along with its content can be complex and time-consuming. In this article, we’re going to show you how to approach content migration so that you can make the most of your current and future texts.

So, you decided to create a new website. There can be numerous reasons for that, from mergers and acquisitions, through significant changes in your offer or profile, to the fact that the old website didn’t fulfil its role.

For obvious reasons, you just can’t copy-paste everything – you would end up with exactly (or almost exactly) the same website. That’s why the website migration process has to take all your current assets and turn them into something better.

What is a content migration?

Content migration (sometimes referred to as web migration, although it’s not the same process) is all about moving your current web assets (graphics, texts, etc.) from the old website to a new one. Of course, the more assets you have, the more complex and time-consuming such a project becomes.

That’s why in order to succeed, you need to tick several boxes. We’ve gathered them in this article and created a comprehensive website migration plan template. Let’s see what should be in such a plan.

Checklist for successful website content migration

Your website migration plan should answer several substantial questions. The first thing you need to do is analyse your current content and create a so-called content inventory. You’ve been writing texts and creating subpages for years, and now, there are quite a lot of them. Do you transfer all of them? In most instances, you don’t. Here, you’ll need a good analytics tool (such as Google Analytics). With it, you can discern which subpages are often visited by your customers/users and which are not being used. If you discover that there are, for example, ten subpages that are almost never visited, you can easily ditch them on your new website. It’s better to leave that precious space for something new that will help you achieve your business goals.

Remember one rule: It’s all about quality, not quantity. If you have texts or sections on your website that you or your users aren’t satisfied with – drop them without remorse.

Usually, it’s helpful to create a whole list of subpages and texts on your website and divide them into four categories:

  1. Stay as is
  2. Rewrite/update
  3. Remove
  4. Need to be added

The fourth category is especially vital. Suppose that your content analysis showed you that there are several topics that haven’t been covered so far. Add all these missing texts in this section. Texts that are to be removed will make the space for new ones. What’s more?

SAVE YOUR OLD WEBSITE STRUCTURE

Of course, saving the old website structure seems like the obvious thing to do. It’s easiest this way. But more often than not, there is a need to implement some changes in your website structure. Obviously, you want your shiny new website to be fully compliant with Google requirements. Among many other factors, this means an SEO-friendly website structure. If your current structure is illegible, deficient or doesn’t fit your new business – it has to be adjusted. And all the content along with it.

CREATE A LIST OF REDIRECTS

The website migration process usually also means creating a redirections map. Such a map, when it comes to web migration, is usually made with so-called 301 redirects. Thanks to these redirects, when a user opens an old link, the website immediately sends a message to that user’s internet browser and points them to the new version of that link (or another page of your choice). It happens automatically; the user doesn’t have to do anything. After all, no one wants to hit a wall saying, “something went wrong, there’s nothing here”, right?

Such a list of redirects should comprise several elements:

  1. Old URLs (you can get them in your XML sitemap file)
  2. Titles of the texts/subpages
  3. Traffic/organic sessions (so that you know where to start and which subpages to move)
  4. New URLs

Sometimes, people wonder whether such a solution can be detrimental from the SEO perspective. Actually, it’s quite the opposite – 301 redirects support both SEO and UX, and they can help you maintain your position in Google because these redirects have the ability to pass on the link equity (sometimes referred to as “link juice”) from the redirected page to the new one.

PREPARE A CONTENT MIGRATION PLAN

As we told you earlier, content migration is a multifaceted project. If there are dozens of texts, one person won’t be able to complete the whole web migration on their own. You need a team of specialists working in accordance with a clear website migration plan (template).

In your content migration plan, you should include:

  • Who is responsible for what concerning content migration ( you’ll probably need a help of an external marketing agency or a web development company – include them in your plan)
  • What is the web migration’s timeline (when the project begins and how much time you have to finish it)
  • What happens with every old section, text and subpage (we discussed that in the introduction to the content migration checklist)

Moreover, such a content migration plan ought to provide clear instructions considering:

  • Metadata (page titles, descriptions);
  • Used file formats (e.g., currently, Google encourages to turn to the WEBP format as it’s lighter and more flexible. Google recommends it as a replacement for typical JPEG, PNG and GIF files);
  • Brand identity elements (e.g., new visuals and guidelines on how they should be presented on the new website);
  • Links (both internal and external);
  • New navigation (to find out more, read about the best practices in website navigation)

With a content migration plan, your work is organised, and you’ll be able to migrate a website effectively.

ADJUST INTERNAL LINKS AND IMAGES

Internal links need to be updated as well. We told you about that when we discussed the redirect issue. But it may turn out that you’ll need a new URL structure as well. Today, many websites still have an URL structure that’s not user-friendly nor Google-friendly. If your links look like that: https://domain.com/index/2Hcfg58, they need to be modified. If you don’t pay enough attention to new links and their redirects, instead of a seamless, user-friendly 301 redirect, your users will get a not-so-user-friendly 404 message informing them that the link no longer exists. You should avoid that at all costs.

And what about images? Two elements are important here:

  1. Alt attributes (image descriptions) – make sure they are complete and compliant with your keyword strategy.
  2. Links – from a Google perspective, each image is nothing else than a link, so images need to be moved and adjusted just like any other website asset.

MONITOR ANALYTICS

If you want your content migration to be successful, you need to monitor everything you do. Pay attention especially to:

  • Core web vitals – these are new guidelines published by Google concerning the way your website behaves, interacts and loads. Every new website has to be compliant with CWV. If you want to check how your new website handles these requirements, use this free tool provided by Google.
  • Possible errors – in general, your website should work flawlessly. If there are any errors (404 errors, redirection chains etc.), they need to be solved as quickly as possible.
  • User behaviour – continually check how users react to your new website. If there are any alarming reactions like frequent bounces, it’s a clear indication something’s wrong.

To monitor your new website effectively, use two tools provided by Google (both of them are available for free) – Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Migrating to enterprise CMS – an alternative for B2B platforms

If your company grows dynamically, you will likely need a new CMS system during your next website migration. The most demanding and mature companies find enterprise CMS platforms are the right fit. You can think of them as super-advanced WordPress, yet their capabilities are far more extensive. Enterprise CMS platforms (such as Optimizely) help you manage multiple communication channels, offer the needed integrations and plugins, support creating and managing content for various touchpoints, and in many languages. They provide extensive personalisation options. You can also go one step further and opt for a full Digital Experience Platform (DXP) that includes data and optimisation tools.

Such solutions can be a valid alternative for typical B2B platforms like Hubspot. If your online activity revolves primarily around your website and connected channels (e.g., social media, mobile app, online store, etc.), take a closer look at available enterprise CMS platforms. You might find the solution to streamline your online growth and presence.

At NoA Ignite, we help companies all over the world in designing and implementing their content migration strategies. Frequently, we use enterprise CMS platforms in projects that involve large content operations. If you’d like to find out more about what we do – schedule a free consultation.

Key takeaways: the successful website migration process

The key to a successful website migration process lies in planning and organising work. Analyse all the elements and assets of your current website and decide what should be moved without changing, what should be rewritten/adjusted, and what should be removed from the new website.

Remember about SEO and UX. Make sure all the elements of your new website work flawlessly and that your new webpage is 100% SEO-friendly. Don’t forget about metadata, URLs and image attributes. Remove everything that’s non-essential and pursue the core web vitals best practices.

Lastly, monitor everything you do and the outcomes of every stage. If you see there are some complications or that users react adversely to your changes, react quickly and remove anything that causes poor user experience.

Of course, all of that is clear in theory. In practice, a lot of things can go sideways. That’s why many companies decide to work with a professional partner who supports them during the entire process. If you’re looking for such help – we recommend ourselves. At NoA Ignite, we facilitate our clients’ online presence and help them make the most of all online channels. We’ve done tons of successful content migration projects, and we will happily aid you as well!

Drop us a line or order a free consultation to find out more.

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Author

Elisabeth Oruba

Elisabeth is a Client Director and Advisor with over 12 years’ experience in digital content services. She supports global organisations in growing their business with strategic content management, content localisation and optimisation.

Contact Elisabeth: elisabeth.oruba@noaignite.com

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