The Secret to Proper Website Content Migration

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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One of the main fears business owners face when planning a site location change or a complete website redesign is losing hard-earned search engine rankings due to website content migration. And this is for a good reason, as a poorly executed content migration project can quickly become a user experience nightmare and setback their business for a few years. While content migration can be incredibly frustrating, it is also necessary for keeping your website’s high-performance levels after drastic changes.

If you’re about to undertake a content migration, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. That’s why content migration experts from our digital marketing agency have prepared some tips to help you smoothly go through the website content migration process.

Table of Contents
website content migration

What is Content Migration?

Website content migration is the process of moving content from one content management system to another. It typically occurs in a website redesign or when a company completely changes its web platform. It’s essential to carefully plan your website content migration project so that none of the old content is lost and to ensure that you place it in the right spot after redesign or site location change. But what is even meant by the term “content”? Shortly speaking, we can refer to all the pieces of information on your website that help you deliver your message to visitors as content. Some of the common content types include:

  • Text
  • Videos
  • Images
  • Links
  • Documents

However, you shouldn’t approach content migration just like it’s a long copy-paste work between content management systems. Instead, think of it as a chance to re-write, re-organize, and re-structure your content to improve and clean your website and boost its performance with both internet users and search engines. 

How to Properly Migrate Your Content to a New Website

If you’re planning on migrating your website to a new domain, there are a few things you need to do in order to ensure that you migrate the content successfully. Failing to do so could result in a loss of traffic and search engine rankings.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when migrating content:

Analyze Data from Your Old Website

Analyzing data from your old website can help you better understand your audience and what they are looking for. Gaining an insight into how users interact with your website content is crucial for improving the overall user experience on the new site and providing them with the content types they enjoy the most. This process should go smoothly if you have Google Analytics connected to your website. When analyzing website data for your content migration project, do the following:

  • Identify 50 pages that attract the most traffic: These are the pages that your target audience is the most interested in, so prioritize them during the content migration process.
  • Identify 50 pages that attract the least traffic: Content on these pages might not be interesting to your target audience, so you can potentially ignore them when migrating your content.
  • Identify 50 pages with the highest bounce rate: Topics on these pages might interest your website visitors, but consider rewriting the content to keep people engaged.

You can also conduct a short survey with your website visitors to find out which pages they loved the most, but keep in mind that the results you’ll get will be more subjective than those in Google Analytics. Still, surveys are helpful in case you didn’t set up any tool for analyzing your content performance on time. Hiring professional keyword research services can also help you identify hot topics, improve your content quality, and boost your new website’s performance in search engines.

Determine a Content Migration Plan

Once you obtain a good insight into the content performance on your old site, it is time to create a content migration plan. A content migration plan is a roadmap that outlines how you’ll move the content from its current location to its new home. To create it, you need to answer the following questions:

Who will perform the content migration?

If your company doesn’t have enough resources to migrate the website content successfully, consider outsourcing this work to the content migration team from another company.

How long will the website content migration process last?

It is not a good idea to make all site changes at once, as it could be disastrous for your search engine rankings. If you rush with your content migration work, you won’t be able to identify what went wrong in case any problem occurs. Ideally, you want to spread your website migration project over two months.

Why are we performing a website content migration?

To successfully plan your content migration project, you first need to know which goals you want to accomplish with it. Understanding whether you want to improve your domain authority, do a complete rebrand, or change site architecture will allow you to create a more detailed plan for your web project.

How are we going to preserve inbound and internal links?

Links are an important part of how search engines index and rank content. If links are broken or redirected improperly, it can negatively impact the visibility of the content in search engines. Additionally, broken links can frustrate potential customers resulting in poor user experience.

What is our 301 Redirect strategy?

When performing site location changes, it is crucial to set up 301 redirects as soon as possible. This way, you’ll tell search engines that your website has permanently moved to a new location so that users will be redirected automatically to your new address. A proper SEO strategy for content migration will help you preserve your rankings and avoid enormous traffic drops.

With a bit of planning, migrating your content to a new website can be a painless process. It will allow you to avoid potential problems and ensure that all your content is transferred to the new platform smoothly.

Create a Content Inventory

Before starting content migration work, it is crucial to have a clear picture of your overall content plan in mind – and there are not many better ways to achieve this other than taking a look at your content inventory. Simply put, a content inventory lists all the content on your website. That includes text, images, videos, and anything else on the site. A content inventory is essential for content migration because it helps you understand your content, its location, and how it is structured. This information is essential for planning and successfully executing a website content migration project, and that’s why you should create a content inventory before making serious site changes. Without a content inventory, it would be difficult to know what content needs to be migrated, where to migrate it to, and how to preserve its structure and organization. Keeping your content inventory organized will also help you prevent potential content loss during the migration process. To get started, include the following information next to each content piece:

  • URL
  • Publishing date
  • Author
  • Content Format
  • Links included
  • Does it need to be updated in the future

Well-organized content inventory

Well-organized content inventory will help your content migration team decide on the following:

  • Which content can they migrate in bulk during site changes
  • What they can move but will need to edit once the content migration work is done
  • What content can be excluded entirely from the website migration project 
  • Which content types will need to be recreated
  • Which users need to get access to the new Content Management System, and which roles and permissions they’ll have

It is also crucial to keep track of the performance of different pages on your website. During content migration, prioritize the pages that bring the most traffic. To clean your website, you might want to completely ignore unused and low-performing content pieces during migration. However, if you still believe these articles have potential, consider hiring copywriting services in Chicago to help you improve the quality of your old content work and enrich your new website with fresh content.

Define New Site Architecture

When migrating content to a new site, it is important to first plan the new site architecture. That will ensure that all content is categorized correctly and easy to find. A well-organized site will be easier for users to navigate and will encourage them to keep exploring your content for more extended periods.

Create a New Sitemap

If you try to migrate content without creating a new site structure first, you may end up with many broken links and other problems. That’s why it is important to work with your web design team on creating a new sitemap after analyzing your data and having the strategy in place. Taking your time to improve the sitemap is crucial if you want to improve the user experience for website visitors. Strive towards making your sitemap as simple as possible.

Migrate Your Content

While the content migration process can be automated or done manually, the most common scenario is when both approaches are combined. Your web developers can create tools that will help you save time by moving content pieces in bulk between content management systems. However, you can rarely utilize such tools for transferring all the data when making site changes without harming your business’s online performance – and that’s why manual copy-paste work is crucial for a successful content migration project. By actively monitoring the process, you’ll be able to identify potential problems with the new CMS and fix them on time. 

No matter if you opt for a fully automated, manual, or combined approach – here is what your content migration process should look like:

  1. Verify that you have created a functional backup
  2. Ensure bots can’t crawl your new site
  3. Perform a test migration
  4. If you have changed your domain, you need to update your DNS and set up a proper redirect from the old site location to the new one
  5. If test migration has gone well, do the real content migration work
  6. Allow bots to crawl your new website again
  7. Test the performance of your new website, and keep an eye on the page speed
  8. Take necessary measures to avoid duplicate content
  9. Keep tracking the performance of your new content pieces in search engines in the long run

Common Issues with Content Migration

Content migration is a big undertaking. There are a lot of moving parts, and if any one of them is not executed correctly, it can cause serious problems. Common issues with content migration include: 

Loss of data

This can happen if you don’t adequately back up the data or if there is an issue with the migration process itself.

Issues with data quality

If not addressed, these issues can lead to lost or corrupted data, which can impact the usability of the new website.

Formatting issues

If you don’t migrate the content properly, the formatting can be lost or changed, which can cause problems with displaying the content correctly.

Links breaking

If links are not migrated correctly, they can break, preventing users from accessing the content they need. If you have set up your content inventory correctly, you should be able to avoid this problem.

Issues related to the migration process

These issues usually occur because of poor planning of project duration, lack of proper communication between content migration team members, lack of expertise, and no quality control strategy in place.

Poorly set up redirects

Redirects that are not well executed can cause users to be confused and might register as a 404 error to Google. For example, this can happen if there is a large number of old URLs redirected to an unconnected page, such as the homepage of the new site, instead of adequately setting redirects for each page.

Crawlable testing environment

When migrating content to a new platform, it is important to set up a staging environment where you can test changes. However, if you forget to send signals to Google bots not to crawl your testing environment, you might end up with your content being marked as a duplicate or even accessible to users. This way, the SEO journey for your new website will start on the wrong foot, potentially harming your rankings long term.

While content migration can be time-consuming, expensive, and complex – by following the steps outlined in this article, you can avoid the common pitfalls and ensure a successful migration process. 

Tools for Website Content Migration

Using the right tools during the content migration process can save you a lot of time and energy and help your team members better coordinate their duties. Although we advise against completely automating the content migration work, experience has taught us that lack of proper tools can cause various problems – from data loss and compatibility issues to difficulties managing your content migration team. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most valuable tools that will help you easily keep track of your content inventory and the overall progress of your web project.

Tools for creating Asset Sheets

An asset sheet is a document that contains a list of all the assets that you need to migrate from one content management system (CMS) to another. It will contain all the text, images, metadata, page titles, URL, and instructions for your content migration team members. That can be especially helpful if you are moving a large amount of content or if you need to move content from one CMS to multiple content management systems. The following tools might help you with managing your asset sheets:

  • Confluence
  • Google Suite
  • Office 365

Tools for Tracking Progress

Progress tracking tools can help you during content migration by allowing you to see how much content has been moved, what remains to be moved, and what errors have occurred. That can help you to plan and execute your content migration more effectively and avoid potential problems. We found these tools very helpful for tracking the progress of our content migration projects:

While Trello and Jira are more advanced software for team management, you shouldn’t completely give up on classic tools such as Google Sheets and Excel, as these can also help you keep everyone informed about website content migration work progress.

Contact us

Website content migration can be tricky, and if you fail to execute it correctly, many obstacles will arise in your journey of building a strong online presence. That’s why, unless you are 100% confident in your skills, you should hire an expert content migration team to help you with your web project. 

With years of experience in successfully completing content migration projects for websites of various sizes, Alpha Efficiency might be the right partner for you. Don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation call and introduce us to your business, so we can help you with finding the most effective solution for meeting your needs. Let’s get in touch today!


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