TABLE OF CONTENTS

How To Make A Proper CMS Migration

Szymon Bieluczyk
By Szymon Bieluczyk
CMS migration Pagepro

Introduction

Whenever your business is scaling up, you may find that your digital tools are not enough anymore, and you need a modern and more innovative approach to optimize your current business activities.

Early signs that your business is beyond your technical capabilities may be:

  • Website slowdowns due to high traffic
  • Higher bounce rate due to people leave because the site is slow
  • Low positions in Google ranking
  • Traffic decline on the site as a result of weak positions
  • An overall decline in sales as a result of reduced traffic and poor UX

In general, traffic and UX  are the two most important factors here, as:

  • The more traffic you get, the more potential customers you gain
  • The better UX you have, the bigger the chance of switching website visitors to actual clients.

In other words, based on a good experience, your customers are more willing not only to buy from you but to come back and buy again as well. Therefore, if your business is growing and technical issues are starting to appear, this is a good time to think about new solutions.

The question remains: how to migrate to a new and more extensive CMS without losing all my content, SEO possibilities, and Google positions?

Let’s have a look.

CMS-CMS migration

First, we should understand the CMS to CMS migration well, get to know the possibilities and requirements, and learn about the process for which we will prepare together.

Other important information is that new technologies such as Jamstack in conjunction with a dedicated CMS significantly increases the efficiency of your websites, so they are also worth having a look at.

But let’s get to the process first.

Complexity of the process

So, where to start? What are key factors you need to know? What kind of challenge will you have to overcome or maybe you consider which CMS you can choose for your migration?

It’s important to notice that the process of migration is highly complex and there are many things to be aware of.

Maybe you consider carrying out this process on your own or you think about hiring a web developer or software agency to do this.

Let’s make sure you are well prepared for both cases.

What is the migration of CMS  and how does it work?

Successful CMS migration is above all well prepared and scheduled in the military precision.

Being prepared means:

  • getting crucial knowledge
  • making resources analysis
  • choosing the right tools
  • scheduling the work to prevent failure

No matter what your goal of CMS migration is, you should ask yourself what exactly is going to be changed and what or who will be affected by it.

In many cases, the current CMS is simply not functional enough, and you have to move your business to the new and more extensive one.

This move needs the assistance of many people like SEO specialists, web developers, web designers, or analysts, and we highly recommend being prepared to talk with each of them to make sure the work is done correctly.

So, in general, changing Content Management System mainly stands for:

  • Content, comments migration
  • Files and pictures migration
  • Users account migration
  • Mapping of site’s structure and URL

How does migrating to a New CMS help?

  • Extension of functionality: You may want to be able to be more functional and improve the efficiency of your website company.
  • Extension of web efficiency: The general aim should be to make your website work better and faster. It should influence the website’s higher volume of organic traffic and ensuring a better User Experience.
  • High level of security: Migration to new CMS allows the choice to make it safer.
  • Website refreshment: Migrating a website to a new CMS often helps the company brand as well.
  • Condition of traffic and visibility: Correctly provided migration of CMS should minimize losing the traffic, keeping good visibility, and in some cases make its increase straight away. On the other hand, we should keep in mind that the opposite is the risk linked with poorly executed migration.

What are the potential risks in  CMS migration?

  • Internal Linking Failure:  Failure in internal linking is something we cannot prevent in this process. What is worth adding is that losing much of your internal linking may affect your SEO position, UX, and much more. The action you can take to improve this situation is by relinking your blogs. This prevents your site from losing its search position.
  • SEO disorder: Frequent traffic and a stable SEO position are a priority for digital businesses. Losing one of these factors is a potential problem. In this case, we recommend using the help of experienced development, or an SEO agency.
  • The loss of content: It could be one of the undesirable factors accompanying the process of migration. An example could be the loss of blogs articles, comments, or user data. To prevent such a situation all you have to do is use the correct method of data transferring depending on which CMS you are going to migrate to.

How to avoid disaster in CMS migration?

One of the most common problems regularly appearing during migration is SEO specialists being involved too late. Lack of estimated plan, no responsibility for tasks assigned to appropriate people, or lack of tools needed cause hard conditions to provide the correct migration process.

How can you prepare your company to prevent any hypothetical damage full causes? First of all, you have to make a choice, are you gonna make it on your own, or do you hand off this process to a web developer or hire a software agency? Whatever choices you would make, we highly recommend doing decent research.

Prevention actions:

  1. If you are going to do it on your own or rent a web developer, you have to keep in mind the 301 redirects and what is also key in this point is to turn off the 302 redirects. If you want to get familiar with 301 and 302 redirects read more about this.
  2. You also should delete the old URL in the site’s map. The next step of prevention is moving all the content, moving all the titles, headings, formatting, and internal linking. In addition, the installation of analytics tools is highly recommended.
  3. Key thing is to reconstruct your menu without changing naming or losing particular categories. To sum up there is no guarantee that everything will go well without losing our last Google position. That’s why anyone involved in the process of migration should be in tight cooperation with SEO specialists.

Schedule your CMS migration plan!

Let’s get started with the plan. This operation is a bit laborious, as not only the migration of all contents is highly complex but there are also recent optimizations that should be done at the same time.

Each element has to be considered and treated with caution. New CMS can also influence page content and the way how it is presented. That’s why it is extremely important to get familiar with the new Content Manage System at this stage.

Plan your range of duties:

Before you even start preparing for your CMS migration try to imagine that the operation can affect an amount of traffic. Not forever, but your score before and after migration could be different. By doing the process well, based on our tips, you can minimize your negative causes to a minimum. That’s why planning is such an important thing and we’re gonna start our trip from this factor.

  • Your project manager should specify the hypothetical impact of migration on your site. The first stage is nothing more like specifying each element of your site that is going to be changing during the migration.
  • Even the smallest part of your site can influence your score search ranking. You ought to contain that information in your documentation if you want to hand off some part of your process to your web developer.
  • You should also know (more or less) what time of the day is the one with the least traffic, then the process of migration will be far less harmful to your users and to you, according to any traffic loss. It depends on your business activities and the best hours could be different in each case and country.
  • Use Google analytics to clarify which period will be the most appropriate.
  • After forming a team and being dedicated to each person’s particular role, then it’s time to assign tasks.

Preparation for migration, pre-launch

The first step of pre-launch preparation is to analyze the current condition of the website and “stage”. “Stage” is the test environment where web developers are working. This area will change over time to a new website it requires security by a password.

This will prevent your test version “Stage” from Google bots. A Tip for your SEO specialist is to not index the test version of your site to exclude the duplication of content that is harmful according to SEO.

Check below’s Pre-launch steps list:

1Ensuring that your new site’s test environments are not indexed by search engines
2Make a crawl at the old website
3Exporting a list of data
4Create a URL redirect map
5Backing up the old version of the website
6Conducting an extensive audit of the new version of the website
7Generating a robots.txt file and sitemap for a new version of the site
8Verification of broken links
9Verification of canonical

Ensuring that your new site’s test environments are not indexed by search engines

  • Don’t index your trial version, it is crucial, otherwise, this version and unnecessary resources will be indexed and duplicate content will occur. Duplication is not recommended in the context of SEO activities. You ought to remember that usage of Google resources for unnecessary subpages may have a negative impact on the results of the migrated page.
  • In order to verify these issues, the independent analysis of the header in the context of the presence of noindex tags, which prevents indexing in search engines. The approach more effective and safe would be making a craw and through it, you make re-verify the indexing of the page.

Make a crawl at old website

  • It is highly important to download all possible data from the old website before initiating the migration process. This will help you work on the next points allow you to compare important elements of the website before and after the migration.
  • You can use Screaming Frog to provide this. At this stage, it’s also important to organize data in folders, where data from the old version goes to one, and new items to the other.

Exporting a list of data

List of subpages to which external links lead

  • All subpages to which external links lead must be saved. You have to decide what to do with such subpages, as no links should lead to a page with a 404 error. The best tool for this task is Ahrefs, which specializes in linking.

List of subpages currently indexed by search engines

  • The subpage indexed in the search engine will appear in the Google database. If some of these subpages show 404 after migration will negatively affect the results of the organic traffic of the page. 
  • The best way to get correctly indexed subpages from the old website is to export them from Google Search Console. This tool is by far the best representation of your website’s indexation status in the search engine.

List of subpages made available on social media

  • Any subpage that has ever been shared on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media is potentially attractive to the user. Each of these pages should be saved and planned for the future website. It’s a good idea to use Ahrefs again for this list.

Create a URL redirect map

  • Creating a redirect map will stop potential leaks of “link juice” to subpages that no longer exist. A redirect map is necessary to take care of every URL and have the right picture of how the website looks in terms of link status.
  • You need to create this type of map on the basis of URLs that are already present on the website and compare them with the planned, new addresses. This allows you to get a complete view of your redirects and will definitely help your web developers to be as effective as possible.

Backing up the old version of the website

  • Backing up key data for us should be a functioning habit. It is necessary to create a backup of the old version of the website, also in case of problems with an important function of the website or with an SEO element.
  • Old data can be more easily restored. Without corrections, an example of a broken comment section or blog may cause very strong drops in traffic.

Conducting an extensive audit of the new version of the website

  • After creating a new version of the website that is almost ready to go, an in-depth technical SEO audit should be performed. Of course, each specialist has their own methods for this, but the work carried out and the overall impact on SEO should be verified.

Generating a robots.txt file and sitemap for a new version of the site

  • The time has come to create the appropriate robots.txt file with the right exclusions and a sitemap divided into blog entries, photos, videos, etc. It is a relatively simple process, but it should be approached fully consciously because both elements have a very large impact on the correct page indexation.

Verification of broken links

  • Do a website crawl to discover subpages that generate hypothetical errors. Avoid any error 404 which can cause traffic loss, internal and external links, and waste of cawl google budget.

Verification of canonical

  • Canonical links are important according to SEO. Those links prevent from previously mentioned duplication of content. You can manage them to strengthen your favorite subpages.

Launching the migrated site

When you finally managed all the necessary web development work linked with migration, then you have to launch a new version of the website.

At this stage, your project manager and SEO specialist should take care of starting rightful indexation and organic traffic.

Check below’s Launch steps list:

1Ensuring access to the website and verification file robots.txt
2Verification of does NOINDEX Tag was deleted from each subpage intended for indexation
3Verification of correctness redirect 301
4Verification of sitemap correctness and adding it to Google search console
5Make sure all meta titles and meta descriptions need to be implemented
6Check if the analytical codes are placed in the right way and the tools are collecting data correctly
7Cognitive walkthrough

Ensuring access to the website and verification file robots.txt

  • When the website is ready for indexation, your SEO specialist should unblock access to Google robots to make a Verification of how robots move on the new website. Additional crawl would be also helpful in this scope.
  • Necessary thing is to check out file robots.txt, lack of this file or bad performance can block the traffic of robots on the website.
  • Keep attention also to robots tags regarding all subpages after crawl providing. If the tags as INDEX or FOLLOW are missing you should implement them if you consider indexation of a particular address.

Verification of does NOINDEX Tag was deleted from each subpage intended for indexation

  • NOINDEX Tag was necessary to avoid indexation of the old test version of “stage”.
  • The current goal is to gain speed and efficiency in the indexation of subpages.
  • Therefore the most efficient way is to make a crawl which helps in the verification of all subpages. Then when the previous step is behind you all you have to do is manual verification of sources code from the most important subpages. In that way, you can protect your website from undesirable indexation blockage remnants.

Verification of correctness redirect 301

  • Tip for your SEO specialist. Use Screaming Frog once again, then going through the crawl gain redirection report. This will tell you if all redirects are being processed as intended.
  • It’s important that none of your redirections wasn’t an incorrect temporary redirect 302. Why? Because it will not provide full efficiency of the given subpage, it can negatively influence the condition of your website on Google.

Verification of sitemap correctness and adding it to Google search console

  • Correctness of sitemap supports the process of effective indexation of subpages. Thanks to sitemap Google robots can search various subpages more effectively.
  • You should divide the sitemap into various sections. A good example for this division could be photos, blogs sections, and other kinds of subpages like that. A similar situation refers to online stores website having thousands of URLs. In this situation, there is a need to make split sitemap into several lesser ones.
  • In order to use all the potential of the sitemap, it’s worth locating it in Google Search Console. It will allow checking how many sitemaps addresses indicate and how many are not qualified.

Make sure all meta titles and meta description need to be implemented

  • Meta titles really have a big impact on the appropriate indexation and positioning in the Google search engine. Therefore, it should be implemented on the site from the very beginning. It is worth taking care of a uniform scheme so that they are as specific as possible and also help users.
  • A meta description is used to generate a higher CTR in the search engine. Well presented and of appropriate length can effectively encourage users to click on a given SERP. This increases the level of qualitative organic traffic,  that’s why you should also take care of these elements. The fastest way to investigate them is to crawl the page with Screaming Frog.

Check if the analytical codes are placed in the right way and the tools are collecting data correctly

  • Usually, after migration, such analytical codes are not transferred by Web Developers. Therefore, it is worth bearing in mind that our analytical tools from the very beginning of the new website’s operation are fully operational.
  • The data that you can obtain from them regarding organic traffic will be invaluable when comparing them with those from the old version of the website. When it comes to the classic analytical tool from Google (Google Analytics), it is necessary to manually verify the page head. After GA verification, it is also worth doing with Google Search Console, which relates more to the indexation itself, but is also worth its weight in gold.

Cognitive walkthrough

  • If you have special skills regarding UX or a member of your team is a specialist in User Experience, then it’s worth making the extra analysis. Cognitive Walkthrough is nothing more than a structured approach to the evaluation of product usefulness in your case migrated site via tester analysis.
  • The tester needs to set up 4 basic questions according to selected user movement. Results of this analysis improve the website according to its use.

Post Launch. Effects verification after migration

After providing CMS migration you can set together previously collected data and make verification of results. This process needs to be done two times. Firstly after stage “Launch” and the second one after one or two months from the start of the migrated website.

  • Be aware of changes in organic traffic that can result after a long time. That’s why verification after such a time of starting your new website is essential.
  • Be vigilant of your website speed. Keep in mind speed statistics which are highly important for the efficiency of your website. The speed of your website strongly affects user behavior. You can read more about the value of speed here.
  • Based on the received feedback you would be able to estimate if migration went in a good way. Any deviation in analytical tools informs you that something could have gone wrong and is worth making additional analysis.

Check below’s Post-launch steps list:

1Google Search console investigation
2Data comparison

Google Search console investigation

Google Search console can inform you about potential migrations errors. Those communications can save your website from consequential accordingly your website state or indexation. The most common messages you can expect are as follow:

Indexed website but blocked by file robots.txt.It’s referring to a situation where your given subpage is not in the file-type robot.tx without tag “noindex”.
Sent URL 404 is not detected.Compulsory is to cover redirect to this kind of address when possible.
Error 5xx server.The most common reason for this kind of error is a matter of hosting. This is are where you ought to pay attention at.
Sent URL includes the error of indexation.This message you need to consider individually that’s why it’s worth to make own analysis particular URL address generating.

Data comparison

Make verification of your new version for speed of loading. To clarify the conclusion, you should include data from previously verified old websites, in your estimation.

  • Verify the index state of your new website and compare the results with the old one – You can provide this using the Google Search console.
  • Verify amounts of the entrance to each subpage through search and compare results with previous data. You can use Google Search Console to do that.
  • Perform a performance test of the new site and compare the results with the old version– Verify the new version in terms of loading speed. In estimating specific conclusions, data from the study of the previous version of the website before migration will be helpful.

Final words

As you can see, the migration process is not the easiest one and that’s why is recommended that you approach it with concentration and mathematical accuracy. If you plan to migrate to your company, but you feel that you may need support, you can always order a free consultation with our expert. We are here to help you plan the entire process.

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