Few things can destroy a brand’s performance in the search results faster than a poorly implemented site migration.

Changing your domain name or implementing HTTPS can be a great business move, but if you fail to consider how search engines will react to this move, you are almost certain to take a major hit in organic search traffic.

Use the following SEO checklist to prepare yourself as you develop a migration game plan for your website.

1. Carefully consider if migration is the right choice

A site migration will almost always result in a temporary loss of traffic — Google needs time to process the change and update its index accordingly. A carefully executed site migration can minimize traffic fluctuations, and in a best-case scenario, Google will ultimately treat the new site as if it were the original.

Still, that is only the best-case scenario. The reality is that site migrations, in and of themselves, typically offer little to no SEO benefit and do not eliminate search engine penalties. (That is why SEOs often use site migrations as an opportunity to make SEO improvements, like streamlining the site structure, fixing broken links, consolidating redundant pages and making content improvements.)

With all of that in mind, when is a site migration worth it?

  • When a strong rebranding is in order.
  • When migration will generate press and links.
  • When the site needs to be moved to HTTPS (one of the few cases in which migration alone offers an SEO gain).

2. Use a sandbox

Never do a site migration without first testing everything on a test server. Verify that the redirects work properly, and do all of the checks that follow in private before going public. Trying to do it all in one go without testing is bound to lead to errors, and if the mistakes are bad enough, they can set your site back by weeks.

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