Google offers tips and shares advice on completing a successful site migration. For which it published a new video on site migrations. In the video, John Mueller has offered insights into how Google handles website migrations and has also mentioned about how long they can take.
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The video in which John Mueller shares his insights, began with a question:
“We’re currently going through a site migration and we’d also like to restructure the URLs on the site. Does this impose any risks?”
Migrating a site involves many critical factors, including changing the domain name sometimes, because the company is merged with another one or because the branding changed.
Joining two sites together gets trickier because it involves choosing what URLs will remain and which will be merged into existing pages that are similar.
John Mueller answered to the question, mentioning that:
“Unfortunately, while this may at first sound like a small change within a website, it’s not that simple for search engines.
Search engines like Google store their index on a per-page basis. So a change in the address or the URL of a page, requires that page’s data to be forwarded somehow, otherwise it will get lost.
It doesn’t matter if you’re completely rebuilding a website or if you’re just removing a slash from the end of URLs. These are all essentially site moves.”
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Here’s a look into the Site Migration Tips offered by John Mueller
1. Research the Options and Potential Effects
Site moves can be often disruptive. It is important to plan out the move by mapping one site to another. A means to do it is to divide the two sites into sections and see if sections can map to each other.
Moving forward, it becomes a matter of mapping URLs one to one and deciding which URLs cannot be moved to the new site. This should also resolve to a 404 response, which can be tough at times, especially if there are links pointing to those pages.
Hence, it is important to plan ahead, thoroughly.
“Since these changes take time and have ranking effects, it’s also recommended to consider the timing of when you make a move.”
2. Create a List of Old and New URLs
This is an important step.
According to John:
“This tip will help help you to track and check the changes afterward.”
Creating a spreadsheet of URLs is necessary and can easily be done with Screaming Frog. Once the redirects are in place and the new URLs up, check the work by uploading the list of the old site structure to Screaming Frog. It will crawl the URLs.
This can be easily done by selecting Mode > List then clicking on the Upload drop down menu tab and selecting the type of file being uploaded.
Screaming Frog works by crawling the old URLs in the list and will show you which URLs are redirecting to the new URLs and which are not. It will also return with a 404 page not found error response code.
The 404 URLs might indicate the URLs that didn’t make it over to the new site. But you’ll have to determine if the 404 is the correct response or if the URL was unintentionally left out of the site migration and needs to be mapped to a new URL.
3. Implement the Migration
“301 redirect all the old URLs to the new ones, also update all internal mentions such as:
- structured data
- and the Robots.txt file”
4. Monitor the Migration
Mueller advised using Search Console for this:
“Check all pages for the redirect. In Google’s search console report you should see a quick change for the most important pages and then a slower change as our systems reprocess the rest.”
Mueller has warned that this last part can take months to finish. He also mentions how determining overall site quality can take months. Google has to learn what a site is about, site quality, and understand where the site fits within the Internet.
Google’s John recommended leaving the redirects in place for at least one year.
John considered leaving the redirects in place for longer than a year and the reason is old URLs that have links from other sites pointed at them become broken links if the redirects are removed.
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It is necessary to create an outreach and contact sites that are linking to you and ask them to fix the links to point to the changed URLs. But doing this kind of outreach can sometimes backfire because some sites, for many reasons, may decide to remove the link altogether.
Also, there may be links that you don’t know about, so you can’t be sure that you had all the inbound links updated. Hence, it is necessary to keep those redirects in place and update them before some of the URLs change again, and in order to avoid creating chained redirects.
Because chained redirects is a reason why you might not want to keep redirects up permanently. It is when an old URL redirects to another old URL which itself redirects to another old URL before it redirects to the final URL. This can create a chain of redirects which becomes problematic for crawling.
Yes, site migrations are tough and as Mueller advised, it’s important to plan ahead.
Our agency for web application development in Kerala, can help you have a seamless process. We help you by mapping similar pages together also while taking into account link equity from inbound links.
Our thorough migration plan doesn’t make your site loose search presence during the transition period.