Google Gives Tips on Site Migrations
Google has recently published a video on website migration in SEO. Here, John Mueller discussed how Google deals with website migrations and how long they take. According to the discussion, the migrations are difficult, and a good website SEO strategy is required before executing them.
The video started by asking if restructuring a site’s URLs while going through a site migration would cause any risks.
Site migrations generally include updating the domain name due to merging the company with another or changing the branding. The most difficult part is linking two websites because one would have to choose which URLs should stay and which would be integrated into similar existing pages.
Mueller said in the video that, at first glance, this task might seem like a small change within a website. However, it is not simple for Google’s search engine. Google stores its index on a per-page basis, so if one changes a page’s URL or address, that page’s data needs to be forwarded somehow; otherwise, it is lost forever.
So, it does not matter if an SEO is completely rebuilding a website or removing a slash from URLs. All these are essentially site moves.
Mueller Provides Helpful Site Migration Tips
1. Research the options and potential effects.
Migrating to another website can be disruptive, so one should create a thorough plan for their website migration in SEO. Mapping one site to another is a good start, and SEOs can do this by dividing the two websites into sections and determining if these sections can map to each other.
From there, it’s crucial to plan meticulously. It’s a matter of mapping URLs one to one and determining which cannot be moved to the new website, resulting in a 404 response. This task can be difficult if links are pointing to those pages, which is why it’s critical to plan ahead.
Mueller said these changes could take time and impact rankings, so one must consider the timing before migrating to a new site.
2. Create a list of old and new links.
This second step is crucial. According to Mueller, it will help SEOs track and check the changes afterwards.
One can simply organise their URLs in a spreadsheet using Screaming Frog. After the redirects are implemented, and the new URLs are in place, they can upload the old site structure to Screaming Frog to crawl them. Doing so allows people to check their work and ensure they do not miss anything.
To upload the old site structure to Screaming Frog, they must select Mode, then choose List. Next, they should click on the Upload drop-down menu tab and choose the type of file they want to upload.
Screaming Frog will crawl the list of old URLs and display which redirect to the new ones and 404 URLs.
URLs that return a 404-response code are links that could not make it to the new website, assuming that they are not the URLs that the site owner purposely want to get rid of.
In this case, SEOs need to decide if these 404 URLs were intended or were inadvertently deleted from the website migration and must be reconnected to a new address.
3. Implement the site migration.
Mueller advised people to 301 redirect old URLs to new links and update all internal mentions, including structured data, links, forms, sitemaps, and robots.txt files.
4. Monitor the migration.
Afterwards, one should monitor all of the pages for the redirect. One can see the changes for significant pages in the Google Search Console. And as time goes by, it will display a slower change as Google reprocesses the rest.
This last step might take months to complete as it takes a long time for Google to determine the overall site quality. Google has to learn the site’s context and overall quality to figure out where it fits on the Internet.
Mueller recommends that SEOs leave the redirects as they are for at least one year. However, some SEOs believe that they should leave the redirects in place for more than just one year. The reason is that old URLs containing links from other websites will become broken URLs once redirects are removed.
One can contact the websites linking to these URLs and ask them to point to the new URLs. However, this plan could backfire because some sites may remove the link instead of fixing it.
There may be other sites that the site owner is unaware of, so they can never be certain that all their outbound links are up-to-date. As a result, it’s critical to maintain these redirects and update them immediately if any URLs change again. Doing so prevents chained redirects.
Chain redirects happen when a new URL is linked to an old URL, which is then linked to another old URL before going to the ultimate URL. This can lead to a chain of redirections over time, making it difficult for search engines to follow.
Site Migrations are Challenging
Just like what Mueller said, it’s critical to prepare ahead of time before moving to another site. SEOs should map similar web pages and consider link equity from inbound links. Moving to a new website can cause them to fall out of search visibility, but this can be prevented if they follow a solid site migration strategy.
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