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Migration Best Practices - Peak Ace on Air


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At Peak Ace on Air we were talking about some migration best practices and specifically about "five fatal errors to avoid". Enjoy!

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Migration Best Practices - Peak Ace on Air

  1. 1. Migration Best Practices Five fatal errors to avoid Bastian Grimm, Peak Ace AG | @basgr
  2. 2. If it ain't broke…
  3. 3. Some challenges you’ll need to overcome Coordination with other requirements before, during and after the migration process is critical!  Lack of clear (migration) goals  Lack of buy-in / support to make changes  Lack of flexibility to implement changes  Poor time, project and/or stakeholder management  Lack of or insufficient testing; no time to bugfix  Migrating to new non- or lesser-optimised templates  Failure to migrate key pages, categories, etc.  Impatience…!
  4. 4. Every (big) change brings (lots of) opportunities! But always keep in mind: the price of failure is immense! Risk Reward User acceptance “Once in a lifetime” opportunity Project complexity Greenfield project: question everything Resilience/freeze Best chance to really “get shit done” Interruption Chance to eliminate “legacy problems” Politics Usually more agile vs. regular, daily business Performance Rethink RWD/dynamic serving, HTTPS, URL design, etc.
  5. 5. What are your goals for migration? The right mindset is really, really important! “I want to lose as little as possible” isn’t really a good migration objective!
  6. 6. Migration types and their potential impact on SEO Often these types overlap – or multiple things are done simultaneously. Inspired by @jonoalderson: Type Example Hosting migrations You’re changing hosting or CDN provider(s). You’re changing, adding, or removing server locations. You’re changing your tech stack/caching/lbs. Software migrations You’re changing CMS (or its version/plugins, etc.). You’re changing the language used to render the website. You’re merging platforms; e.g. a blog which operated on a separate domain. Domain migrations You’re changing the main domain of your website. You’re buying/adding new domains/subdomains to your ecosystem. You’re moving a website, or part of a website, between domains. Template migrations You’re changing the layout/structure/navigation of important pages. You’re adding or removing template components. You’re changing elements in your code, like title, canonical, or hreflang tags.
  7. 7. Make it a granular, multi-step approach Doing everything at once will make debugging & rolling back an almost impossible task! Source:
  8. 8. Thorough documentation, in-depth definitions of requirements and ongoing testing are essential! Obsess over the details
  9. 9. The sooner your (SEO) team is involved, the better: make sure everyone is on board, maximise time for prep work & thorough planning, etc. Get in early
  10. 10. What should go, what can stay? Complete vs. partial site move? Define your migration strategy
  11. 11. Use one of your smaller markets (revenue-wise) as a guinea pig to test the process and gather real-world feedback. Multinational setup?
  12. 12. Find a timeframe – including a buffer – when business is slower; also consider public holidays and seasonal events. Migrate during a slow period
  13. 13. Rushing your migration will guarantee its failure. Ensure there's enough time for QA, feedback loops and necessary changes to be implemented! Be realistic about deadlines
  14. 14. Pre-migration: site health check & clean up A properly optimised domain migrates easier and more efficiently. Getting your house in order before the move minimises the risk of losing beneficial rankings.  Google Search Console: manual actions, server errors (DNS, 4xx and 5xx response codes), mark-up validation errors (AMP,, rich cards), robots.txt  Web crawl: internal redirects as well as redirect chains, broken URLs, and internal links  Log files: broken URLs, suspicious status codes, crawler traps  Further: perform a thorough audit, it’ll save you a lot of time with regards to the post-migration workload
  15. 15. At a minimum: fix broken pages & broken internal links
  16. 16. Spoiler: I didn‘t manage to cut it down to just five… 5 fatal errors to avoid
  17. 17. Figure out well in advance how to gain access to all relevant server access logs, e.g. via native access or by using a SaaS solution. Gaining access to server logs too late
  18. 18. Not gathering all URLs (including static assets) #1 Must haves: log files, XML sitemaps as well as a full website crawl. Extras: analytics (top ranking URLs and/or URLs generating the most traffic). small domains large domains
  19. 19. Not gathering all URLs (including static assets) #2 Additionally: collect the URLs that are strongly linked, bring a lot of traffic and/or have been shared the most, etc.
  20. 20. Missing to establish a status quo performance benchmark Lighthouse (via Chrome DevTools) or provide relevant metrics. Important: also benchmark category/product pages, not just the homepage.
  21. 21. Not having a proper staging/test server setup Make sure the server is locked-down properly to ensure your content doesn’t get indexed in advance (i.a. duplicate content problems). Methodology Pros Cons noindex (meta tag/header)  External tools can access without separate access rules  URLs are definitely not indexed  Indexing rules cannot fully be tested (all noindex)  Waste of crawl budget robots.txt  External tools can access without separate access rules  No crawl budget is wasted  Indexing rules cannot fully be tested (only with robots.txt override)  If linked, test URLs may appear in the index (without title/metas). password secured (.htaccess)  No crawl budget is wasted  URLs are definitely not indexed  Everything can be tested properly  External tools must be able to handle password authentication. IP-based access  No crawl budget is wasted  URLs are definitely not indexed  Everything can be tested properly  External tools must be able to handle IP-based authentication. VPN  Completely safe!  So safe, only a few tools can handle it!
  22. 22. Bonus: Build your very own migration QA check-list Depending on what type of changes you’re undergoing, this needs to be adapted. Use Aleyda’s template for more inspiration: Canonical tags & other rel-alternate annotations Remember to annotate your dedicated mobile site, to adapt your (RSS-) feeds as well as pre-fetching/pre-loading annotations Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20 Multilingual setup: customise hreflang target URLs Keep in mind: various locations can be affected (e.g. head section, server headers, XML sitemaps) Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20 Update XML sitemaps Sitemap index file also needs to be changed if you reference it in the robots.txt, don’t forget to re-submit to GSC either Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20 JavaScript crawling review Test every single page template of the new site to make sure Google will be able to crawl content that requires JavaScript parsing/execution Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20 Structured data update ( Update your mark-up. Errors need to be identified early so there’s time to fix them before the new site goes live Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20 Update CDN settings and resource hints Update requests for assets to CDNs & any resource hints (preconnect, dns-prefetch) Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20 Update HTTP header & customise cookie settings If applicable, customise X-Robots header tags, as well a hreflang and / or caching headers. Use Chrome DevTools to validate Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20 AMP implementation review Each non-AMP page has an annotation pointing to the corresponding AMP URL (and rel-canonical vice-versa) Stage: pre-migration Who? Bastian When? 10/02/20
  23. 23. Don’t be lazy! Internal links to/through redirects or even linking to error pages can be perceived as low-quality signals Change internal links to point directly to new targets
  24. 24. A breadcrumb ensures that every page on a website receives plenty of additional incoming internal links from pages that are lower within the website hierarchy Don’t remove your breadcrumb navigation without replacement
  25. 25. The navigation depth of a page matters. The further away a page is located from the home page, the lower the chances of it achieving good rankings Ensure important pages have not been demoted in the hierarchy
  26. 26. Be careful with internal redirects! Avoid redirect chains: old URLs should lead directly to the new corresponding URLs. Source: Redirect Chain Report via DeepCrawl
  27. 27. GSC has various settings you need to be aware of Work your search console
  28. 28. Missing to transfer the disavow links file in time Especially for domains with a “questionable” link profile: GSC setup and disavow file transfer should be done approximately 48 hours before going live!
  29. 29. Seriously… after all this preparation, now you "just" need to redirect all your old URLs. Missing to 301 redirect all the things (or URLs)!
  30. 30. The most common problem with migrations gone awry? Missing or incorrect redirects! Again: check your redirects
  31. 31. Recrawling, recalculation & the inheritance of ”trust“ may take a few weeks… First and foremost: be patient!
  32. 32. Especially for new domains, two weeks is not enough: Source: […] it can take two weeks for some sites but for larger sites, it is more like three months, not even close to two weeks.
  33. 33. So, in a nutshell… …whenever you perform a migration, make sure you: 01 Don‘t migrate legacy! Do a thorough health check and clean up first – it‘ll be super hard to analyse errors later on. 02 Collect necessary data in advance! Make sure to fully understand your URL portfolio, crawl & GSC data etc. 03 Get access to server log files! As much as I love GSC, data comes in with a delay and you need instant feedback on errors, etc. 04 Check your redirects, twice! Make sure to review your redirect mapping multiple times, ideally with another pair of eyes. 05 Be patient and don‘t panic! Don‘t freak out, seriously. Sometimes things can just take a bit longer for Google to fully process (and to pass along signals).
  34. 34. pa.ag34 Take your career to the next level: Any questions? e-mail us > @peakaceag Bastian Grimm