SEO Checklist for Website Migration
Learn how to protect site performance.
Migrating your site is exciting but make sure you protect your existing site performance along the way.
Among all the key steps to build and prepare your site for launch, search engine optimization (SEO) ranks as one of the most important. How well you prepare can positively or negatively impact the ultimate results.
That’s why we’ve curated a detailed migration and launch preparation checklist for SEO.
Note: The actual steps will vary for each organization. Contact your WordPress VIP technical account manager with any questions.
WordPress VIP makes migration easy
With WordPress VIP, many crucial functions—like security, caching, and dynamic sizing—are built into the platform so you don’t have to worry about them. We provide a temporary convenience URL during migration that comes with hard coded `/robots.txt` output that returns:
``` User-agent: * Disallow: / ```
These settings are intended to prevent search engines from indexing content hosted on unlaunched production sites.
Site speed is a major factor in improving SEO performance, which is why WordPress VIP offers built-in infrastructure features to enhance site speed, including:
Uptime is also important for SEO value calculations. If your site is on an unstable platform, your SEO performance suffers. This is where WordPress VIP stands out above the rest.
“The reassurances of uptime are there. There’s no more worry of waking up at 2 a.m. to see that the site has had an outage.”—Ramsey Mohsen, CEO, Everhance
Pre-launch SEO checklist
Over time, your site (and each URL) develops an SEO value to search engines. It’s important to protect that credibility when you migrate your site; otherwise, you may experience a drop in traffic. There are multiple ways to avoid a negative hit to your SEO value prior to migrating.
1. Perform a content audit
While content audits can be overwhelming, they’re also a necessary part of ensuring SEO performance during a site migration. During the audit, you should identify:
- Top-performing pages and posts (organic traffic, search referrals, etc.)
- Top-converting pages and posts (or content with the highest ROI)
- Redundant, trivial, or obsolete (ROT) content
Tracking this content performance pre- and post-launch will help gauge overall site performance and also provide a list of “priority” pages to check during quality assurance.
2. Implement 301 redirects
A 301 redirect tells the search engine that a page has moved. In a perfect world, you change as little as possible about your URL structures. But during a migration, you’ll likely need to adjust them, so implement 301 redirects when you need them. To implement redirects on WordPress VIP, use Safe Redirect Manager or WPCOM Legacy Redirector (for large quantities).
3. Organize your analytics tools
Measuring what matters is important, before and after launch. Confirm your analytics tools of choice are installed and running smoothly on your site between migration and launch.
Use Google Tag Manager to implement Google Analytics. Work with your Parse.ly team to confirm Parse.ly is implemented correctly. Confirming your analytics are in place before launch will ensure you don’t lose important data.
VIP TIP: Not a Parse.ly customer yet? Learn how our customers use Google Analytics and Parse.ly in tandem to fortify their content strategy.
4. Optimize on-page content
On-page content optimization is an essential part of protecting SEO performance during site migration. Pre-launch, we recommend confirming that:
- Page titles and meta descriptions are in place
- There are no duplicate H1s throughout the site
- There is an HTML and XML sitemap available for the search engines to crawl
- Internal page linking is working properly (no 404 errors)
5. Lower your TTL Settings
We recommend reducing Time to Live (TTL) of a domain’s DNS records to 300 seconds at least one day before launching a site. This streamlines propagation when the IP/CNAME/A record is changed at launch time; most browsers will be directed to the newly launched site within a few minutes of launch.
6. Add your Domain to the VIP Dashboard
To help prepare for launch, add your domain on the Domains panel of the VIP Dashboard.
Launch day checklist
Once all the preparation work is complete, it’s time to launch! Launching a new site on WordPress VIP is easy with our self-launch feature in the VIP Dashboard. Take the following steps to ensure a successful launch.
1. Launch the site in the VIP Dashboard
Visit your VIP Dashboard and access the self-launch tool. Work through the steps under “Launch Your Application” and finish by marking your site as “Launched.”
2. Connect your new site to Google Search Console
After your site is launched, confirm your site is connected to Google Search Console (GSC) and submit the site for indexation. Connecting your site to GSC will help maintain your site’s Google presence in the Google search landscape, and keep you updated on site errors, security issues, and search rankings.
3. Update Google Ads
If you operate Pay Per Click (PPC) ads in Google Ads, now is a good time to update them with your new URL so they are approved.
4. Annotate in Google Analytics
In Google Analytics, add an annotation of your site launch to make it easier to benchmark traffic patterns before and after site launch.
If you use Parse.ly, note the launch date for historical comparisons.
5. Update external links
Reach out to partners, syndicated content hosts, etc., to ensure all links living on their channels are current. You may also need to update links on your own social channels and apps, or other places you have inbound links to your site.
Post-launch: SEO is never done
Even after a successful launch, try to keep SEO top of mind as content strategy best practices are ever changing. But when it comes to the structural aspect of your site speed and performance, WordPress VIP has you covered.
For more advice, read our Ultimate Guide to Migrating to WordPress VIP.