In the last few months, we've shared some of our thoughts around the process of moving websites from one domain to another, and even when to start over altogether.
In most of these scenarios, though, we've been assuming that you're moving from custom HTML to a CMS like WordPress, or from one WordPress website to another.
While there are things to look out for in any website migration, things get more complex when you have multiple platforms that you want to transition into something new or if you simply wish to consolidate your site. More importantly, you want to do so without losing marketing effectiveness or any existing search engine ranking "juice".
In those instances, we recommend that you first remember what actually matters. That is, to keep in mind that the platforms and technical pieces are just parts of the puzzle; you really need to be focused on making the most of your content, search engine findability, and visitor experience.
Although a lot of businesses tend to make changes to their websites based on aesthetics or branding, it's important that you not sacrifice any of the things that actually make your website useful as a lead generation tool.
Beyond that, there are six specific steps you can take to make the process of migrating your site easier... and the end result more effective.
1. Backup everything before you touch anything.
Because there are lots of small issues that can cause huge headaches when you're talking about migrating dozens or hundreds of pages, it's a good idea to have backups in place before you begin. That way, you can always restore your old site, and all of its content, at a moment's notice if needed.
2. Choose a new CMS theme to work with.
Because we focus more on marketing than development, most of our new business sites begin with CMS templates our clients find or reference from online sources. When short-listing themes or template designs, be sure to look for functionality and navigation, and not just appearance - and especially, don't let mock-up or demo visuals sway you - those won't be in your site.
Choosing a theme with responsive capabilities is especially important, since you want your new site to be fully compatible with smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices without the need for creating a second "mobile" site.
3. Skip expensive and time-consuming custom development.
Take this piece of advice to heart before you shut down the site: don't do unnecessary work, or pay for extra hours, by beginning your next business website from the ground up. Not only can it be significantly more expensive, but it can also take longer and you'll end up with many of the same layouts and features as you could have gotten from a template or theme. And, often at a fraction of the cost. CMS templates take care of 90% of the development work for you. The other 10% is more likely styling and branding.
4. Test plug-ins and applications.
Once you select a new template to work with, make sure it's compatible with any mandatory apps or plug-ins that you use on your existing site. It's much easier to find a template that already works from the start, than it is to invest time trying to fit it together later. The thing about plugins is that they come in all sorts of quality levels. Only select the tried and true, and the ones their developers keep up to date.
5. Update links and content.
With the preliminaries out of the way, your online marketing team is free to port your existing content and pages into the new layout, taking care to update any broken links, double-check that images, videos, and internal links transfer smoothly, and that everything ends up where was supposed to be. In some cases, this transition may be seamless; other times, a lot of adjustments might be needed. During this content porting phase is when SEO improvemens can be made.
6. Turn your focus back to inbound lead generation.
By making the most of automated transfer tools, and bypassing the long and expensive custom design process, you should be able to move to a new online presence quickly and relatively inexpensively. That frees your budget for lead capture setup, marketing offer creation, and quality inbound lead generation activities, which are the reasons to invest in a quality website in the first place, and the best way to get a return on your investment.
The process of migrating your site, no matter how simple or complex its structure is, really hinges on having a set of defined steps so you don't miss important details. In other words, you have to get all of the little things right before your website can actually evolve into something better - and that's where the right online marketing partner can help guide you through an otherwise-difficult process.