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How to transfer a site to a new Content management system without causing damage to SEO?

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The entire process of transferring a site to a new management system is carried out in three stages – Preliminary, Main and Verification. If there is no preparation and/or verification, problems are almost inevitable.

This can be compared to moving into a new apartment: if you just dart away to an unknown direction with uncertain goals, most likely, a lot of things will go wrong.

  1. Preliminary stage – the preparation to the transfer to a new engine
  2. Main stage – moving the site to a new CMS
  3. Verification – final step

Preliminary stage

Preparation is the most time-consuming process, and because of this, it is often neglected. We recommend that you deal with it as responsibly as possible so that the move goes as painlessly as possible.

First you need to decide on the deadline of the move. The main rule: do not transfer the site on Friday evenings and during the seasonal increase in sales. For example, if your online store sells New Year related products, changing your CMS in December is a bad idea.

Also, at the preliminary stage, you need to decide on a new engine – and it must be better than the old one. You can choose an option from universal ones – for example, WordPress, Joomla, Bitrix or Drupal; CS-Cart or Opencart are also great for ecommerce projects.

Another preparatory work is site map development: this is necessary to clearly present and easily find product pages within sections. A new map is needed if the updated version of the site has more pages on.

Next, we think over and test patterns for new URLs. Each engine creates them in its own way, you just need to study it in advance and set templates with the certain number of characters, including keywords.

After that, we proceed to upload the title, description and h1 meta tags into a separate document. To do this, you can use paid software like Screaming Frog, Netpeak Checker or free of charge – Xenu.

The next step is a map with paginated 301 redirects. It is necessary for the correct configuration of htaccess. If the site already had pages with 301 redirects, they also need to be rewritten again.

If it’s not done, there will be a long chain of redirects (from one page to the second, from the second to the third, and so on). This is not good for SEO, as the crawl budget is wasted and page indexing can slow down.

Then we make basic recommendations for:

  1. the robots.txt file. If the site moves to a test domain first, then you need to create a separate robots.txt file for it and close it from indexing;
  2. sitemap.xml file. If the site structure changes, you need to regenerate the sitemap.xml file;
  3. setting up 301 redirects to the website mirror: with www, a slash at the end, .html, etc.;
  4. pagination. Specify canonical master pages and try to avoid parametric duplicates;
  5. micromarking. If the old version of the site did not have it, implement it now.
  6. multilingualism. We specify the properties of the hreflang tag if the content on the site is presented in two or more languages.
  7. images. Specify the recommended size and the alt and title tags.

Let’s move on to uploading text content. In order not to lose it when moving, you need to use the eTXT program or, if there are a lot of texts, upload the site using HTTrack.

For convenience, it is better to create a separate file where all information about the texts will be collected: the old page, the new page, from where it is transferred, the title, the status (the text is transferred/overwritten).

The last step at the preparation stage is a site backup, a safety airbag, to roll back everything in case of force majeure.

Here’s a brief checklist for preparation of site moving to a new CMS:

  1. Choosing a time and new content management system.
  2. Developing a site structure map.
  3. Development of a document with templates for new URLs.
  4. Unloading meta tags.
  5. Mapping 301 redirects.
  6. Setting up service files – robots.txt, sitemap.xml and others.
  7. Uploading texts.
  8. Backup.

After such preparation, the site is ready for a safe move to a new engine.

The main stage

It starts from the moment the content (texts and images) is transferred. At the same time, you should start implementing service files and specifying 301 redirects.

Next, you need to check the availability of the site on the Google Search Console and web analytics (Google Analytics). Reconfigure target tracking.

The average time for old and new pages to stick together is one month. If there are no errors, it can be faster, but in general, the speed depends on the size of the site.

Final step: Verification

The more organized and thorough were the preparations and the actual move, the less problems and alterations there will be.

In short, verification is a technical audit of the site. It is necessary to check all the main points responsible for the performance and correct indexing of the site.

This includes checking meta tags and texts, 301 redirects, service files, analyzing new errors, evaluating the work of forms and baskets.

After correcting the errors, we begin to track the SEO parameters of the site – the position of the pages in the search and organic traffic. Most likely in the first weeks, the site will lose about 10-20% of traffic, but if you work according to this scheme, the indicators will return to normal within the first month.

To transfer the site to a new engine without shock therapy for SEO promotion, contact search engine optimization specialists – it’s much easier and saves you nerves, money and time.


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