The 15 Step Guide to Site Migrations

or “How I learned to stop worrying and love the bottle”

Like the swallows to Capistrano, the chances are that you’ll regularly be migrating content on your site, either to a new domain, or a new URL structure.  All it takes is a new head of UX to suddenly decide that your Information Architecture is sloppier than a piece of bread that’s been used to sop up the gravy that Lisa Barone refused to eat, and then been left out in the rain during a particularly heavy shower, or an executive, with nothing to say, who blurts out, in a meeting, the first thing that enters their head “we need to refresh the website”.  So what do you, a humble, lowly SEO do?

  1. Let them know that their insipid suggestion of a new domain is already in use by a powerhouse company in another industry, and the chances of you getting it are next to none unless they’re willing to spend their entire budget for the next 3 years on getting it.
  2. Wince out loud as you read the email from the project manager stating that none of the 24,000 pages getting less than 200 visits a day will be migrated because they’re just long tail, and that’s not the focus of the new site
  3. Sob softly to yourself as the migration meeting rolls into it’s 5th hour of discussing the benefits of rounded corners over sharp corners on the navigational buttons
  4. Repeat your mantra after being asked by your manager to spend the afternoon on the phone with a 95 year old board member who has ideas for increasing hits to the site.
  5. Go to your happy place in your head, as you discover that the developer has removed all Google Search Console tags, meta tags, and analytics tags, in order to “speed up” the site
  6. Extract the bottle of vodka from under your desk and pour a glass to steady your nerves after you notice that the migration map has all of the currently high converting pages soft 404’ing to the home page
  7. Join a self help group after you receive a notification of the 6 hour meeting with an external “Rankbrain migration consultant” that happened yesterday
  8. Lose the will to exist after the 417th email in the thread on whether to use subdomains or folders lands in your inbox
  9. Repeatedly slam your head into your desk as you realize that the design team have decided the new site should be just one page with infinite scroll, in AJAX
  10. Breathe into a paper bag to prevent hyperventilation as you discover that the site actually migrated last Tuesday, and they’re just now asking you why traffic has collapsed
  11. Open up and begin searching for a new gig, once you realize that the chief architect read a post from 2007, removed the responsive design, and instead set up a .mobi solution because this is how you do it in “the year of mobile”.
  12. Take a vow of silence and join a monastery after corporate compliance inform you that the new site has to come down immediately because a non-approved shade of puce was used on the “info” button.
  13. Buy a one way ticket to deepest, darkest Peru after you receive an email from the CEO stating that having looked at the site after relaunch, she doesn’t like the new domain after all, but has some ideas for what it should move to… by tomorrow
  14. Rub your eyeballs with jalapeno juice after you find that not only is there a noindex on every page, but the robots.txt is also set up to block both the old domain and the new one
  15. Inject pop rocks directly into your veins as you discover that the team in the following sprint are working on the old website, so everything’s going to be rolled back in 2 weeks and you’ll have to start all over again.


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