3 First Steps To Take When Your Client Says ‘Site Migration’

Whether you’re just kicking off a new client, or you've been working with them for years, the words ‘site migration’ are enough to strike fear into any SEO’s heart. Don’t panic though, as going through a migration doesn’t have to be your nightmare-fuel.

When a client brings up the topic of going through a migration, there are three key things to do first.

  1. Find out the goals
  2. Understand what they mean by ‘migration’
  3. Get an idea of a timeline

Step 1: Find Out the Goals

Like any important task, you need to understand the goals before making any serious decisions. Why does the client want to migrate? What are they hoping to achieve with this? Is there a business problem they’re hoping a migration will solve?

By figuring out why they want to migrate, you can better gauge where you and your team can plug in and help keep both you and the client teams aligned during the transition.

As consultants, it's also part of our job to provide clients with another point of view and not just be a ‘yes man’. Would the amount of time, resources, and risk associated with a redesign be the best way to achieve the client’s goal? Perhaps not.

Image result for site migration

Step 2: Understand What They Mean by ‘Migration’

While the textbook definition of migration is “movement from one part of something to another,” a site migration can be broken into a few different types. Moz has a great graph that breaks them down neatly, but they are essentially:

  • Domain level (rebrandings, HTTP > HTTPS, changing international sites)
  • Platform level (upgrading CMS platform, integrating multiple platforms into one)
  • Content level (adding or removing pages, consolidating pages)
  • Structural level (updates to site hierarchy, navigation changes, internal linking)
  • UX/Design level (reskins/look and feel changes, UX-driven updates across devices)

All of which, can be distilled down to two main categories: migrations WITH URL changes, and migrations WITHOUT URL changes.

The type of migration determines the level of you and your team’s involvement. For example, if a client says “we’re migrating” this might be something as simple as a reskin where all the pages are staying the same but the site is getting a “facelift” in terms of images, colors, logos, etc and the SEO team may not need to support as much; or it could be something as serious as a move from “” to “” where literally all of your URLs are going to be changing and you’ll need to provide a much higher level of support.

Step 3: Get an Idea of Timeline

In an ideal world, clients would let us know two years in advance of any major site changes. However, that’s sometimes not the case. Getting an idea of the timeline for a migration sets the course for much of the work you and your team will have to do.

Are they looking to go live in six months? A year? The longer the timeline, the more thoughtful you and the client's teams can be with the recommendations and the less room for error there is.

You Got This!

While this is by no means a comprehensive guide on what to do when going through a site migration, hopefully, these three steps can help you lay the foundation for a seamless transition.

Think we missed an important first-step, or have any migration horror stories (we’ve all got one)? Let us know in the comments!


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Katherine Pietrangelo
Katherine Pietrangelo
Sr. Associate, SEO