The adage “change is the only constant” is quite applicable to the process of content migration. For website managers moving a site from one system to another can cause significant headaches due to compatibility and other issues.
As systems and standards change frequently in the web world, websites created years ago may have problems when moved to another server system. Yet, the necessity of migrating content to a new setup is often unavoidable. Sometimes, it is necessary to move to new servers for reasons outside of your control while in other cases, you may simply prefer a different system.
Failure to migrate content successfully can have repercussions ranging from search engine penalties to page errors and website downtime.
Here are five steps that can help make content migration as smooth and trouble free as possible:
1. Review your content
Go over the entire website to decide which content you want to migrate to the new system. Make a note of the programming languages and scripts used and of the overall structure of the site on the server. Collect all data that you will need to plan the content migration from file types to overall data storage.
2. Analysis and planning
Check to ensure that the metadata on the original server system is sufficient for the target system. Does the new system handle the same web applications and file types? In some cases, you may need to change the data to comply with the new servers, operating system, content management system and the like. If you are using a hosting provider, the new servers may not have the same permissions as on your older system. Among the items that will need checking are document links, versions, renditions, folder structure, data dictionaries, content initialization process and external integrations.
3. Selecting the right tools
Software applications like the Sharepoint migration tool help website managers seamlessly migrate content from one system to another. SharePoint does not require server-side installation and it preserves version history while transferring content. The application remaps metadata fields, transfers original author and timestamp data, sets original server permissions, corrects illegal characters and reassigns new content types. In order to select the right tools, it helps to read reviews and ratings on top tech websites like CNET. For complex migrations, it may be advisable to hire a consultant to analyze the problem and recommend the best migration tools.
4. Keeping your search engine rankings
One problem that many websites face during content migration is loss of their position in search engine results pages (SERPs). These sites may have spent years building up their presence using search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. In order to ensure that you do not suffer any penalties during the migration process, it is necessary for the move to be as seamless as possible.
Optimally, the search engines will not even notice the change. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to ensure that the new system is up and running when you switch over the domain. Proper URL mapping will help prevent problems especially in reference to the all-important incoming links.
Thorough beta testing and troubleshooting is essential because search engine algorithms penalize pages and sites for bad links and faulty coding. Another thing to check is the robots.txt for the proper permissions that direct search engine bots in crawling through your content.
5. Analyze the website for proper performance
Once the migration process is complete, you then need to track and analyze the website for proper performance. If the content migration went smoothly, then you should not notice much in terms of performance changes. The visitor traffic, time on pages, time on site, number of pages visited and search engine placement should be similar to what they were on the older system. In many cases, though, you will encounter at least some problems because the migration process is so complex. Good analytical software will allow you to quickly identify and correct any hang-ups and anomalies in your new server setup.
So many variables are present during the content migration process that make avoiding snags can seem almost impossible. However, with proper analysis and planning, and with the optimal content migration tools, it is possible to carry out this operation seamlessly and with no, or at least, minimal problems.
Because of the constantly changing face of the Internet and for many other reasons, content migration is often unavoidable. In some cases, for example, a website’s older hosting provider may close down. Alternatively, the older server system may not have the capability and scalability to handle the requirements of a growing site.
The steps above will help improve the probability of a successful migration as they can help you avoid the common pitfalls involved in the process from loss of search engine placement to trouble with file or application compatibility.