Site Migration Process

A site begins with such fresh hopes — that it’s going to conquer its niche, or at least provide enough income to make its existence worthwhile. But what happens when it doesn’t, or when it proves so worthwhile that it ends up being purchased by a competitor? How do you handle closing down, migrating, or merging a site?

We’ve been dealing with this issue over the past month. As regular SEW readers know, AOL closed down Propeller.com. Also, the World of Warcraft site migrated from WOW.com to Joystiq. Here are some lessons search engine optimization (SEO) teams can learn from our experiences.

Migrating a Site to Another Domain

This can be the simplest form of moving a site. If the only thing that changes is the main domain, then all you have to do is a domain level 301 (permanent) redirect. However, if there are other changes, such as moving from one content management system (CMS) to another, or changes to the permalink structures, then it becomes more complicated.

Changing CMS; Merging With Another Site

You’ll have to map out the redirects at whatever level is necessary — potentially at the page level. Is it necessary to redirect every page? Possibly not, but it really depends. Think about:

  • Which pages drive traffic?
  • Which pages drive conversions?
  • Which pages have external links?
  • Which pages drive the greatest level of engagement?

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