Some people believe investment of money, effort and time in CMS solutions means their website will be eternal and perfect. All they need is to fill in content and download updates. However, web development practice shows even the most innovative sites become obsolete after 3-5 years of their existence.
There are situations when your current CMS doesn’t meet new parameters or when you want to add an advanced incompatible or complex functionality. In this or other possible unfavourable cases, you should start thinking about migrating your website to a new content management system. To help you make everything competently without failures and mistakes, we have prepared a special guide to the website migration process with detailed instructions and useful tips.
Why did you make this decision?
To find a proper solution to any problem, it’s necessary to figure out where the roots of the evil are. The majority of website owners deciding to change their CMS have faced these obstacles:
The CMS no longer meets actual needs
Your business is rapidly growing and you need more functions. Sometimes it happens your CMS doesn’t have an appropriate set of features to meet all your requirements. For example, you want to connect an IP-telephony software to the website, but in your CMS, this possibility is not available.
The CMS is outdated
If your CMS hasn't undergone an overhaul for a few years, it’s a high time to think about changing it to stay afloat in the competitive digital world. The IT-space is developing rapidly; a period of a few years is equal to a few centuries. Each technology must constantly evolve. A CMS without crucial updates directly leads to reduction of productivity and deprives you of other important benefits.
One day, you may conclude it is inconvenient for you to add content to the pages of your web resource or make definite changes, or see this process takes too much time.
Addition of a new functionality, in most cases, requires a certain payment. However, you run the risk of becoming a financial hostage of your CMS requiring too much from your budget, especially if you must pay for every small change.
The best way to escape these nightmares and nervous tension (without a tranquilizer) is to migrate your website to another, more effective CMS as early as possible. The choice totally depends on your objectives and preferences, but the migration process is common for all types of CMS.
Things to consider before changing a CMS
- assess all the risks of migrating a website to a new CMS and maximally eliminate them,
- place the new and the old website versions on the same hosting with the opportunity of switching between them quickly,
- save the old URL-addresses (and/or configure redirect).
Getting Started: Evaluating Your Content
A content management system is a brilliant solution for users who have a great amount of information to be placed on a website and are in need of regular updates. The content is a key element when you work with a CMS. In the migration process, it’s necessary to take care of content storage and integrity, and here is how you can do this:
Make checklists for every category of your content. This helps you reduce confusion and forget nothing. Each list should keep the information about where/how every type of content is stored and managed and how it is to be preserved during migration. The inventory process can be much easier when using special scripts.
At this stage, you create a strategy for moving the content inventory directly and correctly to the new platform. This can be done both automatically or manually. If you understand you don’t need some content, you can pass by this task.
By tagging content, you get an easy search and sorting and filtering of information.
Migration Process: How To Stay Afloat
In complexity, the task of migration to another CMS is commensurate with the creation of a new website. The reason is each CMS has unique technical features: database structure, layout, content, etc. This becomes more complicated in terms of maintaining a current site position in search results. When you switch to another system, you want to not only transfer all the content and design to the new platform, but also to save (and even better, increase) the traffic coming from search engines. In this case, a safe and reliable migration process is possible with a strict adherence to specific migration stages and rules.
1. Prior migration procedures
- Backup. Before moving a website to a new CMS, ask the programmers to backup the old and new versions. In case of unforeseen circumstances, you can quickly roll back the changes.
- Saving of pages URLs. Each engine has its own rules for generating URL addresses by default. If these features are not taken into account when migrating, then all pages of the “old” site will display an error 404, and the pages of the "new" site will be indexed from scratch. The result of this phenomenon is a complete re-indexing of the site and loss of positions (with vague prospects of returning them). The first rule of a safe site migration to another CMS is to save the page addresses. If the new engine does not allow doing this by default, it's worth thinking about its manual revision with the involvement of developers. In case a complete or partial change of "URLs" is unavoidable, it is extremely important to configure redirects from the old addresses to the new ones. You can implement it with the help of the .htaccess file (other variants are possible depending on the particular hosting).
- Migration to a new hosting. This process includes the next steps:
- - link the domain name to another hosting,
- - create a copy of your website,
- - choose an appropriate hosting,
- - configure redirection from the old hosting correctly.
Content migration. Now, you should transfer content from the old site to the test site. If you have not previously involved a test site, the content will simply be lost when migrating, and this can significantly affect the ranking of the page.
Form clear recommendations on what types of content should be transferred to the test site:
- - texts from pages of sections, categories,
- - texts from the pages of optimized filters,
- - content from the cards of goods: texts-descriptions, reviews, videos, characteristics,
- - all information from official pages, pages with articles, etc.
- Verification files. Ask the programmers to remain the verification files for the webmasters Google and Yandex in the root directory of the site so the transfer does not lose access.
- Synchronization of information. Website owners often upload the current database of goods and do not update it. But before day X, all the information on the site has to be synchronized. These are prices for goods (services) and statuses (available, not available).
- Notification of other specialists. Make sure you write in the technical requirements that a programmer or a client must warn the professionals working with contextual advertising or advertising in social networks, the URLs will be changed due to the migration to the new CMS. The specialists should specify which codes they need to transfer.
3. Post migration procedures
- Setting up analytics systems. Be prepared: Former analytics settings will be destroyed after migration. Begin to configure the analytics of the updated site at the last stage of the site's migration process when all forms, buttons,and baskets are ready for the test.
- Setting up robots.txt. Often the robots.txt settings are transferred from the test site, and as a result, the main site isn’t available for indexing. It’s important to prepare the necessary robots.txt instructions allowing them to be implemented promptly after the migration.
- Sitemap.xml generation. The sitemap.xml file is frequently transferred from the test site together with the URL of the test site. At this step, you should ask a developer to update the file ensuring the pages of the main site are present. In addition, you need to configure an auto-update of the file once a day (using cron).
- Replacement of internal links with current ones. All links (menus, links in texts, links in the next, prev, canonical attributes) must be actual, not belonging to the test site.
- Checking the indexing settings. Describe the basic indexing settings that should be checked. It is a guiding point both for you and the developer.
4. Testing (Quality Assurance)
- The first task after migration is to check the robots.txt are not closed with the meta tag . meta content="noindex, follow" name="robots"
- Then check for the presence of meta-information on each page and whether duplicates have appeared.
- Check the functionality of all forms and the basket.
- Make sure at least statistics counters migrated. At this stage, it is very important to collect accurate statistics on traffic. For a while, traffic may be reduced by 10-20%, but if everything is done correctly, it will return within a month.
- Once again, do a mini-audit of the site to see if there are any new, critical errors.
- Update the sitemap.xml files in the webmasters panels allowing the search engine robots see new URLs faster.
The Bright Future Of Your Website
Of course, each website is a unique product, and in most cases, there is no universal checklist for how to migrate a site to a new CMS. This is only a guide. When preparing a technical task for a developer, it is necessary to take into account the features of your project and act in accordance with your goals. Anyway, do not be afraid of changes, because they definitely bring new opportunities for your website and your business. Keep in mind website migration requires a careful and consistent approach, as not to lose current positions in search engines and retain visitors. Start with small pieces of content and don’t neglect to use a test site. In this way, you are able to control the process and avoid unexpected troubles. Have a nice, safe migration!