Migrating a website from one platform to another can seem like a daunting task, but with some planning and preparation, it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re switching website builders to take advantage of better features, unhappy with your current provider, or just looking for a change, following a strategic migration process will ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible. In this guide, we’ll walk through the key steps for migrating your website from one builder to another.
Determine Your Reasons for Migrating
Before jumping into a migration, it’s important to clearly identify your motivations and goals. This evaluation will dictate which new website builder best fits your current and future needs. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I dissatisfied with my current site builder? Is it missing key features I now need, changed pricing, poor performance, etc? Make a list of pain points.
- What am I hoping to gain with a new website builder? Better templates/themes, more responsive design, better SEO, more ecommerce features? Outline must-have capabilities.
- What problems does my current website have that need addressed? Speed/performance issues? Problems displaying on mobile? Difficulty making updates? Note where you want improvements.
- What is my budget for this migration and ongoing costs? Will cheaper or premium options better fit my needs? Map out a budget.
Having clear goals and criteria will make it easier to objectively evaluate new website builder options and select the best platform for your particular needs and priorities.
Research and Select Your New Website Builder
Once you know why you’re migrating and what you want to get out of a new website builder, the next step is researching your options. The website builder market is crowded, but focus on well-known industry leaders with a reputation for reliability and all the features on your priority list. Make sure to read reviews and evaluate factors like:
- Design and themes – Do they offer modern, mobile-friendly templates? How much customization and flexibility? Design will impact site visitor experience.
- Features – Make sure the builder has all the elements important to you like forms, galleries, blogs, ecommerce, etc.
- Performance – Evaluate speed and uptime. Read third-party performance tests. Fast sites rank better in search engines.
- Support and documentation – What level of customer support does the provider offer? Do they have ample tutorials and documentation? Important if you need help.
- Pricing model – Watch for hidden fees. Calculate total costs based on your traffic needs. Plan your budget accordingly.
- User experience – Test builder interfaces. How easy is drag and drop editing? How intuitive adding/updating content? Pick a platform that feels good.
- SEO optimization – Ensure the platform facilitates search engine friendly practices like customizable metadata and XML sitemaps.
Make a side-by-side comparison chart of your top choices across the criteria that matters most to you. Weigh the pros and cons until you can select the ideal website builder to meet your migration goals.
Set Timeline and Communication Plan
Migrating a website involves some downtime, so be strategic about timing. To minimize impact, plan your migration during periods of low traffic and avoid holidays or other key dates. Allow adequate time for data transfer, troubleshooting, and SEO continuity.
Develop a communication plan for the migration period to avoid surprising visitors with an offline site. Use email, social media, and site banners to proactively let people know about the upcoming migration and time frame. Providing this notice demonstrates professionalism and transparency.
Identify any temporary redirects, domains, or landing pages you may want visitors to access during the migration downtime. Map out steps to minimize SEO disruption like 301 redirects. The more organized you are, the less chaos during go-live.
Export Content From Current Site
One of the biggest efforts with a website migration is safely extracting all the content from your current platform. Most builders have data export capabilities to download website assets like pages, posts, images, files, and custom content. Common export formats include XML, CSV, or JSON.
Refer to your current website builder’s documentation for specifics on data exporting. Things to export include:
- All numbered pages
- Blog posts and article content
- Media like images, videos, documents
- Product catalogs or inventory
- User accounts and profile data
- Forms and submissions
- Menus and taxonomies
- SEO metadata like titles and descriptions
- Style elements like colors, fonts, etc
The export process can take some time for large, complex sites. Be sure to export a complete website copy including all historical content. Test exported data to ensure completeness and function.
Import Content to New Website Builder
With your website data exported, it’s time to import everything to the new website builder platform. Most builders allow data imports from standard formats like .XML, .JSON, and .CSV. Refer to documentation for your new builder’s specific import instructions.
When importing to the new platform:
- Upload all exported data including pages, posts, media etc. Use consistent file naming conventions for easy mapping.
- Check that key elements imported correctly like images, fonts, colors and appear properly. Troubleshoot display issues.
- Carefully remap site architecture like main menus and taxonomy. Retain site IA as much as possible.
- Configure SEO metadata like page titles and descriptions.
- Verify forms, galleries, ecommerce and all dynamic elements work properly.
- Test functionality across all imported content types and templates.
- Reconfigure any plugins, integrations, or connected services.
Ideally current content will import seamlessly. Be prepared for some manual clean up like formatting. Maintain a mirror backup of your old site during this process.
Optimize and Enhance Site Design
One benefit of migrating website builders is the opportunity to rethink and optimize your site’s design. With content imported, take time to reimagine elements like:
- Navigation – Simplify menus and IA for better UX. Ensure mobile responsiveness.
- Branding – Update logos, fonts, colors, and graphic elements for a fresh look.
- Templates – Use new builder’s modern templates for better mobile experience.
- Imagery – Add new photos, graphics, and visuals optimized for web.
- Layout – Improve page structure and content flow. Use whitespace effectively.
- Calls-to-action – Update CTAs to align with new goals and initiatives.
Don’t just replicate your old site. Future-proof by implementing responsive design best practices and enhancing visual appeal. Good design can boost conversions.
Set Up Domain Mapping
An important technical step is mapping your current domain name to point to the new website builder platform servers. This ensures visitors find your site at the same URL pre and post-migration.
To map domains:
- Login to your domain registrar account and access DNS settings. Identify current IP addresses or name servers.
- Follow new website builder instructions to identify the new target IP addresses or name servers.
- Update DNS settings at your registrar to point to the new website builder IP addresses/name servers.
- Allow sufficient time for DNS changes to propagate globally after updating. Test frequently.
- Once DNS switches over, your domain will display migrated site. Traffic now routed correctly.
Take care not to disrupt email or other services tied to your domain. A smooth domain transition is key for retaining site visitors.
Implement 301 Redirects
To preserve SEO equity after migrating platforms, properly redirect old URLs to new locations using 301 permanent redirects.
When adding redirects:
- List old URLs from previous site navigation and content architecture.
- Map old URLs to new URLs on migrated site on a 1:1 basis.
- Enter 301 code and old URL as source, new URL as destination.
- Upload redirect rules list to new website builder.
- Test redirects work by accessing old URLs and seeing new pages.
- Expand redirects as needed to capture variations of old URLs.
Done right, 301s pass SEO value from old to new URLs. Monitor search performance and tweak redirects as needed.
Submit New Sitemap to Search Engines
Once the migrated site is up and running, generate and submit an updated XML sitemap through your new website builder. This informs search engines like Google of the changed site structure and content.
Key steps for sitemaps:
- Generate a full sitemap of pages/posts on new site through builder tools.
- Download the new sitemap file.
- Submit this sitemap file to Google Search Console for indexing.
- Verify search engine can crawl all pages without issues.
- Continue optimizing page speed and performance for better crawling.
- Monitor search traffic and refine sitemap as site evolves.
Properly structuring and submitting sitemaps helps retain search visibility through the migration process.
Run Testing and Quality Assurance
Before officially launching the migrated website, do thorough testing to catch any remaining issues. Have the full project team rigorously evaluate:
- Site functionality – Test forms, galleries, ecommerce, etc for bugs.
- Site speed – Check page speeds meet targets on desktop and mobile.
- Link integrity – Confirm all internal links connect properly. Fix broken links.
- Browser compatibility – Verify site displays properly on all target browsers.
- Responsiveness – Check site responsiveness across device sizes. Adjust if needed.
- Accessibility – Validate site accessibility and resolve any invalid elements.
- SEO fundamentals – Review page titles, meta descriptions, alt text, etc.
- Proofreading – Double check all text content for typos and formatting errors.
The more issues you can fix during pre-launch QA, the smoother your go-live will be. Don’t neglect quality assurance.
Go Live and Monitor Progress
Once testing is complete, it’s time to officially launch your migrated website! Switch the domain mapping and redirects to send all visitor traffic to the new site. Closely track analytics around:
- Traffic volume – Monitor overall visits to see if they change post-migration. Watch for surges or drops.
- Site speed – Continuously check page load times and optimize as needed.
- Bounce rates – If bounce rates spike, quickly troubleshoot root causes.
- Conversions – Keep an eye on site goals and transactions for any changes.
- Search performance – Evaluate search rankings in Google to detect changes.
The more you monitor key metrics, the faster you can respond to any migration impacts. Optimization is always ongoing.
Migrating a website from one builder to another requires careful planning, preparation, and execution. Following structured steps for exporting and importing content, optimizing design, redirecting URLs, submitting sitemaps, quality testing, and monitoring progress can yield successful results. Pay close attention to detail. While complex, a strategic migration allows you to gain better technology, features, and performance without starting from scratch. With diligence and patience, you can transfer your current website to a better platform.