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The biggest international site migration mistakes every brand should avoid

Site migrations can appear deceptively simple. You might think, “Just redirect a few URLs, it’s no big deal.” But as you dig deeper, you realise it’s a different story. Site migrations carry significant weight in SEO. They demand attention and detail because a lot can go wrong, with significant consequences for your brand.

Some digital marketers enjoy the challenge of site migrations, while others approach them with trepidation. Regardless of your stance, if you’re responsible for a sizable international website, encountering a site migration is not a matter of if, but when. That’s why it’s best to be prepared.


What is a site migration?

A site migration refers to the process of moving a website from one location to another, typically involving changes to its domain, platform, structure, or content organisation. This transition aims to enhance user experience, improve performance, or accommodate business needs. However, it requires careful planning and execution to maintain search engine visibility and prevent disruption in traffic and rankings.


Why do brands carry out site migrations?

Businesses undertake site migrations for diverse reasons, including:

• Enhanced user experience: This involves updating outdated designs, refining navigation, and ensuring smooth functionality across various devices to enhance overall usability.

• SEO improvement: Site migrations can improve search engine rankings by addressing technical issues, keeping up to date with evolving search algorithms, and optimising website architecture and content for improved visibility.

• International expansion: Businesses may migrate their sites to accommodate international audiences by implementing multilingual support, localised content, and region-specific features. For example, transitioning from multiple ccTLDs (e.g., .com,, .de, .fr) to subdomains or subfolders can enable broader reach.

• Performance optimisation: Migrations may be undertaken to enhance website speed, improve security measures, and optimise overall performance. These improvements enhance user satisfaction and contribute to higher conversion rates and better retention.


10 errors to avoid during site migration

A site migration requires careful planning and execution to avoid potential pitfalls. Here are the most common mistakes to avoid:

Site migration mistake #1: Lack of planning

The first mistake is failing to plan sufficiently from the outset, or underestimating the scale of the task. Before you start, it’s important to carry out a comprehensive technical audit of the existing website’s technical infrastructure, including server configuration, codebase, and third-party integrations, so you can identify issues that could affect the migration process. Thorough planning will help you to anticipate potential challenges and to make sure you have contingency plans in place to overcome them. It’s important to include key stakeholders – such as developers, SEO specialists, and content creators – at the outset.


Site migration mistake #2: Ignoring SEO best practices

This includes failing to map out and implement 301 redirects for all relevant URLs, including old pages, subdomains, and canonical variations, which can result in broken links and loss of search engine authority. Another area that can be overlooked is meta data – not optimising title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags during the migration can diminish site visibility and click-through rates in search engine results pages.


Site migration mistake #3: Allowing your staging site to be indexed

You won’t want to index your staging site URLs, but it can occur due to process gaps. Forgetting to update the robots.txt file can expose your staging site to being crawled, leading to its appearance in Google search results. This presents several issues:

1. Incomplete site visibility to visitors.

2. Google penalises duplicate content, impacting the search rankings of your live site. To prevent this, use the meta robots tag with the noindex attribute in the <head> section of your pages: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, follow”>

Alternatively, use a disallow rule in your robots.txt file to block crawlers from accessing your staging site. For enhanced security, consider IP blocking or password protection. These measures will safeguard your staging site from appearing in search engine results.


Site migration mistake #4: Overlooking mobile

With the increasing reliance on smartphones and tablets for web browsing, neglecting mobile optimisation can alienate a significant portion of your audience and hinder your site’s performance in mobile search results. Failing to adapt to mobile-first indexing, a key consideration for search engines like Google, can further diminish your site’s visibility.


Site migration mistake #5: Lack of testing

Failing to test the migrated website across various web browsers, including those used in different markets, may result in display inconsistencies and functional errors. It’s important to assess a website’s performance under realistic conditions, including peak traffic loads and slow internet connections, to identify issues such as slow page load times and high bounce rates.Don’t overlook  accessibility considerations either, such as keyboard navigation, screen reader compatibility, and colour contrast, which can exclude users with disabilities and lead to legal compliance issues.


Site migration mistake #6: Failing to preserve backlinks and internal links

Not preserving inbound and outbound backlinks during the migration can result in broken links, loss of referral traffic, and diminished domain authority. Equally, forgetting to update internal links within the migrated website or redirecting outdated URLs to their corresponding new locations can result in broken links, 404 errors, and a negative impact on user experience and search engine crawlability. Not aligning internal linking structures with the website’s new hierarchy and navigation scheme may confuse users and affect their ability to navigate effectively.


Site migration mistake #7: Lack of keyword optimisation

Failing to optimise migrated content for relevant keywords and search queries may lead to a decrease in organic traffic and hinder the website’s ability to rank effectively. This can result in missed opportunities to attract the right audience. It’s crucial to conduct thorough keyword research by market and to integrate appropriate keywords strategically throughout the migrated content to ensure maximum discoverability.


Site migration mistake #8: Poor content localisation
Neglecting to tailor content to the cultural norms, language subtleties, and preferences of target markets may result in misunderstandings and decreased involvement from international audiences. As well as written and visual content, this includes often underestimated factors like date or address formats, measurement units, currency symbols, and so on. Ignoring the incorporation of currency conversion tools and backing for local currencies could obstruct e-commerce transactions and deter conversion rates.


Site migration mistake #9: Forgetting to update tracking codes and analytics settings

Overlooking the necessity of updating tracking codes, such as Google Analytics or other tracking tools, can lead to inaccurate data collection and reporting post-migration. Failing to adjust analytics settings, such as goals, filters, and custom dimensions, for the new website structure may skew insights, affecting your ability to make decisions. It’s crucial to ensure that all tracking codes are properly updated and configured to accurately monitor website performance and user behaviour across the migrated site.


Site migration mistake #10: Underestimating downtime and impact on business operations

Misjudging the duration and impact of downtime during the migration process can disrupt business operations, revenue streams, and customer satisfaction. Failing to allocate sufficient time and resources for testing, troubleshooting, and contingency planning may prolong downtime and exacerbate losses. It’s important to conduct thorough risk assessments, establish realistic timelines, and implement mitigation strategies, such as temporary redirects or maintenance pages, to minimise disruptions and maintain business continuity throughout the migration.


The consequences of these mistakes can be serious, including loss of traffic and rankings, plus reduced trust, authority, and relevance in the eyes of search engines. That’s why it’s essential to work with an experienced agency that can help you avoid costly site migration mistakes.


Oban can help you carry out a successful site migration

No two site migrations are the same, but whatever your circumstances, it’s important to follow a rigorous process. Whenever Oban undertakes a site migration, we typically follow these steps:

• Conduct a thorough technical audit of the new site to identify potential SEO issues or areas for improvement.

• Map out URLs to guarantee proper redirection of old URLs to corresponding pages on the new site, safeguarding SEO equity and minimising the impact on search rankings.

• Review and eliminate outdated, irrelevant, or potentially harmful backlinks to ensure a clean link profile and maintain SEO health.

• Use Local In-Market Experts, where applicable, to tailor content for target markets, considering linguistic, cultural, and regional preferences.

• Perform pre-live optimisation checks to ensure all on-page elements, such as meta tags, headings, and content, are optimised for relevant keywords and user experience.

• Conduct pre-live testing to confirm that all technical aspects of the migration, including redirects, canonical tags, and structured data, function correctly across devices, browsers, and target markets, ensuring optimal functionality, usability, and accessibility.

• Execute the go-live process, implementing the migration plan, updating server configurations, and ensuring a seamless transition from the old site to the new one.

• Monitor the site’s post-migration performance by tracking key SEO metrics like organic traffic, rankings, crawl errors, and indexing status to address any arising issues as soon as possible. Continuous monitoring facilitates ongoing optimisation, ensuring the long-term success of the site migration.

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Throughout, our goal is to ensure full and transparent collaboration among technical, marketing, and localisation teams. To find out how Oban can help you undertake a successful site migration, please get in touch.

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion.
Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.

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