5 Steps For Smooth Content Migration

Tuesday November 22, 2022

Have you ever had the joy of moving house? It’s straight-forward in theory, just packing up your things and taking them to a new space, but reality is much more strenuous. Packing up tends to come with a bit of a spring clean along the way, and then unpacking and reorganising everything at the other end into an entirely new space. The exact same is true for website content migration. All the content you choose needs to come over with you, including text, images, video, and even the site structure itself. It sounds easy in theory, but there’s a lot of work involved. 

Just like moving house, it’s a prime time to go through your old site and reorganise, rewrite and restructure your content before you move it, ready to start fresh with your new site. Here’s 5 key steps to ensure a stress-free content migration.

Why Migrate Your Content?

This is the first question many businesses ask. After all, the idea of a completely clean slate when setting up a new website can sound enticing. 

But if you stop and think back on the hours of work you have already poured into your current site creating content, uploading images, researching topic ideas and more, this would all be lost. In fact, migrating your content across can offer many benefits:

  • Keep your website rankings: all the traffic you’re already getting to your website is a result of the content currently on it. The content you migrate is already indexed and will rank well from the get-go, so as far as Google is concerned, you’re not starting from scratch.
  • Save time: pulling content out of thin air isn’t easy, especially when you’re hoping to populate a site. Utilising old content, even if it needs tweaking, will save you a lot of time.


1. Analyse old data

Remember that good old ‘junk’ drawer in your kitchen? It’s tempting to just tip it all into a box and deal with it another day, but in reality no-one wants to bring clutter with them when they move home. The same is true for content migration. All that content you have been working hard on for the past however many years comes with a degree of baggage that you want to drop before you move sites.

Here’s how:

  • Google Analytics is always a great place to start when it comes to analysing your website data. Take a look at the pages on your current site that are driving the most traffic. This is what needs to come over with you.
  • On the other hand, take a look at the pages that are generating the least traffic. These aren’t as important, so unless you’re willing to pop the effort in to give them a boost (ie, revise and rewrite the content), they can probably be left behind. It’s a good idea to make sure none of them are overly important.
  • Finally, take a look at the pages with a high bounce rate. These are bringing in the traffic, but visitors aren’t getting what they want out of it. This is where you should put in the time to update the posts.

2. Create a new sitemap

While it’s important to bring your old content over with you to the new website, it doesn’t have to be structured the exact same way. Now is the perfect opportunity to go over everything and determine exactly how you want it to display on your new site. Here are some questions to ask the business:

  • What are your content priorities? Order them from most important to least important as this will determine how they show up on your site.
  • What are your overall site goals? If it’s to sell products, then these pages need to be easy to find and navigate to.
  • What content is least important? If you’re choosing to keep this content, then don’t feel the need to have it displayed on the home page.

These questions will help you determine the new site structure and form the backbone of the content migration. Don’t overthink this stage, the simpler the better.

3. Put together a migration plan

Just like moving house, you need a plan in place for the big day. You hire removalists to arrive at a certain time with expectations on how long the job will take, what the end goal is and what steps are involved to achieve it. The site migration is no different. Some of the key questions your business needs to consider are:

  • Who will be doing the migration?
  • Will it be a manual migration or automatic migration?
  • Has all the content been backed up beforehand?
  • What is the timeline for this migration and will it be completed before the website launch?
  • When will we start?

The content migration process should be built into the design phase of your new website rebuild, rather than something carried out right at the end as a rushed afterthought. This will help the process unfold smoothly and effectively inline with the new website design.

4. Inform your visitors

Let’s face it, you don’t simply pack up and move houses without letting people know beforehand. From friends and relatives who come to visit, to the mailman who brings your post, informing people is an essential part of the process. The same is true when moving websites. 

During the migration phase, the website may be down without notice and your loyal visitors will get confused and go seeking the information or products they need from elsewhere. 

Instead, creating a one-page landing page informing visitors about what is going on can go a long way. In fact, it can even get them excited about the prospect of a new and improved website to pore over in the imminent future. 

5. Get started!

With all the behind-the-scenes work out of the way, it’s time to start the migration process. The great news is, you don’t have to do it all at once. Start by moving about half your content across during the design phase, then going back and moving the remainder once the design styles are all in place and have been approved, as this will determine how the content is migrated.

As the content is migrated, it helps to use an accessibility checker to ensure all the content carried across is accessible to users. It detects errors and also guides you through the process of fixing them.

Content migration is a lot more than simply pressing copy paste on a new website. There’s a lot of thought and work that goes into the process to achieve seamless results. With these steps in mind, your business can carry it out without a hitch.

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