top of page
  • Writer's pictureChris Green

The Key Moment in a Site Migration Process we Almost-Always Miss

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Migrations can be won and lost by when we (as the SEO) enter the process.

Turns out that most SEOs aren't in the room when most important conversations around a migration are happening. Either that, or if they come in late, they often struggle to undo any bad decisions that have been taken.

TL;DR - Here are two tools which might help you in the process, some examples of things going badly and a really simple way to calculate potential losses if someone still doesn't believe you.

The migration process is slightly different depending if you're working inhouse or with/in an agency - but that doesn't mean it's clear-cut, far from it.

How Does it Differ Inhouse/Agency Split?

When you find yourself entering in the process will depend on your position/seniority and whether you work inhouse or as part of an agency or a consultancy.

It's a misconception, however, that agencies always hear about migrations last OR inhouse teams hear about it sooner.

The organisation structure of the business you work in (or the level of seniority of point of contact at the client), makes a huge difference.

The words "migration" and "surprise" DO NOT go well together.

A website migration may be a marketing-lead initiative OR it might be an IT project. If you're not working with or talking to either of those business functions there's a chance the migration can be sprung upon you.

The words "migration" and "surprise" DO NOT go well together. We need to work hard to avoid this scenario!

Keeping Your Ear to the Ground

One thing which will significantly increase your chance of success with a site migration is keeping your ears to the ground. Make it your business to speak with other departments, take an interest in the other projects the business has on.

Probably the biggest lesson I've learned working on migration projects is that the worst thing you can do is wait for people to come to you. Whilst the awareness of the importance of SEO is far higher than it was five years ago, it's still one of the most mis-understood functions in an online business.

If you are in a business where SEO is highly regarded (Ebay or (Transfer)Wise, for example), you'll likely be a key member in the decision making process. In these circumstances the importance of SEO will unlikely be opposed.

For everyone else you need to prepare a solid business case and make yourself heard.

It's almost always more cost effective to get it right first, rather than repair the damage afterwards.

The element to keep in the forefront of your mind; businesses which rely on a significant portion of revenue to come from organic traffic sources almost always find it more cost effective to get it right first, rather than repair the damage afterwards.

RFP - Site Migrations?

I can assure you that the vast majority of migrations I've been involved with (in agency) do not start at the beginning of a project with a serious discussion around the CMS and how the migration my impact (or improve) performance post-launch.

But the most successful ones have done - it's the right way to do it.

I am confident that it is not up to the SEO to select the CMS - but it's totally up to the SEO to advise which CMS would help them meet their goals.

It would be great if the process was started before the CMS was selected and part of an RFP would include recommendations/considerations platform, approach and then supported by the search strategy for the following 24+ months. But this is no where near common enough.

I am confident that it is not up to the SEO to select the CMS - but it's totally up to the SEO to advise which CMS would help them meet their goals.

If you don't have the skills inhouse for that, selecting the right external partner to make the appraisal is critical for the project.

Sometimes the CMS itself is less important than the development team working on it, if you have a team with a "can do" attitude and the time/budget to accommodate SEO, then you'll be onto a winner. But the SEO needs to put in the groundwork upfront to ensure this is the case.

To increase your chances for success here in an agency environment, you can do the following:

  1. Partner/work closely with development agencies - that way you'll get involved when the web project is being pitched. If you're lucky you'll get to contribute directly into the tech spec.

  2. Ensure your sales team are either a) technically knowledgeable on the migration process b) loop in a technical SEO/consultant as part of the process.

  3. Build the website yourself (in agency) - see point #1.

  4. Get employed by the client before the migration and keep your ear to ground. This is the best way to get in from the start.

The key is to foster a relationship with the client where they see you in a consultative capacity - they need to come to you rather than feel they ought to. Part of this is being confident enough to make the challenge in the sales process.

SEO Migration 'Case Studies' Slides for Your Use

Making the business case for a migration is the most important part in my experience. There's one thing that can overcome internal hurdles or technical roadblocks, and that's being shown what can go wrong.

I'm not a fan of 'scare tactics', but if you want to increase your chances of things going well, showing people what 'bad' looks like can be very motivational.

Below are some examples (thank you SISTRIX) of migrations that have gone badly and those that have gone well. It's not a long deck and there's not a lot of depth, but this illustrates quite plainly what you want to avoid.

If you want to download the PDF version and share - please do - the link is below.

SEO Migration Case Studies
Download PDF • 2.34MB

Use this deck as you please in order to make the business case you need to do the job right. The data here has been taken from SISTRIX & been credited as such. All I ask is that you retain these references when you share.

What Does a Bad Migration Cost?

The real key for an SEO migration business case is framing the potential losses if it goes wrong.

There are some sophisticated ways you can establish this if you want to justify the costs, but in the name of simplicity, I've built a quick/easy way of getting to an indicative figure.

Using the calculator below, enter your organic traffic (quarterly is most representative of typical migration drops) and input your estimated lead to conversion rate (not just your web conversion rate) and your average customer/order value.

With these numbers the calculator will show you (in £) what the cost of a 10%, 20% and 30% drop in organic traffic will cost the company over the period.

Site Migration Loss Calculator

The above calculator gives you a quick way of establishing the costs, if you want to link it and associate it with your own Google Analytics Data Click Here and copy the report. You will need to have a Google account to save this as your own.

Some of the examples above show 60-80% drops in visibility after the migration, so the calculators could be considered conservative.

These numbers aren't perfect but it's a simple story; bad migrations = drops of traffic which lead to losses in revenue.

Get Yourself into the Room Early Next Time

There are many other aspects to the migration process which you need to be aware of, but not being in the room early on to help influence decisions is so often where things fail.

Most SEOs have their work cut out for them based on a decision that they wouldn't have been aware of, but will have to take the heat for if things don't go to plan. Whilst the right CMS & approach isn't enough if the rest of the process fails, but the need for solid foundations is very real.

So, time to get started, paint a clear picture of the importance of a migration done right, and the potential costs if it goes wrong. If you have any questions or comments, drop me one below or message me on Twitter (my DMs are open).


Recent Posts

See All


  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
bottom of page