Most of us will move house at some point in our lives. As much as we’d all love to wave a magic wand and have everything transferred from one property to another in a blink of an eye, that’s sadly not the case. It takes weeks of planning and the actual move itself can take days.

A website migration is much the same, with many factors affecting and impacting how long it takes to migrate a website. It’s not a simple ‘copy and paste’ job – it can be a lengthy process involving meticulous planning, checking and rechecking transferred content, setting up 301 redirects, double checking analytics tracking… the list goes on.

In this article, we’ll discuss how long a website migration takes, the various factors impacting the duration and explore some tips for ensuring the process runs as smoothly as possible.

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What is a website migration?

A website migration is classed as any significant change you wish to make to your site. This could be moving from one server, domain or platform to another with the aim of improving performance and/or user experience (UX).

There are lots of different types of site migration, all of which can vary in length, depending on the planning, migrating and monitoring stages required.

To learn more about the migration process and what’s involved, visit our SEO website migration page.

How long does a website migration take?

A straightforward change (e.g. from one server to another) can range from 30 minutes to up to half a day. The planning stage can vary for every site as there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all site migration. It can take days for a small site to plan a successful migration and for larger sites, the process can stretch to weeks.

The duration can be impacted by a variety of factors, such as the number of different departments working on the migration. There are multiple shareholders for projects likes this - the client, web developers, web designers (UX), marketing and SEO teams. This is why planning phases are key to ensuring a project runs smoothly.

Let’s take a closer look at the different factors affecting the length of a website migration.

Five factors to consider when migrating your website

Before commencing any website migration – however big or small – the following factors should be taken into consideration:

1. Size and complexity of your website

There are currently over 200 million active websites across the globe, all with their own unique requirements and goals. The more complex a site is, the greater the need for dedicated planning resources (e.g. a 1000+ page ecommerce site will require far more management / hands on deck then, say, a small informational travel blog).

The more content a site has, the greater the risk of missing something during the migration which could cause a decline in traffic, justifying the need for more resources to plan and execute a site migration.

2. Experience level of the people performing the migration

If a complex site requires a migration, it’s essential to have someone, with previous experience of successfully migrating a site, manage the process. They will already have a good understanding of what’s involved, enabling them to plan and manage the migration more efficiently.

Someone with less, or no, experience is much more likely to miss something during the planning stage which can result in issues that will need rectifying further down the line. They may struggle with unexpected challenges, leading to delays and potentially longer migration times as they learn and adapt during the process. Worse still, they might miss some critical elements leading to losses of rankings, tracking or revenue. We’ve witnessed first-hand the cost of getting things wrong and recovering from a botched website migration can take many months, potentially costing tens of thousands of pounds.

3. The size of the team working on your migration

There are many different elements of a migration: from publishing new content on the CMS to planning and implementing the redirects. If these tasks are shared (and the lines of communication are open and effective), they can be undertaken simultaneously which will reduce the duration of the project.

But let’s remember the old saying: ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’...which can sometimes be applicable to migrations, especially if communication and planning is sloppy. Teamwork can make the dream work… as long as everyone knows exactly what that dream is! In an ideal world, an experienced SEO person would lead the project, collaborating with multiple parties to ensure that everything is aligned and runs smoothly.

4. The quality of your web hosting

Moving to a new server with sophisticated features and robust infrastructure can affect the duration of the migration process. A good web hosting service will have an efficient customer service in place, and quicker turnarounds will shorten the migration timeframe and ensure a smoother transition. In contrast, subpar web hosting may result in downtime, data transfer bottlenecks and technical issues, adding extra hours to the migration process and potentially causing disruption to your site's functionality and accessibility.

5. The amount of time spent on planning

Planning time is essential for any migration. Quite simply, you can’t execute a successful migration without it. Any external agency worth their salt will allow ample time for planning, leaving enough wriggle room to deal with any unforeseen circumstances.

Think of it like this: the more time spent planning, the less time required to monitor and fix any issues once the site has been migrated.

Seven tips for a smooth and successful website migration

If you are thinking about migrating your own website soon, here are our tips for a successful migration:

1. Plan ahead

This is essential for any migration to ensure the risk of errors is minimised. If you are using an external agency, they will help you to plan a timeline of tasks leading up to the migration and advise on the best time for the actual migration to occur (i.e. not during high-risk times such as the busiest day of the month, etc.) Even if you’re doing it internally, it’s important that someone in the marketing team is clear on what the deliverables are and when, so that each stakeholder has a clear goal to work towards.

2. Ask for help

If you are planning to carry out a migration, it’s always best to draft in the support of an external SEO consultant. Someone with experience will know what to look out for and help avoid pitfalls along the way. Remember – external migration agencies are there to help you and their experts are on hand to help you ensure the migration runs like clockwork.

3. Listen to the advice given

If using an external agency, chances are their team will make suggestions along the way or even challenge some of your decisions, especially during a rebrand where lots of changes are required. While nobody is more protective of your brand than you, they too share a vested interest in the success of the migration, so heed their advice and reasoning! Sometimes the value of traffic received from a page may outweigh a design decision and vice versa.

4. Prepare your content

Content is the most common reason for delays occurring when migrating a site. So before going live, ensure the new site contains the approved content and is structured correctly, both for your users and search engines. A content production timeline may help ease the pressure of bulk-uploading content. Always allow more time than you think though, as content creation nearly always happens alongside many other day-to-day jobs and so often falls to the bottom of the to-do list. If there are no changes to content, the developers may be able to help with the bulk upload to help save time and effort.

5. Run pre-migration checks

Tick off the following pre-migration checks before going live:

  • Make sure no pages have been missed in the planning by crawling the site and getting a full sitemap
  • Test new redirects before and after migration (and document that they work!)
  • Ensure analytics can continue to be tracked with minimal downtime
  • Make sure a custom 404 page has been set up
  • If changing domains, make plans to keep the old domain up and redirecting after migration

6. Once live, run post-migration checks

Here are some of the checks to carry out:

  • Check any redirects are working as they should and are showing as a 301 redirect (do this manually but also check Google Search Console post migration)
  • Ensure URLs on all other platforms (i.e. socials) have been updated
  • Check traffic is being tracked properly
  • Check site speed
  • Check SSL certificate is still valid and working
  • Check site engagement – if engagement stats drop, run checks to see if tracking has broken
  • Check the news URLs are being picked up by Google (being indexed)

7. Monitor performance

Once migrated, it’s important to continue to check progress for weeks after launch as it can take time for errors to appear. An external agency will keep clients updated with performance updates after a migration, including:

  • Keyword rankings for any core keywords that previously ranked on Google
  • Page performance updates (e.g., are the pages indexed and starting to receive traffic?)
  • Errors and issues found, and fixes made
  • Traffic updates
  • Engagement comparisons

Speak to us about your plans for a site migration

When it comes to website migrations, it’s not about getting it pushed over the line as quickly as possible – it’s about getting it right first time, with minimal impact on visibility, performance and revenue. If you’re planning on making some major changes to your website, Adido’s SEO team is here to help. Drop us a line today!

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Meet the author ...

Anna Heathcote

Content Manager

Based way up on the Northumbrian coast, Anna uses her creative copywriting expertise and SEO experience to ensure clients have fresh, relevant and optimised content on their ...