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The complete guide to SEO migration

The Complete Guide to SEO Website Migration 

Do you need an SEO migration checklist so that you don’t lose your hard-earned ranking during a move?

Many website owners fear disappearing from search results after migrating to a different domain or server. Fortunately, you can easily avoid this issue and keep directing users to your content. By migrating your site properly, you’ll enjoy a faster server or updated site design without impacting SEO. 

In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about performing an SEO migration!

What Is a Site Migration?

A website migration involves moving your entire WordPress website to a different location. Depending on your goals, this could be to a new server, hosting provider, or domain name. 

Here are some different types of migrations:

  • Updating your domain or subdomain: Your website is recognized by its domain name, or address. Often, a good rebranding step is to migrate to another domain
  • Upgrading your hosting plan: If your current web host can’t support your growing audience, it’s time to find a new one. Switching hosting providers requires moving to an entirely new server. 
  • Changing your site structure or design: To refresh your website, you can migrate it to a staging site and perform major changes safely. Then, push these edits to your live site. 
  • Moving from an HTTP to HTTPS URL structure: If you don’t have an SSL certificate, Google will mark your website as “not secure.” You can improve your SEO by switching to HTTPS.
  • Moving to a new Content Management System (CMS): You may decide to move to a better framework or CMS to boost your site’s security and performance.

Does a Migration Affect SEO?

Since a migration is a drastic change to your website, it can affect Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Moving to a new server or domain means that Google will have to re-index your WordPress site. This may result in a short-term decrease in organic traffic.

If done incorrectly, migrations can accidentally cause broken links, 404 errors, missing images, and other problems. When visitors see these errors, they may quickly leave your site. A higher bounce rate can negatively impact your SERP position.

However, the long-term benefits usually outweigh the costs. If you’re moving to a better web host, you’ll likely provide faster loading times to your audience. After a complete site redesign, your website will have a better User Experience (UX). 

Ultimately, these factors will make your site appear higher in search results. Additionally, by having a well-thought-out plan beforehand, your migration won’t significantly damage your SEO. 

SEO Migration Checklist

Whether you run a blog or an e-commerce store, migrating your content without losing SEO can be tricky. To make the migration process easier for you, we’ve created a website migration checklist. By following these steps, you’ll quickly transfer your site to another location while keeping its search traffic and conversions!

Here are a few pre-launch tips before you get started with your migration planning:

  • Schedule your migration for a date and time with low organic traffic and engagement.
  • Create a staging site to safely troubleshoot any design changes before the move.
  • Save a backup so you can restore the original site if needed.
  • Create a solid plan beforehand and notify all stakeholders or team members.

1. Record Your Current Benchmarks

If you want to know how your website is performing after a migration, you’ll have to collect some data before you move it. To get real-time analytics for your site, we’d recommend installing MonsterInsights. This plugin seamlessly integrates Google Analytics with your WordPress dashboard:

MonsterInsights plugin

With MonsterInsights, you’ll see reports on users, sessions, page speed, and more. To download any of these stats, hit Export PDF Report:

Export MonsterInsights report

It’s a good idea to start your migration project by monitoring your current rankings. In MonsterInsights, you can view this by clicking on the Search Console tab:

MonsterInsights Search Console report

This will show you your highest-ranking pages and their position in search results. Be sure to download this PDF report to compare it to your migrated site. 

Note: After a migration, you’ll redirect your old pages to the new URLs. To make sure every important page is redirected, consider creating a redirect map. This will give you a template to find any missing URLs on your new site.

2. Install Duplicator

Now it’s time to start migrating your website. Although you could move your site manually, this is a complicated process that might not be well-suited for beginners. There are many ways to accidentally break your site, so a better option is to use a WordPress migration plugin.

Duplicator is the best plugin for migrating WordPress websites. This tool can bundle your WordPress files and database into a single package in just a few minutes. Then, Duplicator allows you to simply drag and drop this zip file into a new site:

Duplicator plugin

Here are some more useful features included in Duplicator Pro:

  • Manual and automatic backups
  • One-click backup restore
  • Cloud backup storage locations
  • WordPress migration wizard
  • Server-to-server imports
  • Custom search and replace
  • Supports Multisite networks and large sites

To get started, select a subscription for Duplicator Pro. You could choose the free version instead, but a premium plan supports drag-and-drop migrations. This makes it much easier to migrate your website without harming SEO.

After your purchase, download the plugin and copy your license key. Then, open your WordPress dashboard and install Duplicator. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out this guide on installing and activating plugins.

Before you start using Duplicator, find Settings » Licensing:

Activate Duplicator Pro license key

Paste the license key that you copied earlier. Once you hit Activate, Duplicator Pro will be fully ready to migrate your site. 

3. Build a Copy of Your Site

On your website, there are many different plugins, themes, media files, and database tables. To achieve a successful migration, you can compile them into a zipped package. First, head over to Duplicator Pro » Packages » Create New:

Create Duplicator package

Name the package and click on Next:

Duplicator package

Duplicator will scan your entire site for any issues. This ensures that the migration will run smoothly:

Duplicator package scan

Once you finish building the package, you’ll need to download it. Open the Packages page again and find the package you just created:

Download site archive package

Select Download » Archive (zip). You’ll only need the installer file if you’re uploading the package directly to a File Manager or FTP client. As a Duplicator Pro user, however, you can simply drop this archive file into a new WordPress installation. 

4. Update Your Hosts File

To avoid any changes in your SEO ranking, it’s best to minimize downtime. This way, users and search crawlers will always be able to find your website. 

For a zero downtime migration, you can add an entry to your computer’s hosts file. Essentially, this file maps your hostnames to IP addresses. If you update this file to point to your new host, you’ll trick your computer into thinking your site has moved.

First, locate the IP address for your new hosting provider. This will vary based on your web host, but Bluehost users can find this under General Information:

Bluehost IP address

Next, open your hosts file. On a Mac, you can use Terminal to run this command:

sudo nano /private/etc/hosts

Go to the bottom of the file and add a new entry. This should have your new IP address and your old domain name:

Finally, save the file. Keep in mind that this entry should only exist while you’re migrating your site. Once you’re finished, delete it. 

Tip: You don’t want your new site indexed until after the migration. To block search engines, create a robots.txt file and add noindex attributes. You could do this manually, but SEO plugins like AIOSEO come with a built-in robots.txt editor

5. Create a New Database

If you haven’t already, you’ll need to create a new database on the server you’re migrating to. You can usually do this in your hosting dashboard. With Bluehost, simply click on MySQL Databases:

MySQL databases

Enter a name for your database and hit Create Database:

Create MySQL database

Now find the MySQL Users section. Choose a username and password for a new database user:

Create MySQL user

As a final step, add the new user to the new database:

Add user to database

Once this is finished, it’s time to migrate your site!

6. Import Your Website

To import your old website into the new server, install Duplicator on the second site. Then, open the Import page:

Import website archive

Drop the archive file that you downloaded earlier into this import box. Once the package is ready to install, click on Continue:

Duplicator imported package

You’ll need to hit Launch Installer to confirm that you want to replace everything on the current site:

Launch site installer

At this point, the Duplicator migration wizard will walk you through the rest of the installation. At the top of the page, select Full install single site:

Install type

Be sure to review any notices under Validation. If everything looks correct, accept the terms and notices and continue:

Import validation

In the new pop-up window, hit OK. This will confirm that you want the installer to run:

Install confirmation

Then, Duplicator will fully migrate your site! Once it’s finished, you’ll see an Admin Login button:

Website admin login

Clicking on this will allow you to sign into your new WordPress dashboard! 

Tip: To make sure your site migrated correctly, look over its functionality on the front end. In this post-migration check, make sure there are no broken links or duplicate content. 

7. Redirect Old URLs

After migration, it’s time to redirect your old site to the new URLs. Fortunately, this process is easy with All-in-One SEO:

AIOSEO plugin

AIOSEO is a WordPress SEO plugin that allows you to manage your site’s SEO without an expert. Along with on-page SEO analysis and SEO audit checklists, AIOSEO comes with a Redirection Manager.

Using the Redirection Manager, you can perform an SEO-friendly full site redirect. This will ensure that any backlinks or internal links redirect properly after a migration. Once you install AIOSEO, go to the Redirects page and activate it:

Activate AIOSEO redirection manager

Next, find the Full Site Redirect tab. Here, enable the Relocate site setting:

AIOSEO 301 redirect

Now you’ll need to enter your new site address. Click on Save Changes to redirect your old site.

It’s also important to notify Google about the change so that search engines can find your new website and index pages. To do this, open Google Search Console and add your new domain as a property. Then, select the property for your old domain:

Select old domain in Google Search Console

After this, navigate to Settings » Change of address:

Change site address

Simply select your new site’s property. Click on Validate & Update:

Select new domain

Now that you’ve redirected your site and informed Google about the migration, all of your new pages will eventually have the same organic traffic as the old ones!

Here are some final post-migration tips:

  • After a domain change, you may also need to update your XML sitemap and resubmit it to Google.
  • Use Bing Webmaster Tools’ Site Move tool to continue to rank in Bing searches.
  • Make sure any ad campaigns or social media posts point to the correct landing pages.
  • To avoid a high bounce rate, create a custom 404 page that sends users back to your homepage.
  • Check for errors in your site’s headings, titles, meta descriptions, and other content.
  • Review canonical tags and make sure they return 200 HTTP status codes.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you’re not a digital marketing professional, you might struggle to perform a successful site migration while keeping SEO in mind. To help you with this technical SEO task, let’s answer some common questions!

Why is SEO important in a website migration?

SEO is important in a website migration because it helps maintain your website’s search engine rankings and organic traffic. Properly executed SEO strategies ensure that search engines understand your new site, minimizing the risk of losing visibility and authority.

During which stage of a migration should you benchmark site performance metrics?

You should benchmark your site performance before you start migrating your website. This way, you’ll be able to compare your SEO metrics and see if the move impacted any areas. To do this, install MonsterInsights and download your reports as PDFs.

Alternative: Screaming Frog is an SEO agency that can help you crawl your site before and after migrations. You can also use Semrush to track your visibility and keyword ranking.

Does redesigning a website hurt SEO?

Redesigning a website can boost SEO if you optimize navigation and improve User Experience (UX). However, be sure to test the new design on a staging site first. Then, move it to production using Duplicator Pro. Lastly, perform a post-launch audit to make sure everything is working correctly. 

What is needed for a site migration?

All you need for a site migration is a WordPress migration plugin like Duplicator Pro. Using Duplicator, you can package your site into a moveable zip file. Then, simply drag and drop this file into the new server!


Using this site migration checklist, you can move your online content without losing any visitors or rankings!

Do you want to redesign your website before migrating it to another server? Check out our guide on how to clone a WordPress website.

Are you ready to finally move your site to a new and improved web host? Download Duplicator Pro to smoothly transfer your data without affecting SEO!