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4 Content Migration Mistakes That May Put Your Website Redesign at Risk

Managing content migration in-house can be an effective way to minimize the overall cost of a website redesign project. Avoid common pitfalls by creating a shared understanding of the full scope and level of effort required for a successful launch.

Content migration — like content creation — is one of the most underestimated aspects of a website redesign project. Many organizations choose to take content migration in-house to cut costs. This can only be effective if your organization is aware of the required resources and potential risks associated with a migration effort.

These are the most common content migration mistakes and misconceptions.

“Automated” Content Entry

In website redesign proposals, a recurring assumption is that "migration" refers to automated migration — moving content from one system to another using computer processing power. This sounds great, right? Unfortunately, this is rarely a comprehensive option.

Your new site will likely include new content structures that are more complicated than WYSIWYG blocks. Automation requires the development of a script — referred to as programmatic migration — that supports detailed mapping to hundreds of potential custom component fields. Manual migration is the more efficient way to go. 

There is a chance, however, that some of your content can be migrated over via a content export or database import. This only applies to pages or data fields that are highly structured such as news articles, faculty profiles, or course requirements. 

Content Requirements

Even the most organized projects have difficulty accounting for all content requirements — in other words, the content fields, imagery, meta tags, and taxonomy required for use of a particular template or component. With a new library of templates that feature reusable, reorderable components, crafting content to fit can be challenging. If your content is not appropriately structured within the content requirements prior to the migration phase, this often leads to one of two scenarios — neither of which are ideal:

  1. The data entry operator must heavily edit the copy–on the fly–to fit the desired component on a page. Even if the individual has the right skill set, it may result in typographical errors or inaccurate information.
  2. The data entry operator defaults to a WYSIWYG, foregoing components that may be relevant to reinforcing the purpose of your content. This may be fine for lower-level pages, however, the established goals and messaging of high-level or key marketing pages may be lost.

And beyond formatting, those commonly forgotten requirements are items that optimize the site for UX, SEO, and ADA compliance, including:

Content templates — a field by field worksheet of your new website templates — can be used to guide content creation for different page types by defining structure requirements as well as editorial needs. These can be distributed to content authors across your organization to guide content development. 

Resource Planning and Time Management

For those unfamiliar with migrating content to a brand new CMS environment, it can be challenging to grasp the effort required to migrate a full site’s worth of content. Touching a page once during content migration is a rare occurrence. It is more likely that each page within your site map will need to be revisited and edited twice or three times — or more — prior to launch. That’s because there’s much more involved than copying and pasting copy from a document into your CMS, including:

  • Building folder/navigational structures
  • Configuring components
  • Creating optimized heading structures (WYSIWYGs)
  • Uploading photo/video files and corresponding alt tags
  • Setting up internal and external crosslinking (CTAs and in-line)

The final item on the list, crosslinking, is likely the most responsible for multiple touch points. For internal destinations, the page you reference must exist before you can set up the link. In other words, you cannot reference a page that does not yet exist. 

As you consider staffing for manual content migration (data-entry), ensure the individuals have a basic understanding of elements that may impact SEO as well as usability — or task an internal expert to serve as a quality assurance manager. And in general,  during the later phases of the project, it’s a good idea to revisit the content strategy as well as content development and CMS training to ensure you’re keeping the project goals top of mind.

Search Engine Optimization

Another common misconception is that by switching domains or URL structures, you will lose your domain and page authority. That may have been more true in the early days of search, but search engines are smarter today than ever. Developing a comprehensive redirect plan will help ensure the continuity and authority of your website. 301 redirects are like mail forwarding. They indicate to a search engine that you’ve permanently moved content away from one URL to another. This means that all traffic will automatically be sent to your new page. A 301 redirect also signals search engines to update their index appropriately. Your site audit will be a helpful catalog of all of your current pages:

  • If the URL has not changed, omit it from your redirect plan.
  • If pages have been retired or consolidated, provide the most relevant new page path.
  • If there is no relevant page, redirect to the homepage.

The format requirements will vary depending on your CMS. Check with your IT team or site administrator.

It’s also important to look out for any redirect loops that may impact SEO. Redirect loops occur when a URL is redirected to a redirected URL, resulting in an endless circle. If these weren’t identified in your audit, use a site scanner like Screaming Frog, Siteimprove, or Dubbot to flag any existing redirects and issues.

Need Content Migration Help?

Content migration can be a tedious, manual process, and not every marketing team has the resources on staff to devote to the task. If you need advice on the best path forward for your organization, just reach out and our dedicated team of strategists will help you put a plan in place to set your site up for continued success after launch.