There can come a point in the development and expansion of your website where you need to migrate it. The reason could be to move it from a shared hosting to a VPS, a dedicated server, or to a new web hosting company altogether. With any website migration, there are risks, especially if a specific set of steps are not followed in order.
These risks include the website no longer functioning properly, missing elements, a loss of data, poor website performance, and it can even cause your website to no longer be indexed by the search engines and therefore lose its rankings. In order to ensure none of the previous risks manifest themselves into reality here are the 10 steps you should follow when migrating your website between hosting companies.
#1: Retain Your Existing Website…For Now: This first one is not actually a step but a definite ‘DO NOT’, which is under no circumstances should you take down your existing website from its current hosting until it is properly migrated and tested as being 100% operational on its new hosting.
#2: Create A Copy Of Your Website: You next need to create a copy of your current website and upload it to your new hosting account. One point here that as you are keeping your current site live, you will initially need to upload the new one to a subdomain as the same domain cannot exist for two separate websites, even if they are identical.
#3: Prevent Search Engines From Indexing The New Website: Until your new website is fully functional you do not want Google’s, or any other search engine’s spiders indexing it, as this can flag up errors that negatively impact your present rankings. Use a robot.txt file or password protect the site to prevent the spiders from accessing it.
#4: Test The Appearance And Functioning Of Your New Website: This can take some time and some patience as you literally have to go through every page and test all your website’s functions. This includes making sure everything appears as it should, that media works, and that any interactive functions operate properly.
#5: Temporarily Reallow Google Access Your New Site: You want to ensure that when your new site goes live Google will once again be able to crawl it. Now that you have tested it for errors and are happy there are none, add your website to Google Search Console to make sure it can crawl it. If it can, reinstate the blocking of access once again.
#6: Test The Loading Speed Of Your New Website: You should already know that a fast website and page loading speed are essential for a number of reasons. As such, check your new website’s load speeds in comparison to your old website. A great tool for testing website speeds is Google’s Page Speed Insight tool.
#7: Update Your Nameservers: Whichever domain name service you use, you will need to go there and update your DNS settings to those of your new hosting service. This effectively tells the internet and any browser that instead of your old website, it should now send visitors to your new website.
#8: Switch Your New Website Back To Its Main Domain: Once you have updated the nameservers it will take time for that to be processed, and in that time you want to switch your new website from its temporary subdomain to its main domain. This can be done by copying the website within your cPanel, and you will also have to make some changes in your WordPress admin area.
#9: Allow Search Engines To Crawl Your Website Again: You now want the search engine spiders to be able to crawl your new website so remove anything you had set up to block them.
#10: Check For Redirects And Retest Your Website: A final bit of housekeeping that involves checking any redirects that you might have previously set up on your old website are still working. In addition, there is no harm in rechecking that everything is still working on your website.