Migrating your website to a new platform, version or domain is a sensitive affair and if you work in digital marketing or production you might find yourself in this position sooner or later in your career. It is an inescapable experience and one that can leave you flourishing or struggling for air depending on your execution style and the maturity of your digital teams as well as partners.
Migration to any platform can be complex, and if you are lucky, you would be migrating to Sitecore which has its own nuances. I am sure there is tons of content on the internet talking about migrating to Sitecore, but I feel most of them are written for your IT teams and serve well if you are a developer.
However, if you were a marketer like me and your organization is inching closer to Sitecore also known as “The Ferrari of the CMS World” There is a good chance that you are feeling just as overwhelmed as Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr.
Now that we have qualified that you are from Marketing and are considering migrating to Sitecore, let us get down to business and articulate the top 7 focus areas that will ensure this migration is successful and yields the results you are targeting.
This is your Gold Idol that is going to change platforms and should consume most of your time and attention. You want to audit your existing content, understand its performance, and identify the critical mass you want to consider for migration. Do not be lazy and say, “Migrate all content”, this is your opportunity to get rid of dead weight. Categorize your content into
- Must haves: High Search Engine Traffic / Strategically important / Most Contextual / Regulatory. This content in most cases meets the Pareto Principle (20% of your content drives 80% of the traffic)
- Good to have: Average search engine traffic / Difficult to ignore. These are space filler content pieces. In most cases they have the potential to perform but have not yet made it to your top “Must Have” list. It will not hurt to bring them along and give them another chance.
- Sunset: Old Archive / Poor search engine traffic / minor errors / old stale content. These should be decommissioned even before you got to the new platform. They do not add any value to your website visitors experience and have passed their relevance date. You can pull the plug on these pages.
- Who built this crap: Critical Errors / No traffic / Low quality pages. These are the pages that will hurt you the most no matter where you take them and which CMS you migrate to. Just get rid of these, they will not hurt you.
2. Website URLs
Keep them short and memorable. This is my secret mantra for URLs structure. However, when you migrate, you have your existing URLs to port over to the new platform along with your content. This is a topic where you must organize a joint discovery session amongst business, marketing, SEO and IT team. You would look at your current URL structure and governing rules that define how a new URL is created. If your website is multilingual, pay close attention to the URL variations for different language versions. Check if you already use the Canonical tag and try to understand its purpose. You cannot leave these things to be IT’s problem anymore, as a marketer, you must up your digital maturity too.
Once you understand your current state, discuss what your future URLs will look like. Outline the business rules that define new URLs. One Power Tip on this subject is “refer to my secret mantra”. Always challenge URL names with a long list of folders. Example www.website.com/something/something-about-something/another-thing-about-something/some-more-words
While the business, marketing and SEO teams outline their URL structure preferences, also invite your IT team to simulate some examples of URLs they anticipate based on the content you are going to be porting. You do not want to be caught by surprise in UAT. No matter what happens, do not accept URLs with spaces in them, they just look weird.
If you decide on changing the URL structure or terminate some pages, then document all the redirects and pass them over to your IT team.
3. Schema and Structured Data
Your current platform may or may not have schema in place but that does not mean you miss out on leveraging these on Sitecore. Schema tags allow you to help explain your content types to search engines more efficiently. This is an absolute must have for every kind of website and will help boost your search engine performance.
These are links between your internal pages on your current site. These may get impacted when you migrate and would need some TLC during migration. Missing these will lead to an increased number of 404 error pages.
If you have any goals and events being tracked on your current site, they will not magically make their way into the new platform. This is a piece worth talking about with your team and communicating your data needs. This is also a great moment to talk about Sitecore’s famous Experience Analytics. Leverage this wonderful solution to assign engagement values for goals, setup personalization rules, and harness Experience Data with the power of machine learning to deliver individualized experiences.
6. Sitecore Vocabulary
This is often the most overlooked subject yet the one that can create great impact. As a marketer, I can relate with the obnoxious feeling of listening to the IT team talk sci-fi sounding language while you are in the room and expecting you to understand it all. Sitecore as we mentioned as the “Ferrari of the CMS world” has its own little nuances which need to be understood. It is perfectly normal to call out what you do not know or do not understand and ask your team or Sitecore Partners to ELI5 (Explain Like I am 5 years old). This is the moment when it will all start coming together and you will be perfectly poised to supercharge the digital experience for your customers.
7. Partner with The Best
A quick Google search can find you plenty of Sitecore partners who can help you in your transformation journey. Even if you have your own captive development team, engaging a neutral consulting partner will always help guide your investments and focus on the right priorities. Here at Konabos, I feel blessed to work with the Sitecore MVP Dream team. These are seasoned veterans who have been there and done that countless number of times and are even rumored to be able to migrate a site in their sleep. Jokes apart, choosing the right Sitecore consulting partner is your most important step because if your Guide is right, you can be assured to reach your destination even if you have hurdles as high as mountains.
I hope you found this post valuable and enjoyed reading it as much as I did while writing it. Good luck with your migration and if you have a question, feel free to connect with me or the Konabos Team.