Top 10 Tips For Web Content Migration

27th November 2013

Thinking of migrating content? Read our essential tips first

One of the key points about digital strategy is content. Transferring the content from your existing website to a new build can be tricky, so I’ve put together my top ten tips to make your content migration successful.

  1. Know your existing site – It’s absolutely imperative that you understand the site you’re moving content from. What’s good and bad about the structure. You need to understand the sitemap and the files that make up the pages on the site so that you can plan how this will best be transferred to the new site.
  2. Save everything – The first real step of your plan is to download everything – every document, every image, every excerpt of text. Download them into a logical structure of folders so that you know what pages they came from and keep useful filenames. ‘Image1.jpg’ says nothing to other users but ‘Image_of_Brown_Door.jpg’ means a lot more to the user. This will help search engines index the site better and is important for accessibility guidelines. Also keep a backup of your files just in case something goes wrong.
  3. Duplicate removal – If you have a large project, perhaps in multiple languages, there are possibilities that you have a large amount of duplicate files. This is a silly thing to do, it wastes space and bandwidth and makes no logical sense. You wouldn’t keep two copies of that Batman DVD, would you? There are plenty of duplicate file finders that sort this out for you Two things to keep in mind though:
    1. Make sure that what you are deleting is definitely a duplicate,
    2. Make sure you know where the file you deleted needs to be redirected to in your file structure.
  4. File renaming – Many online Content Management Systems, and web architecture in general, have strict file naming conventions. I’d recommend only using a-z, 0-9 and underscores (_). Lines, dots, spaces and other characters can often cause problems when a site is put together. I’d also recommend using only lowercase, just for ease of use, but this is not absolutely necessary. Not only does this help out the CMS system but it also meets user expectations and the filenames will perform better in terms of Search Engine Optimisation.
  5. File types – There are many varieties of file types that you may have on your website and with more variety comes more complicated issues. Will the visitor have the software installed to read the file? For best practice, I’d recommend the following:
    1. Images – PNG files are best – they are like JPEG, have transparency options available and are usually smaller in file size.
    2. Documents – PDF is the best choice, most people have a PDF reader installed, modern browsers will read them in the browser themselves and the formatting can’t move around, it keeps it locked. If you absolutely have to have a ‘word’ document for a form for example. Then I recommend saving as a .doc for best cross-compatibility.
    3. Large files/compressed folders – ZIP large files and downloads, such as software, into zip archives to reduce the file size but keep compatibility with most people.
  6. Metadata – One of the crucial things that many websites miss is metadata. All the items in a CMS will usually have fields for metadata which helps staff to find things in the backend, allows better searching, is good for meeting accessibility requirements and brilliant for SEO purposes. Make sure you fill in the name, description, alt text and keywords on all content with meaningful language to help make your website easier for everyone to work with. On a side note, although the keyword field hasn’t been used by Google for 10 years, most internal site search technologies still use it.
  7. Manual, not auto – It’s tempting with the array of options available today to use a tool to automatically move your content from one site to another. Although easy, and it might work, it won’t be the best thing to do. The reason you’re moving to a new site is probably to do with the old site being structurally unsound. It’s best to start with a clean slate that follows best practice and to continue to do so in future. Automatically inserting the data can give you bad file naming, duplicates files and a messy structure. It really is best to sort this out before it goes into your new site.
  8. Formatting – There will be plenty of pages in your old site, maybe pages stored in Word documents on your computer and scraps of paper with note scribbled on. These are all pages you want on your new site. However, just copying and pasting text in your CMS is not going to work very well. When copying text on your computer, particularly from Google Chrome or Microsoft Word, formatting data is usually copied with it. This formatting could very easily conflict with your new website’s formatting and give you a very odd looking page. The solution? Try to copy text as plainly as possible. Copy the text into a plain text editor like Notepad and then copy that text into your new page in your CMS. This should give you some clean paragraphs that you can format in your CMS to follow the sites default CSS rules for headings and titles.
  9. Links – An imperative thing with sites is to make sure all your links work correctly and don’t produce 404 errors. If you just copy and paste links from your old site into the new CMS the link will be wrong. Make sure you copy the plain text and link up the text or image on the new site to its rightful location. It is also best with internal site links in a CMS to use the internal link option with will use the items GUID (Globally Unique Identifier – usually a database reference) to locate the URL rather than a static URL that can fail if any drastic changes are made (e.g. URL change) on your new website.
  10. Convention – Convention is key with websites. Have a multilingual site? Does the USA news section have the URL ‘/news.php’ and the Canadian news section have the URL ‘/thenews.php’ ? This is bad convention and can confuse users and staff alike. Keep good numbering systems, good titling, and keep the bookcase clean and tidy so it make’s sense and is easy to document for people to use.

In summary

Don’t just migrate your content. Take time to audit what you are transferring. Is your content actually read and valued by your audience? Does it lead to engagement? Think about refreshing or rewriting content to match your latest tone of voice, meet new SEO objectives or update for new industry knowledge. If you’re moving from a particularly old site, remember most people use mobile devices today, so cut the content down and make it easy to digest on the move.

As one of the leading Sitecore partners, we always have projects on the go that involve migrating complex multi-language sites. If you want a partner with expertise, that you can trust – talk to us.