Website CMS Migration: Comprehensive Guide for Small Businesses

6 min. read

Having your small business website on an outdated content management platform can be limiting for you and disruptive to your visitors. Failing to make the switch on time can result in a drop in engagement and loss of sales. For this reason, migrating your website to another platform can be game-changing.

But what exactly does CMS migration involve? Are there any risks, and how much does it cost?

In this article, we're going to take a deep dive into:

  • What site migration truly is
  • The difference between CMS migration and website redesign
  • Step-by-step instructions to migrating to a new CMS
  • The costs surrounding site migration 
Let's begin!

What is website migration?

With many new content management companies seeing the light of day, businesses are tempted to make a change. Sites on WordPress might be frustrated by the platform's security issues and want to switch to Drupal. Websites on Joomla might be annoyed by the limited marketplace when it comes to adding modules and want to move to Wix.  

In a nutshell, CMS migration is moving a website from one CMS provider to another. The reasons behind the transfer may vary and include:
  • Troubles with website speed
  • Bad customer support
  • Frequent periods of server downtime
  • An inability to handle large amounts of traffic
  • Lack of functions and customization
  • An inability to edit and manage your site on your own 

Difference between CMS Migration VS. Website Redesign

Although many people confuse the terms, CMS migration is not the same as website redesign. If we compare a website to a computer, a website redesign is like changing a computer's color. CMS migration is like getting a new hard drive.

Although getting a new color for your computer can make it more attractive, upgrading to a new hard drive can bring a countless number of benefits.

Moreover, you can redesign your site without migrating it to a new CMS. Similarly, you can migrate the site to a new CMS without a redesign.

The intent of website redesign and the intent of migration are completely different. Web redesign focuses on altering the visual appeal of a site, so it captures the audience's attention and hopefully generates more sales. Site migration can upgrade the web design of a site, but its main focus is to also upgrade all the core functionalities, features, and contexts of site management.

To sum up, a site redesign strives to improve the user experience. Website migration aims to enhance the overall experience for your audience and yourself.  

What are the steps for migration?

The CMS to CMS migration can be divided into three main steps. Each step is equally important as the other and shouldn't be skipped under any circumstances. If you want to avoid some of the most common site transfer disasters such as a drop in visibility, make sure you carefully read the following steps:

Step 1: Plan carefully

One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is failing to plan the transfer carefully. They often underestimate the scope of the work and the required expertise. 


  1. Ask yourself, why are you making the migration? When do you want it done?
  2. Estimate the timeline. How many days or weeks will you expect the migration to take place?
  3. Think about whether you'll need help. CMS to CMS migration is not an easy endeavor, and you might need assistance from webmaster engineers, SEOs, and UX and content experts. Before hiring any people, ask the platform you're migrating to whether they offer these services. 
  4. Make a copy of your site. Have a copy of your website uploaded to a new server. It's a good idea to use a test site on a separate domain so that you can compare the two sites and make any necessary tweaks before the launch. 
  5. Block search engines from crawling. You don't want Google bots to crawl your site before the migration. Create a robots.txt file to block access to your new site.
  6. Check your new site for any errors. You don't want to launch your site with errors. Google search engines will instantly notice the errors and hurt your ranking. Perform a Site Audit to check for critical errors. 
  7. Ensure that Googlebot can access your new site. Before launching the site, it's time to make sure Google can crawl it. To check, add the temporary hostname of your test subdomain to Search Console and see the Coverage report.
  8. Check DNS TTL values. If your site migration needs a change of IP address, your DNS records must be updated.
  9. Double-check the performance of your server. When Google crawls your site, you want to make sure that all of the pages are loading fast. 
  10. Copy the GA tracking code to your new website. This step is essential if you want to transfer your Google Analytics data to your new site. 

Step 2: Start the migration

Now that you have everything in place, it's time to start the website migration.
  1. Change your DNS settings. If you're switching to a new server, contact your hosting company and request a change of your DNS settings.
  2. Ensure your site can be indexed. Open the Search Console Coverage report and see whether your website is available for users and search engine crawlers.
  3. Enable and test all your redirects. If you haven't done this already, make sure there are no new 4xx errors and that all page and link URLs are correct.
  4. Verify your site with Google Search Console. See if your ownership is still valid after the migration. 
 

Step 3: Monitor the migration
  1. Check for any issues. Run a site audit and look for critical errors.
  2. Make sure your new site is performing well.
  3. Track the indexing of your new pages.
  4. Cancel your old hosting. 

When transferring your site to Exai, we take care of the smallest details. Our CMS will extract all your website images and page structure from your existing website to create the basis of your new website. You can rest assured that all of your SEO elements will remain the same. There'll be no need to waste time hiring a developer, a webmaster, or an SEO expert. We'll manage the site migration from start to finish. 

Does website transfer affect SEO?

It's a Monday morning and you're excited about finally migrating your site to a new platform. You've done your homework and hired an SEO expert to help you with the transfer. You sit back and expect him to work his magic and press the "Migrate" button. As the migration takes place, you're certain that everything will go smoothly and your new website will soon start generating 10x more traffic and leads.

This scenario sounds like a sweet fairytale. In reality, things never go as expected, and there are a lot of SEO risks associated with it.

Problem: Broken internal links
Solution: This is a common SEO problem with moving your site. It can happen for a number of reasons, including having internal links within your content that are still pointing to the old version of the URL. We at Exai use a tool like Screaming Frog or check for broken links. Once we detect the broken links, the last step is to redirect them to the new URL.

Problem: Lower conversion rate
Solution: In some cases, when doing a CMS to CMS migration at the same time as a website redesign, your conversation rate starts to suffer. When this happens with some of our clients, we make sure to set up an effective Google Analytics event tracking. It helps us understand the user flow on the website, from entering the site to making a purchase. By doing so, we can learn where visitors are dropping off and detect the issue.

Problem: A drop in rankings and organic traffic
Solution: It's normal to see fluctuations in rankings and organic traffic during the migration. However, you don't want this to continue over an extensive period of time. At Exai, we always put together detailed URL mapping documents for our clients to tell Google what value of the old URL needs to pass to the new one.

Problem: Indexation issues
Solution: Small fluctuations in the indexation count of your URLs is not a reason to worry. However, if your site is not indexed at all, then this is a major problem. When this happens for some of our clients, we first like to figure out if the site has any indexation errors through the Search Console. If we detect any indexation issues, we then check the robots.txt file to make sure it's not blocking crawler access. 

How much does website migration cost?

The cost of website transfer depends on the size of your site, the number of people involved in the process, and who you will choose to handle the migration. To successfully migrate your site, you'll need to hire a team of experts. The team should consist of a webmaster, SEO experts, back-end developers, UX designers, and content writers. You can choose to hire a team in-house or work with freelancers. Another option is to let the platform you're moving your site to handle the migration.

Moving your site on your own can be time-consuming and frustrating. Hiring a team of freelance experts to help with the conversion may result in poor coordination and low-quality migration services. Bringing an in-house team is a highly expensive alternative.

This leads us to the last and best option and that is letting the company you're moving your site to handle everything in your place.

A company like Exai can take care of your website transfer and improve its performance fast and on budget. The only thing you'll need to do is sit back, grab a bag of popcorn and relax.

We can offer three types of packages, including: 

  1. Small package: the small package is the perfect solution for you if your website has 20 pages or less. For a one-time payment of $690, we will migrate your site to our Exai platform. For an additional $11/month billed annually, you’ll get a hosting service for your website with full upkeep services included in the fee. Or, you can opt to pay $15/month billed monthly and get a premium hosting service for your site and website management services.
  2. Medium package: if your site has 40 pages or less, then you should go with the medium package. For a one-time payment of $870, we will move your site to the Exai platform. We’ll take care of all website updates, SEO tasks, and software updates. For a fixed price of $11/month annually or $15/month billed monthly, you'll gain access to our hosting and website maintenance services.
  3. Custom package: the custom package is for larger websites with up to 100 pages. To get a quote, please get in touch with us today. 

Key Takeaways

Judging by this extensive article, we can safely conclude that website migration can be extremely challenging and tricky. To be executed properly, it requires a rock-solid planning and execution strategy. And let's not forget that you'd also need a spot-on technical team of experts.

Luckily, you don't have to do all the hard work yourself. Our capable migration team at Exai can do all the heavy lifting for you throughout all 3 website migration phases.

To sum up,

  • CMS migration is moving a website from one CMS provider to another.
  • Web redesign focuses on altering the visual appeal of a site. Site migration focuses on upgrading all the core functionalities, features, and contexts of site management.
  • The CMS to CMS migration can be divided into three main steps; The Planning Phase, The Migration Phase, and the Monitoring Phase.
  • The cost of website transfer depends on the size of your site, the number of people involved in the process, and who you will choose to handle the migration.
Good luck and if you need any consultation or help with your website migration, please get in touch

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