The Ultimate Guide: Migrating Your Website to a New CMS
In today's fast-paced online world, it's crucial to keep your website and apps up-to-date. And when your digital presence is in dire need to keep up with the latest user needs and tech trends, switching to a new CMS might just be the best move.
However, there’s no denying it; CMS migration can be painful. And the harsh reality is, for more companies with legacy content management systems like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress, a CMS migration isn’t just a one-off annoyance, it’s an ongoing struggle. While a move to migrate can be daunting, with the right approach, it can boost your digital presence and strategy.
Understanding Website Migrations and CMS Migrations
A CMS migration involves moving a website or even an entire digital presence from one CMS provider to another. Contrary to popular misconception, a CMS migration is not equivalent to a website redesign. While redesigning focuses on aesthetics, CMS migration enhances core functionalities, features, and overall user experiences.
Types of Website Migrations
Migrations can vary based on the scale and nature. They can range from full website migrations, where the entire digital presence is shifted, to partial migrations, where only certain components or sections of a site are moved.
Reasons Why You Might Need to Migrate Your Website to a New CMS
Why would an organization want to take on such a mammoth task, you ask? Well, here are the reasons and motivations we encounter regularly:
- Issues with website speed.
- High server downtime.
- Inability to handle traffic spikes.
- Outdated features.
- Limited customization.
- Limited content distribution capabilities, especially in cases where the existing CMS lacks headless content management functionality.
Step-by-Step Guide for a Website Migration
The process of migrating to a new CMS can be somewhat tricky, especially when you are shifting large amounts of data and content. Since every CMS migration is unique, here are some best practices to follow:
Hire a CMS Migration Project Manager: In any major project, having a central point of coordination is crucial. Hire a dedicated person who can keep track of milestones as well as streamline the migration process, monitor milestones, and ensure communication among all parties.
Utilize automated tools: For vast content repositories, automation is the best route because manual migration can become tedious and error-prone. Custom scripts or software can assist in this - especially for migrations involving large databases.
Audit your content: Before any changes, it’s important to understand how it's currently managed. This means deep dive into how your content functions on the current CMS and how it is organized.
Develop a migration strategy: Not all content might be relevant or necessary to migrate. Identify which content needs migration and which can be left behind. By migrating only valuable, pertinent content, you can optimize storage and management in the new system.
Make a clear content model: Migrating to a new CMS can be a golden opportunity to reevaluate how your content is structured and lay out a clearer organizational framework for your content. Effectively organize content relationships, hierarchies and structures.
Run post-migration tests: Once the migration is complete, it's vital to ensure everything has transferred correctly and is functioning optimally. Run a series of tests to check the responsiveness of the migrated content across various platforms and devices.
Website Migration Checklist: How to Prepare
To help you get started with your CMS migration, we’ve created this 3-phased checklist.
Prior to Migration
Conduct a pre-migration data assessment: Assess all the expenses and risks associated with the move. Depending on which CMS provider you choose to switch to, some migration procedures can result in a lengthy downtime, leading to loss of business - always aim to switch with a CMS platform that provides a seamless migration.
Get all the stakeholders involved: A successful migration is a team effort. Ensure you get all your stakeholders inline, this includes marketers, IT, support staff, senior management, and anyone else who is using the system. The reason why you need to get all the stakeholders involved is to help you take inventory of your content.
Take Inventory: As mentioned above under the best practices, take inventory of all your content, data and links. Keep the content that is most relevant, and remove any that is not - your stakeholders will assist you in this.
Review Security Regulations: With security being a major factor, do ensure your migration process comes in line with all the regulations, in particularly with GDPR since you’ll be handling a lot of data. We also recommend that you get official approval from key stakeholders as well.
Get all the necessary tools in place: Purchase any tools that you need for each aspect of the migration. You might want to set aside some time to demo some tools to see if it meets your requirements.
Set Milestones and Deadlines: Refine your migration strategy by setting targets for each aspect, and ensure this is communicated to all the stakeholders involved.
During Data Transfer
Review Your Data Architecture: When mapping out your inventory, identify areas in your content that might deviate in another way after you’ve migrated (i.e. change in formatting). Consider how you could approach these differences.
Test Your Migration in a Live Environment: If possible, perform a trial migration on a large sample of data to pinpoint any flaws or defects.
Have a Contingency Plan: Migrations can cause major headaches, so it best to have a plan B in place if the migration were to fail. Draw up worst-case scenarios and see what can be done to resolve the matter. Also, do ensure you backup all of your data and content beforehand and store it safely, even when the migration has been completed.
Transfer Your Content: Once all the necessary above steps have been done, you can proceed with the migration, whether manual and automated.
To significantly reduce the time and effort to migrate your data, we highly recommend that you use the CMS2CMS tool to automate your migration.
Addressing Post-Migration Tasks
Fully Test Your Completed Migration- Check for accuracy in your migration data and ensure it follows the appropriate format. In addition, we highly advise that you sample your content to check for data integrity.
Data and System Optimization- Despite your efforts during the preparation phase, there will be some things that you will have to adjust after your migration has been completed. The extent of what needs to be adjusted will depend on the size and complexities of the project.
Set Up a Data Quality Control Protocol- Since migration is a complicated procedure, some errors may remain undetected during the initial stages of testing. More so, those who are working on the new system will create new errors due to lack of experience with using the system. Therefore, it is crucial to have an ongoing quality monitoring protocol in place.
Close Down Old CMS System- Once the migration has been successfully completed, and you’re able to confirm your new CMS platform works smoothly, you can then proceed to decommission the old platform whenever you’re ready.
Common Website Migration Mistakes And How To Avoid Them
Naturally, the Zesty.io team has seen our fair share of migrations. Some website migrations go better than others. So we thought we’d put together a list of things to do (or not) that will help your next CMS migration go smoothly:
Ensure that you are backing up your current site and database regularly will be useful in the event of a migration, so that in case something unprecedented goes wrong, you still have all of the original files and content.
If you have built equity in your domain, it may be more helpful to keep it than to replatform and change it. If you’re changing domain URLs, consult with an SEO agency prior to the migration, as there could be devastating effects.
Duplicating content will result in severe penalties by Google because Google assumes that any copied content on the web is plagiarism. Sometimes, when migrating a site, content can accidentally be cloned. If you publish a site with cloned content, you may jeopardize your own site.
If you’re hiring a team to help you with your migration, be sure to use a partner from your new platform’s Certified Partner Network. Using someone from this network typically guarantees that your migration will go smoothly, and if not, usually the platform will help you if your certified partner cannot. Choosing not to use a certified partner is a little bit like the wild west, and may cause more problems than you originally had.
Setting a timeline is always tricky when planning a content management re-platforming. First, make a CMS Migration Checklist of the things to be done. Then, estimate the timeline for each action item. After creating that timeline, be sure to cushion each action item by a few days to a week or so, depending on the item and how many resources you’ll be able to use to complete that action item.
If your website doesn’t have https:// in the URL, it’s insecure, and Google is penalizing those sites for not being secure. While it’s important to turn on HTTPS, this causes a major change.
Website Migration Tools and Resources
While tools like CMS2CMS are handy for automated migration, platforms like Zesty.io offer a plethora of tools to ease the migration journey. Their drag-and-drop code importer, Google WebMaster Integration, and CSV import features streamline the process, minimizing hiccups.
Choosing the Right CMS for Your Needs
Selecting the ideal CMS goes beyond just features. It’s about future-proofing your digital presence. Zesty.io stands out, offering built-in custom JSON feed functionality, multi-site support, and an independent presentation layer. Their API-driven environment supports vast integration capabilities, making the migration user-friendly and efficient.
Best Enterprise CMS 2023
There are plenty of enterprise CMS options to choose from. We recommend that you choose an enterprise CMS platform that has headless capabilities that allow you to deliver content to any display and non-display device, something that cannot be done on a conventional CMS platform.
Here we’ve identified the top five enterprise CMS solutions:
Zesty.io is a headless CMS that features built-in custom JSON feed functionality, multi-site support, drag-and-drop content modeling, and more. It comes with an independent presentation layer that allows content creators to provision both text-based and media assets at any point of the development lifecycle. It also features a mobile-first approach, where it allows users to effectively deploy mobile experiences natively via its built-in responsive design framework.
Launched in 2017, GraphCMS was developed using GraphQL, which is an alternative data query language to REST. It comes with an intuitive content model editor that allows you to define the structure and relationship of all your content and data. The content model editor also allows you to set permissions for application data as well.
GraphCMS comes with a feature-rich editor to allow you to create any type of content without any technical knowledge.
ButterCMS was launched in 2014 and serves two distinct products: a headless CMS, and a standalone blog engine that can integrate with any pre-existing framework. ButterCMS’s headless CMS offering comes with a host of different features including custom content types, custom page types, preview capabilities, multi-site support, and media library.
dotCMS is an open source platform that brands itself as a hybrid CMS - which is essentially a decoupled CMS platform. Besides providing headless content management, it also features WYSIWYG editing, codeless workflow creation, SEO tools, drag-and-drop composition, and custom content types.
Directus is a free and open source headless CMS solution that you can retrieve from GitHub. Written on backbone.js, it comes with an admin interface that lets you manage your database content directly. According to Directus itself, the admin interface does not require any training.
Why Zesty.io is a Top CMS Migration Choice
Zesty.io comes with a number of features for your developers to seamlessly and easily migrate your old CMS to Zesty.io:
Drag and Drop code importer: This tool enables you to drag and drop a text file (containing code) straight into Zesty.io’s interface. The importer negates the need for using an FTP or SCP file transfer.
Zesty.io Google WebMaster Integration: With this feature, you can update all the links on your website to redirect to your new platform.
CSV Import Tool: For content migration, Zesty.io enables you to import a CSV file - which contains all content and data - from your old CMS provider.
All of these tools allow you to migrate your site in a short amount of time.
Whatsmore, Zesty.io is a headless CMS that has been developed with the marketer in mind. Zesty.io’s Content-First™ approach allows marketers to create sites and push content in minutes, all while reducing reliance on IT. With Zesty.io, the marketers are in control.
And with it being a decoupled headless solution, marketers can produce and distribute content to any IoT device and touchpoint, including those that are yet to be released. It is a future-proof solution, meaning once you migrate to Zesty.io, you’ll never have to migrate again.
On an ending note, we would like to reiterate that migrating to a new CMS, while challenging, offers a wealth of benefits, from improved site performance to enhanced security. It’s important to execute your migration correctly, and a platform like Zesty.io can help you do exactly that while transforming your digital experience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does changing CMS affect SEO?
Yes, it absolutely can. When you're thinking about moving to a different CMS, there's a lot at stake for your site's SEO. One important piece of advice is to try to keep your URL structures the same if you can. And if you've got URLs that are changing, make sure you put in 301 redirects from the old ones to the new ones. Tip: Be sure to watch out for duplicating content. That's a quick way to get on the bad side of search engines.
Are there any risks of data loss during a CMS migration?
Yes, hence the importance of backing up all data before starting the process.
How long does a CMS migration typically take?
This depends on the website's size and complexity. It can range from a few days to weeks or even months. Zesty.io can give you a free estimation of your migration time if you contact us here.
Can I perform a CMS migration on my own, or do I need professional help?
While it's possible to do it on your own, seeking professional help, especially for large-scale migrations, is recommended.
By Samriddhi Simlai
Samriddhi is a Seattle-based marketing professional who loves to be curious and find stories in data. Samriddhi enjoys chats about product, growth and coffee. Say hi at email@example.com.