11 Steps to Successful Content Migration to a New Website

Clever content migration is the key to ensuring your newly revamped association website is successful. Follow these 11 steps, including identifying what old content to keep and what to discard as well as developing a new search engine optimization strategy, to set the stage for a successful launch.

So you’ve decided your organization website is so broken that you need to start over. You’ve done your homework and conducted a needs analysis, you’ve written the RFP, you’ve sat through the demos, and you’ve finally selected the system and vendor to help take your association’s website to the next level. You have even created a new fresh design, created a new taxonomy to classify the content, and reorganized the site’s navigation and architecture. Now you’re ready to populate it with great content. How?

Creating Content
Depending on the platform you’ve chosen, there may be an automated process to help move your content from your old system to your new one. Should you use it?

The answer likely depends on a few factors: How well can the automated process do the job? How much content will you have to clean up afterwards? What does it cost to license and configure the tool?

If you decide to manually populate the content, staff is likely to dread the task. But the task can be less daunting if you follow some simple steps to ensure successful content migration. Below are some tips to make the transition smoother:

Know your content. Conduct a thorough review of all of the content you intend to move to the new site. Make lists and keep a rough count of the number of pages/documents/videos/images involved in each area. Also review your web analytics to identify the content that is popular with your users—as well as the content that is rarely viewed.

● Know what to keep and what to discard. Review content to determine what is still useful. Do you really need x years of archives from the periodical? Should you retain all of the press releases? Discard and update any information that is no longer accurate. Have standards changed or new technologies made certain articles irrelevant? Also review your images. Is that the updated logo that complies with the new branding guidelines? There’s no need to transfer image files of former board members or outdated conference logos.

● Estimate the time needed for the job. Now that you have determined how much content you intend to load onto the new site, estimate the time needed to perform the task. Conduct a simple test using the new software to estimate the time it will take to create a basic page. Multiply the number of content pages needed by the estimated time to create one. Obviously, the more hands on deck, the quicker you can go. Then pad your estimate another 10 to 20 percent to account for any unforeseen downtime/issues.

● Know your human resources. You can use staff, volunteers, or outside help to move the content and/or build the new pages. From the review above, you’ll know who in the organization owns and understands the content you intend to migrate. Tech-savvy subject matter experts (SMEs) can be properly trained to use the software and may be best suited for the task. SMEs are also best suited for tagging your content with the most appropriate content classification for your audience. Identify potential individuals and ask for assistance. For staff, approach their supervisors to request the appropriate amount of time for both training and content migration. If you’re using outside consultants or temporary staff, ensure your budget can handle the additional expense.

● Prep your war room. You may want to gather the team in a conference room—“war room” style. This strategy offers a major advantage since it allows the team to get away from their phones and emails to focus on the project. The team can use each other for technical support or feedback. To make it work, make sure you have the right equipment. You may need to reserve or rent computers or laptops. Do you have the appropriate number of network connections available? Can you make arrangements to have someone set up (and clear out) the equipment? Can you secure the room when it’s not in use?  If war room style isn’t an option for you, you may want to schedule daily or weekly “touch base meetings” for the team members to share progress updates and to get support and feedback from one another.

● Determine the search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Building a new website sets the stage for a new SEO strategy. Be sure the team has been trained on basic techniques that can be employed when creating new pages. Google has a guide that is a must read for your team to learn how to focus on page names, descriptions, alt tags, and headers, as well as document and image titles. 

● Map the plan. Once you know the total content to be moved, the human resources available, and the time estimated to move it, draft a plan for each day of the project. Plan to build out the site in manageable pieces such as focusing on one navigation menu or section at a time.

● Track your progress. Communicate clear daily or weekly goals to the team. Print out the plan and hang it on the wall. During status update meetings, cross off the completed items as a visual reminder of progress. You may need to make adjustments and reallocate resources or utilize additional resources to stay on target.

● Emphasize quality control. Designate a system for quality control checks. You’ll want someone to review pages to ensure consistent design cohesion. If new content is being created during the process, ensure the writing reflects well on the organization and sets the correct tone and style for the site. Depending on your new platform, much of this process can be automated using page templates and approval workflows.

● Celebrate the launch. When the project is complete, take time to celebrate with the team and recognize folks for contributions to the project. strong>● Maintain the site. Just when you thought you were done, remember that ongoing review and maintenance are essential. The new site will quickly lose its appeal if you fail to keep the content fresh, relevant, and up to date.

A new website offers a great way to reconnect with your members. Make sure the content meets members’ expectations by taking your time and doing the job the right way.

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