You have just discovered Webflow for a short time, but you are completely convinced that it is the best CMS. You advise your clients to use it, and they in turn want to use Webflow. Only, they already have their site designed and hosted on other platforms. They wonder if it would be better to migrate a site to Webflow and/or to create a brand new site on Webflow.
If you were in their shoes, what would you do?
I drop everything to create a new site. It's faster and easier.
I can't just drop everything. I still managed to gain some traffic, and that was after several years of work. I prefer to try website migration.
I prefer to read this guide before drawing a conclusion!
None of these answers are bad, but you should also know that migrating a site to other platforms is not without risks. This is true for Webflow as well. So you have to be as careful as possible, especially if you are in charge of one of your clients' sites.
Hence this guide on the steps to migrate a website to Webflow.
- Expect changes
- Know the current site well before migrating a site to Webflow
- Either organized
- Gathers all the contents of the new site
- Migrating a site to Webflow: think about on-page SEO
- 301 redirection
- Verification of the new site
- Connect the site to Google Analytics
- Submit the sitemap of the new site to Google Search Console
- Review your notes
1. Expect changes
As a webdesigner, migrating a site to webflow is certainly not new for you. If this is the case, you are aware that you have to expect some small changes. But your client doesn't know that, that's why you have to warn him. And the changes might be "small" for you, but not for him.
These changes concern traffic. The first months of the migration, there will be a decrease. This problem is common to all platforms and not only to Webflow. In case you have to deal with a difficult client , you can talk to him about one of your former clients' sites that you have migrated with brilliance from other platforms like Wordpress, Wix...
After a few months (two or three), everything will return to normal. Even better, the site recognizes a strong increase in traffic. All this, thanks to the migration. During the migration, you were able to identify all the imperfections of the site, to remedy them.
2. Know the current site well before migrating a site to Webflow
Knowing the site is not enough. You have to know it perfectly. Taking notes on the current state of the site can help! These notes will then serve as a reference point. As I told you earlier, the site will not remain untouched by the migration. It will undergo some changes in traffic. Sometimes this change can be substantial; other times, not. But either way, the notes you take will help you.
On the other hand, they will protect you. As you warned the client of what will happen (possible drop in traffic for example), maybe he will become paranoid and accuse you of having brought the disorder in his site? He might exaggerate for nothing. This is when you show him the notes you have taken. From these notes, he will see that the drop was not as high as he imagined.
Are your notes even reliable? It's true that at first glance, you don't know exactly what to write in your notes. Relying on instinct is obviously not the best thing to do. I advise you to use powerful tools such as ahrefs, semrush, google search console, google analytics... In each of these tools, you will know precisely what criteria to use.
3. Either organized
In my experience, when I migrate a website, I want to do everything at the same time. This is a mistake not to be made though, because you risk being badly organized. And a bad organization can only be bad for a site in migration.
So here are some practical and proven organizational tips:
- Lists all pages and URLs of the website. Be careful not to forget anything. To help you, you can use the sitemap of the website in question. Instead of taking a paper notepad and a pen, I think it would be better to do it on an Excel file (or other no-code tools that you think you should use in this context).
- Then, an analysis of all the backlinks of the site is necessary. Listing them in the same Excel file would also be a good idea, so that none of them (especially the good ones) is lost. To ensure that the migration has little impact on the traffic of the site or that the site gets back on its feet as soon as possible, it is better to keep its quality backlinks!
- Google search console and Google analytics will be your best allies for this step. You will need them to see which pages are the most indexed on the site, those that currently bring the most traffic. Make these pages your priority, and above all.
- Finally, you need to categorize the different pages and URLs on the site. Sort them so that the pages to be kept, deleted and modified are separated.
4. Gathers all the contents of the new site
To avoid wasting time looking for new content for the new website (unless that's your goal), gather the content (media: images, videos, podcasts...) in one place. I, for example, do it on Google Drive. That way, my clients and my team can access it at any time.
Here is an easier way to export all the content at once, especially if the site to be migrated is a Wordpress site. Download a plugin called WP CSV. It allows you to export the contents of the site in .csv and then upload them in Webflow. There is a feature for that in Webflow.
5. Migrating a site to Webflow: thinking about on-page SEO
Off-site SEO is certainly very important. But it is no less important for on-page SEO. If you manage to configure the on-page SEO of the site well, there is a good chance that the drop in traffic that the site experiences will be minimal.
I list the elements to check for this step:
- the SEO title
- the meta description
- the open graph
- Hn titles
- the URLs
- internal networking
- the image tag
- the name of each image
Although some of these elements do not have direct consequences on the site, they indirectly affect the SEO. That's why none of them should be taken lightly.
And even if you think that there is nothing more to change, you should use website checking tools such as SEMrush. It lists all the errors that your site still has, and that could cause harm to the SEO.
6. 301 redirection
It's time to move on to the 301 redirection configuration, a very important step, because during the migration, there will always be some changes.
So, for this setup, you'll need the URL lists you previously established in part 3 (being organized) (again, I stress the importance of following these steps to the letter, they depend on each other).
This redirection is configurable in Webflow, but to access it, you need to have the hosting plan. A video explaining in detail the steps to follow is available on the Webflow website. You will also find an explanatory video in the free training. Remember also that to succeed in this step, you will have to be very meticulous.
7. Verification of the new site
As they say: to err is human. So, before going any further, why not check one last time if the new site is error-free? Doing it manually would be a big waste of time. It is better to use SEO tools like SEMrush or ahrefs. Don't just check the domain, check all the sub-domains of the site as well.
8. Connect the site to Google Analytics
The old site was connected to Google Analytics. This is the reason why you could serenely analyze what was happening behind the curtains of the website. By migrating your site to Webflow, this connection to Google Analytics will not be done by itself. You have to do it manually.
This way, you will be able to follow closely the evolution of the traffic of the new site and why not, download the data you need for the next time. But how to connect a Webflow site to Google Analytics?
You have to go to project settings > page integrations.
You just have to get the code on Google Analytics called: tracking ID (on the Google Analytics administration page). When you have copied the tracking code, go back to Webflow to copy it on the dedicated field (Google Analytics Tracking ID). Don't forget to save and publish the project!
9. Submit the sitemap of the new site to Google Search Console
It is a way to signal to Google that the site has changed address and that it will have to reindex it. This also explains why a drop in traffic is to be expected during the first months of migration.
The steps to sign up for Google Search Console are not complicated:
- On the dashboard of Google Search Console, you have to click on the "add a property" button
- Then copy the new domain into the appropriate field
- You will be asked to enter an option in the verification methods. I recommend the "HTML tag".
- Finally, copy the verification ID (a series of numbers and letters). Be careful though, you don't have to close this window yet.
- In the meantime, let's go to the Webflow dashboard, obviously in a new tab. Go to the SEO settings.
- It's time to paste the code you just copied into Google Search Console.
- Save the changes and publish the site!
10. Review your notes
If everything has gone well so far, it's because the migration of the site has also gone well! So there's no need to worry about it anymore. This tenth step is a kind of bonus, because you will only need it a few months later, when everything becomes normal again. Even better, when the traffic of the new site has surpassed its old scores.
Do you remember when I asked you to take notes, in part 2 of this guide? Well, 3 to 4 months later, I advise you to review them. If you want to please your client, you can even show them. If everything went well, I'm sure the site has gained more visitors. This is the time to ask your client for a nice testimonial to put on your site.
In short, migrating a site to Webflow is a whole process! It's true that everyone can adopt his own working method, but I was happy to share my experience with you. By the way, here is a summary of these 10 steps to migrate a site to Webflow :
- Remember to be organized and thorough. These qualities will help you not to forget anything.
- You always have to be realistic. This is the only way to avoid disappointment and to stay motivated no matter what happens. As I've made clear throughout this guide, the first few months of migration are going to be tough. Website traffic will inevitably drop, but that doesn't mean you've failed. It just takes time. And your client needs to understand this, even before you do it, to avoid misunderstandings and unpleasant surprises. Explain it to them.
- Finally, be transparent in your working method, i.e. it would be better if you talked about it with your client.
- Use Google Sheet to collect all the data.