Content Marketing

Things Your Website Content Migration is Missing, Part 2: A Map

We’re back! It’s time for another installment of “Things your website content migration is missing.”
Last time, we explained how to set goals for your content migration and discussed why they’re important. If you haven’t read that article yet, now’s the time to do so – otherwise, today’s post won’t make much sense!
Creating effective goals is step 1 in your migration process. Seems logical that step 2 would be to schedule out or even begin the migration work – but don’t dive into the deep end quite yet. Instead, ask yourself: “Do we really know what we’re migrating?”
If your organization is like most, your existing website has been evolving for several years. Maybe Dave from Legal added 3 pages on safety precautions, or Laura from PR still hasn’t removed your fall lookbook from 2015. That’s why conducting a content evaluation before you begin a migration is so important. Diving into the migration without one would be like going on a roadtrip without a map – you could do it, but you might regret it!
The most accurate (and most time consuming) way to evaluate your existing content is through a full content audit – and that’s what we strongly recommend to all of our clients. However, if you don’t have the time or manpower to conduct a full audit, there are a few quick tricks you can use to plan an effective migration. Let’s talk about a few of them, shall we?

1.  Take a Quick Inventory

Any effective content evaluation starts with an inventory. It’s tough to wade through hundreds or thousands of pages by hand, so we suggest a more efficient method: the spider.
Sounds intimidating (and possibly scary, if you’re arachnophobic), but never fear. In this context, a spider is just a script that goes through a site and lists each unique URL – usually in the form of a (very exciting) spreadsheet.
You may have an engineer on staff to help you spider your site – but if you don’t, there are tools, both free and paid, that can automate this process for you. We use Screaming Frog, but any basic spider software will work.
When used properly, a spider is a quick way to gauge the number of pages that need to be migrated. To ensure accuracy, exclude things like images and files from your inventory – these items actually have their own URLs, which can throw off your final page count.

2.  Get a 50,000 Foot View

Congrats, you have a site inventory! Now, how can you use it to learn about your content?
Take a look at the at the site’s metadata. Generally, spider scripts can return page titles, meta descriptions, and even header tags, which can provide an overview of the content in various areas of the site.
Of course, this approach assumes that descriptive, useful metadata was part of the original content creation process… but if it’s available, use this information to familiarize yourself with the existing site at a high level, and identify unexpected or potentially problematic areas of content.

3.  Group Your Content

Now that you understand the full breadth of your content, you can begin to break it into manageable segments for migration. This process will help you make informed decisions about what to migrate first and where your team should be spending the majority of their time. We suggest grouping the content based on three criteria: type, importance, and complexity.
Grouping content by type involves looking at the structure, rather than the substance of the content.
Start by identifying all of your current templates and map your site pages to one of those templates. Don’t spend time doing this for every single page; instead, focus on a representative cross section of the site. For example, you might look at 4 product pages and notice that they all look very much alike – so it’s likely other products will be similarly formatted.
Grouping content this way will give you an idea for how many different content layouts you’ll be dealing with in migration, and allow you to recognize efficiencies. For example, if all of your blog articles use the exact same template, there may be a way to automate their import into the new platform.
The goal of grouping content by importance is to help you prioritize your migration. Identify required and vital content and mark it as “high” priority. Everything else is either “medium” or “low” priority, depending on your business goals. This process ensures that the key components of your site get plenty of attention early in the migration process.
Grouping content based on its complexity will help you gauge the amount of effort your migration will require. A good rule of thumb here: assign a complexity of “easy” to pages that are mostly text-based, “medium” to pages that involve a variety of content (text, images, video, etc.), and “difficult” to any pages that will require advanced technical knowledge to migrate (interactive content, forms, etc.). This way, each of your team members can focus on migrating the content that best fits their skill set.
Okay – now that you have a feel for the size and complexity of the project, you can move on to the next essential step in the migration: creating a schedule. Look out for Part 3, coming soon!

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Kate Billerbeck

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