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6 Steps for Successful Website Content Migration
Mia (Major) Charette

When heading into the redesign process, one of the first questions we are often asked is: “how can we move the website over?”  

This process, known as content migration, is inevitable in almost every website redesign. Content migration is the process through which content — including text, images, videos, and even site structure — is moved from your old website to your new one. 

Sounds easy, right? Well, not if done correctly. A website redesign should be treated as a real-time investment and a unique opportunity to review what you are saying to prospective and current families and how you are saying it.

In other words, you shouldn’t just want to “move the website over as is.” A website redesign should be used as a prime opportunity to re-organize, re-write, and re-structure content from their old site. Because of this, the content migration process can easily switch from being the easiest part of the redesign process to the most daunting — especially if you end up waiting until the last minute to do so. 

So how do you migrate content from your old website to your new one? Follow these 6 steps for a stress-free and successful content migration process and redesign:

  1. Analyze Data from Your Old Website
  2. Let New Priorities Drive Site Architecture
  3. Create a New Sitemap
  4. Determine a Content Migration Plan
  5. Take a Red Pen To Your Old Content
  6. Begin the Content Migration Process

Now, let’s dive into each one of these steps in a bit more detail.

1. Analyze Data from Your Old Website

If your old website was synced with Google Analytics, you likely have a plethora of data to review in regards to your most popular and least popular pages. This data can provide excellent insight into which pages your community loved, and which pages they never visited. This can help widdle the number of pages you feel the need to migrate exponentially! 

To analyze your data, take a look at:

  • Your 50 pages with the most traffic: This will help you determine which pages your community cares most about.
  • Your 50 pages with the least traffic: This will help you determine which pages you could easily scrap.
  • Your 50 pages with the highest bounce rate: This will indicate pages that may have good content, but need to be restructured.

If your old website wasn’t connected to Google Analytics, you could survey your community to ask them what they liked and didn’t like about the old site, and the pages they found most useful. While this data may be more subjective than Google Analytics, it will help you determine which website pages definitely stay, and which ones definitely go.

Website Redesign Playbook


2. Let New Priorities Drive Site Architecture

In addition to website usage data, your district will likely also have some new strategic priorities, such as improved mobile communications or alumni engagement. Because of this, there is never a one-to-one relationship between the old site and the new site — and you can’t be afraid to let go of content that doesn’t align with your new priorities.

In one case, we’ve seen a district with 13 schools move from 40,000 pages to 16,000 pages to less than 5,000 pages over the course of three redesigns. 

3. Create a New Sitemap

Once you’ve taken the time to review your data and discuss strategic priorities, you’ll want to build a new sitemap. The new sitemap will be the backbone of your new site’s user experience. This new sitemap will drive which content you move over, which content you scrap completely, and what new content will need to be created.

Don’t overthink your sitemap — the simpler the user experience, the better. If you’re a district, we recommend maintaining the same sitemap across all individual school sites, and then creating a unique navigation for your district homepage.

Further Reading: Is Your District Making These Common Website Navigation Mistakes?

4. Determine a Content Migration Plan

Once you have the foundation laid, you’re going to want to create a plan as to how everything will actually get from your old site to your new site. Now it is important to answer questions like:

  • Who will be migrating the content from our district?
  • When should we begin training?
  • Do we want to pay our website provider to help us move content?
  • What is our website launch timeline?
  • How soon do we plan on migrating content?

Many districts choose to train their website admins early, in order to have assistance during the content migration process. And while you will want to train them on the new website platform, you’ll also want to spend time training them on website accessibility and content best practices to ensure the migrated content meets your expectations.

We recommend beginning the content migration process at the start of the design phase, and not waiting until the very end of the redesign process to get started. If you wait until the end, you will likely feel rushed, and end up migrating content as-is, which isn’t the best practice.

5. Take a Red Pen to Your Old Site Content

Even if you plan on migrating a good chunk of your old website over for one reason or another, now is still an excellent time to re-work content to make it accessible, more engaging, and more user-friendly. 

Because web users read less and rely more on images, video, infographics and short, bulleted text, moving lengthy content from an old site to a new site defeats the purpose of launching a site in the first place — which is to increase usage and improve the user experience.

So, before you migrate content, take out your digital red pen to determine how you could shorten, streamline, or better organize content for today’s user. 

For example, take a look at how Jackson County Public Schools uses calls-to-actions and accordions to organize content and control the user experience:

jackson county public schools site structure

In another example, Spring Lake Park Schools created an infographic to display content that was once in paragraph text:

spring lake park infographic

If you’re not sure where or how to start editing content, refer to this checklist:

1. How old is this content? Content that’s more than one year old — with the exception of your district’s mission statement and other evergreen content — is subject to re-evaluation.

2. How relevant is this content? With users’ attention spans getting shorter, the content that’s on your site should be crafted to engage your different audiences. Your content should be timely and interesting. Ask yourself, or: “would I enjoy reading this?”

3. What is the voice of this content? Did numerous faculty members write their own pages? While divvying up the work seems like a good idea to lighten your workload, over the years it can produce a variety of voices, tones, and messaging.

4. How is your content organized? Paragraphs, drop-downs, lists, photos: they all serve a purpose on your website. Organize your content in a way that makes sense. For example, sharing a list of clubs active at your district alongside photos works better than text-heavy paragraphs.

5. Is the content mobile-optimized? Going responsive isn’t just about having a website design that looks great on mobile. Your goal should be to make a maximum impact with a minimum amount of words.

6. Begin the Migration Process

Needless to say, a lot has to happen before you actually move the content over! Some districts prefer to edit content before they move it over, while others prefer to move it to the new site, and then edit it. Whatever you’re preferred process is, it is important to get moving as soon as possible! 

Think about the process as moving into a new home: step one is to get your boxes off the moving truck; step two is to get the boxes into the right areas; step three is to go room-by-room and get everything sorted and decorated.

We recommend moving about 50% of your website content during the design phase, and then migrating the remainder of the content once the design styles have been approved. Knowing which design styles you are working with often determines how you will style your migrated content. 

As you migrate content, you’ll want to use an accessibility checker to make sure the content you add is accessible. Finalsite Composer has a built-in accessibility checker that detects errors, and provides guidance on how to fix them throughout your site. 

accessibility checker in composer


You can learn more about our built-in accessibility checker in this blog post.

In addition to checking for accessibility errors, you’ll also want to preview each page on all devices. Most district websites see at least 50% of their traffic from mobile devices, and you’ll want to ensure that the experience on both mobile and desktop devices is seamless. If you use Finalsite Composer, you’ll have access to a built-in device preview tool that allows you to preview your content on numerous device sizes before publishing.

spring branch responsive device preview


Key Takeaway

The content migration process is more than simply moving your old website content to your new website. If you want to make the most of your redesign, content migration should be treated as a strategic and well-thought-out process that requires time and attention to detail.

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Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.

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