June 14, 2017
Best Practices for Migrating Content

The decision to develop a new website experience is made for many different reasons. You may be going through a corporate rebranding, or you may have acquired a company and are combining two brands, or perhaps you are dealing with a content management system that doesn't support your current and future needs. Whatever your reasons, you will likely end up needing to migrate content from your old management system to your new one. And there are some very important things you must consider to ensure your content migration process goes smoothly.

The most important thing you need to understand is that your migration plan shouldn't happen in the later stages of your CMS migration. It should be one of the first things you think about, and elements of your plan should apply to each phase of your website project.

You might think the content migration piece can wait until the end when you have your new CMS in place and your new website designed, but that would be a mistake. The content you currently have and are creating all through your CMS project plays an important role in the design of the new web experience. What you migrate, what you don't, how you organize it, who owns it and manages it – all these things must be considered up front to ensure your plan accounts for them. 

Fitting Content Migration into Your CMS Migration Project

Depending on where you are in your CMS migration project, you perform different elements of a content migration plan.

[BEGINNING] Content Inventory: What you currently have and whether that content is migrated to the new website is important to understand up front. The content inventory will tell help you understand what content you don't have, who needs to manage content in the CMS and how content is currently organized.

[BEGINNING] Content Strategy: How you will organize your content in the new CMS, what pages to create, taxonomy including topics and metadata – all this needs to be understood before completion of the design. The content strategy feeds the information architecture which is a critical piece of the new design.

[PRE-DEVELOPMENT] Asset Migration: Text-based content isn't the only content you will migrate to the new CMS. You will also be migrating videos, images, and documents. How these are organized is defined during the content strategy phase, but how you migrate them and what needs to happen during migration is defined at this phase. And this phase needs to happen before starting development.

[DEVELOPMENT] Content Lifecycle Planning: Migrating to a new CMS and a new website has the potential to affect your SEO standing with search engines. To avoid this as much as possible you need to think about content lifecycle planning. You can begin this work during development, outlining what needs to happen to content and web pages on the current website once you turn on the new website. Here you're thinking about your 301 redirect strategy, keywords, inbound and external linking and your XML sitemap among other things.

[DEVELOPMENT] Test Plan: A content migration test plan is a "must-have." You don't want to be half way through a content migration run only to find out it isn't putting content in the right place, isn't tagging it correctly. Consider a test migration run on a section of the website to ensure the migration will happen the way you expect before you migrate all your content. You can test towards the end of development or just prior to implementation.

[IMPLEMENTATION] CMS Migration Tools: Just before you implement your new website, you must migrate your content. Find out what tools your new CMS has to make the migration process easier and leverage them where it makes sense. 

Putting Your Content Migration Plan Upfront

It's a critical component of any website or web content management system migration project. You don't want to migrate existing content as is. You want to understand what you have and if you want to take it to the new website, if it needs to be adapted to work on the new website and who is responsible for updating it.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about throughout your CMS migration project, so make sure you put key elements in your project plan at the appropriate points and ensure the right people are involved. To help you understand more about the best practices for content migration and some of the tools Ingeniux provides for migrating content into its CMS, check out the Ingeniux Solution Guide for Content Migration.  

Posted by David Hillis
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