Content Migration Best Practices When Changing to a New CMS

As your company grows and evolves, it’s necessary to upgrade the technology that you rely on to manage and maintain data, such as converting to a new CMS. As one of your most valuable assets, it’s vitally important that you make every effort to preserve the integrity of your data and protect it from loss, damage, or theft during the migration process. That’s not as easy as it sounds. In fact, content migration presents a myriad of challenges and potential problems that can be difficult to overcome. However, following some best practices ensures not only that the data is protected, but also makes the process smoother.

Common Content Migration Challenges

Regardless of the CMS you’re migrating from or what CMS you’re moving your content to, you’re going to encounter some difficulties and problems along the way. Here are just a few of the common reasons migration problems arise:

Underestimating the Importance of Content

Perhaps the biggest problem with content migration is the simple fact that companies don’t fully appreciate the importance and value of content. Make no mistake, content is the driving force behind building brand awareness, lead generation, sales, customer service, and just about everything else.

Mismanagement of Content in the Current CMS

Another problem with content migration is the fact that the CMS currently being used does a poor job of managing the content. It could be that the CMS architecture makes it difficult to access raw data. Some CMS vendors make migration difficult so they can keep their customers bound to their service longer.

Poor Implementation of the Original CMS

One of the most frustrating things about content migration is when it’s realized that the original CMS was either set up improperly, or in a less-than-efficient way. So much time may have elapsed between the time the CMS was implemented that no one has any idea of why, or how it was done the way it was.

While these certainly aren’t the only issues that will come up with content migration, they are some of the top challenges. Overcoming these obstacles isn’t going to be easy, but there are some best practices that make it a smoother process for everyone involved.

Content Migration Best Practices

Successful content migration doesn’t happen by accident. You need a solid plan, a team in place to execute the plan, and contingencies in case something goes wrong. Otherwise, you’re just asking for trouble and headaches. Here are a few of the best practices to follow based on the stages of the migration process:

(Planning Stage) Perform a Content Analysis

The first step in content migration is knowing exactly what content you own. A thorough content analysis will reveal the volume of  your content and show where there are gaps. It will also help you determine what needs to be done to better manage your content creation and curation efforts in the future.

(Planning Stage) Develop a Content Strategy

Knowing your current content assets is only a part of the equation, you also need to determine how you’ll organize that content within the new CMS. Your analysis will show you what new pages need to be creating, topics that need to be covered, and metadata that should be included. This is an important step as it determines the architecture of the site’s information and has a direct impact on the new design.

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(Pre-Migration Stage) Asset Migration Planning

At this stage, you’ve already determined what your content assets are and that list will include not only text, but also videos, images, and other documents like e-books and whitepapers. Now you’ll want to decide how these assets will be migrated and the steps that need to be taken in order to ensure that every piece of content makes it where it belongs without a hitch.

(Development Stage) Content Performance Plan

There’s no doubt that content migration will have an effect on the way that your content performs in the search engines so you don’t lose ground with your SEO efforts. Consider how your keywords, internal link structure, inbound links, and redirect pages will be affected and plan accordingly. Map out the process and carefully consider how you’ll ensure the migration causes as little disruption as possible.

(Development Stage) Content Migration Test

The last thing you want is to get all the way through your content migration only to find out that your content isn’t going where it should, isn’t tagged correctly, or is compromised in some way. Even the best laid plans can backfire. The best way to avoid problems is to perform a test migration for certain sections of your site to ensure that everything is going the way it should.

(Implementation Stage) Choosing the Right CMS Tools

The last stage before you actually implement your new CMS is to migrate all of your current content. This should be an easy step if you’ve followed the previous best practices, but there may still be some glitches. Find out what tools are available through your CMS that will make the process smoother and incorporate the ones that are most appropriate. Keep in mind that you might still need to manually migrate some types of content.

(Post Migration Stage) Testing and Analytics

Once you’ve successfully migrated your content and your new CMS is up and running, you might be tempted to take a break and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. The truth is, this is no time to relax. You need to spend time testing your site to make sure that everything is working right and that you didn’t miss anything important. Analytics tools will help make sure your links are all working properly, content is displaying as it should, and that your content is still performing as expected in the search engine rankings.


Your business has to evolve in order to remain relevant and competitive and that means updating your technology from time to time. If you’ve outgrown your current CMS and you’re considering switching to a more robust system the most important thing to do is plan the process well in advance. Carefully execute your plan and give yourself and your team plenty of time to work through the process. Remember that there’s no such thing as a trouble-free content migration and you will encounter challenges along the way. However, by following the best practices listed here, you’ll mitigate the worst of them and your migration will be smoother.

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