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Smooth CMS Migration - Checklist & Is Going Headless the Right Move?

A Content Management System (CMS) is crucial for a successful website. But what happens when your current CMS no longer meets your needs? This is where the process of CMS migration comes in. This article will guide you through a smooth migration process, explore the importance of SEO, and answer the burning question: is going headless the right move for you?

cms migration checklist schema

The Basics - What Is CMS Migration?

CMS migration refers to the process of moving a website’s content management system (CMS) from one platform to another.

It can be driven by the need for more features, better user experience, or enhanced performance and security. While the goal is to improve the website, the migration must be handled with care to preserve SEO value and ensure a smooth transition for users – including both the visitors of the website and marketers who edit blog posts, landing pages, or other website content.

Here are some key elements involved in the process of a smooth CMS migration:

  • Choosing the right CMS to migrate to (consider functionality, SEO, security, scalability, headless options for specific needs)

  • Developing a migration strategy (timeline, resources, content mapping, data migration processes)

  • Auditing and preparing website content (identify outdated material, organize for migration)

  • Transferring content using CMS tools or manual processes (ensure redirects, metadata transfer for SEO)

  • Testing all functionalities, UX, content accuracy, and SEO implementation before the launch

  • Maintaining SEO with 301 redirects, preserving URL structure, transferring meta tags, monitoring rankings

  • Creating a full website backup before migration

Importance of SEO In CMS Migration Process

SEO plays a pivotal role in CMS migration. It's essential to maintain or improve a website's search engine rankings during and after the transition. Proper planning and execution can prevent common pitfalls like broken links, lost content, and reduced site speed, which negatively affect it.

Search Engine Optimization is often an afterthought during CMS migrations, but it shouldn't be. A poorly executed migration can lead to significant drops in organic traffic

On the other hand, doing it just right and perfectly synced will be a big step towards spiked SEO visibility. After all, migrating the CMS platform should always be targeted at meeting goals more approachable.

The Benefits of CMS Migrations - Why You Might Want to Migrate to Another CMS?

Moving to a new CMS might seem driven by problems with your existing system. But the good news is, there are many advantages beyond just fixing those issues. Modern WordPress alternatives offer a range of features that can significantly improve your website's capabilities and marketing reach. Let's explore the key benefits of migrating to a different CMS.

Access to Better Features and Functionalities

Migrating to a new CMS can offer advanced features and functionalities that were unavailable or less efficient in your previous CMS. Modern CMS platforms offer a wider range of features, like improved content management tools, marketing automation integrations, and e-commerce capabilities.

  • Enhanced Content Management - Modern CMS platforms offer streamlined workflows for content creation, editing, and publishing, enabling your team to manage content more efficiently and effectively.

  • Advanced SEO Tools - Upgrading to a CMS with improved SEO capabilities can provide more in-depth insights into your website's performance, facilitate better keyword integration, and offer improved sitemap management, all of which are critical for enhancing your site's visibility and search rankings.

  • Flexible Design Options - Newer CMS platforms often support more sophisticated design options, including responsive design templates and drag-and-drop interfaces. These features not only make it easier to create visually appealing layouts but also ensure that your site adapts seamlessly across different devices and screen sizes.

Example of a headless CMS to consider: Contentful offers a user-friendly interface, strong API capabilities, and integrations with various marketing automation tools.

UX Improvements & Web Performance Optimization

Modern CMS platforms often prioritize UX and website speed. Migration can lead to a more user-friendly interface for editors and a faster-loading website for visitors.

  • Faster Load Times - Modern CMS platforms are optimized for speed, reducing page load times and minimizing bounce rates. Fast-loading pages are crucial for keeping visitors engaged and encouraging them to explore your site further.

  • Mobile Optimization - With the increasing prevalence of mobile browsing, a CMS that offers mobile optimization improvements ensures that your content is accessible and user-friendly on smartphones and tablets, thus expanding your reach and improving engagement.

  • Intuitive Website Structure - A well-organized website structure is key to providing a positive user experience. New CMS options often include better tools for organizing content and creating navigation menus that help users find what they're looking for quickly and efficiently.

Examples of a headless CMS to consider: 

  • Storyblok offers a visual editor, allowing content editors to easily build landing pages from available components – without needing developer assistance. This further strengthens the platform's user-friendly nature and excellent mobile optimization capabilities.

  • Sanity shines with a user-friendly interface for editors, seamless mobile integration through frameworks like Next.js, and good performance for fast-loading websites.

Security & Data Architecture Factors

Security vulnerabilities and outdated data architecture can pose risks. Migrating to a platform with robust security features and a modern data structure can ensure your website's safety and scalability.

  • Advanced Security Features - CMS platforms frequently update their security features to guard against the latest cyber threats. Features such as automated security updates, advanced user authentication methods, and robust encryption can protect your site from hacks and data breaches.

  • Improved Data Architecture - A sophisticated data architecture not only enhances site performance but also ensures that your data is organized, scalable, and easily accessible. Migrating to a CMS with a better data management system can facilitate smoother operations and pave the way for future growth.

Example of a headless CMS to consider: ButterCMS prioritizes security with features like automated backups, role-based access control (RBAC), and JWT authentication, offering strong protection against cyber threats.

Additional Benefits Of Migrating To Modern CMS Solutions

  • Enhanced Collaboration & Scalability - Outdated CMS platforms can struggle with managing complex workflows for large teams. Modern CMS options often offer improved user roles and permission management, facilitating smooth collaboration among content creators, editors, and marketers. Additionally, these platforms can scale efficiently to accommodate growing content volume and user traffic without compromising performance.

  • Reduced Maintenance Costs & IT Department Involvement - Legacy CMS platforms might require significant ongoing maintenance to address security vulnerabilities and ensure compatibility with updated software versions. Migrating to a well-supported CMS can significantly reduce your IT team's workload and associated costs

We did that when we migrated Urban’s website so it’s now run on Storyblok. Results? The IT department is no longer needed when it comes to publishing, editing, or reshaping any content piece. Migrating CMS resulted in a 100% reduction in the development team’s involvement in managing content.

  • Improved Content Personalization - Modern CMS platforms often come equipped with built-in features for content personalization. This allows you to tailor website content dynamically based on user behavior, demographics, and preferences. This can lead to a more engaging UX and potentially boost conversions.

  • Integration with Marketing Automation Tools - Many modern CMS platforms integrate seamlessly with popular marketing automation tools. This streamlined workflow allows you to nurture leads, segment your audience, and launch targeted marketing campaigns more effectively, ultimately driving higher ROI.

  • Focus on Core Business - Migrating to a user-friendly CMS with intuitive interfaces can free up your team's time and resources. Less time spent wrestling with a clunky CMS translates to more focus on core business activities like content creation and marketing strategy development.

Example of a headless CMS to consider: Strapi's user roles and permissions keep complex workflows smooth, empowering content teams and editors. Its open-source core scales efficiently, handling growing content and traffic without compromising performance and minimizing dependence on developers.


Check out more information about the benefits of custom-built websites and why it's worth picking this solution.

We covered this topic in depth in one of our articles!

Successful CMS Migration Checklist - 5 Key Steps To Include In Your Migration Plan

A well-planned and executed CMS migration is critical for maintaining your site's integrity and search system rankings, especially if you're moving from or to a custom-built website. This consideration is essential as custom-built websites often have unique functionalities and structures that require careful handling during migration to preserve their SEO value and user experience.

Here's a breakdown of the five key steps you should include in your CMS migration checklist to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

Choosing The Right CMS Platform To Migrate To

The foundation of a successful migration lies in selecting the most suitable CMS for your needs. While working with e-commerce providers or online stores, taking a look at the best headless CMSes for React projects may be something to consider.

Before diving into specific platforms, take a deep dive into your current CMS and identify areas for improvement - make a list. 

Consider what functionalities are missing, what's not working as expected, and what features would streamline your workflow. This initial audit will guide your search for the ideal CMS. 

Only then move to the research for the given tools and CMSes for your migration, or - if you're not sure where to start, consider working with a web development agency that specializes in CMS migrations. They can help you assess your needs and identify the best platform CMS for your business.

Think about the following factors while choosing one best suited for your business needs:

  • Functionality - Ensure the chosen CMS can support the functionalities that are crucial for your business, such as e-commerce capabilities, blog integration, or custom post types.

  • SEO Capabilities - The chosen CMS should offer comprehensive features or allow for plugins that can help you maintain and improve your search engine visibility post-migration.

  • Security - Look for a CMS with a strong security track record and ongoing support to protect your site from vulnerabilities.

  • Scalability - Anticipate your site's future growth and ensure the CMS can scale accordingly without significant overhauls.

Remember, the list above is a starting point based on common needs. You are the expert on your current CMS and its shortcomings. By creating a clear list of your pain points and desired functionalities, you'll be well-equipped to choose the perfect CMS or start to research them.

Here are some tips for finding the right CMS for your migration:

  • Read lists of the best CMSs and comparison articles. This will give you a good overview of the different options available and help you narrow down your choices.

  • Visit websites like G2 and Capterra. These sites allow you to read reviews of different CMSs from other users.

  • Visit the websites of specific CMSs. This will give you a chance to learn more about the features and benefits of each platform.

  • Contact us. We would be happy to help you choose the right CMS for your needs based on an analysis of your requirements.


Discover our comprehensive comparison of the best CMSes for React projects.

Learn about the benefits of each CMS platform & the headless approach!

Migration Strategy Planning - Prepare Migration Process In Detail

A detailed migration plan is your roadmap to a successful CMS transition. Key elements include:

  • Timelines - Establish realistic deadlines for each migration phase, from data preparation to the final launch.

  • Responsibilities - Assign clear roles and responsibilities to team members or external agencies to ensure accountability throughout the process.

  • Processes - Define the specific steps for content and data migration, including how data will be exported, transformed, and imported into the new CMS.

  • Resources - Identify the resources needed for the migration, including personnel, tools, and budget.

  • Content Mapping - Map your existing content structure to the new content management system. This ensures a smooth transition and simplifies data and content import.

Remember, the above tips are more about planning, managing, and project management of the CMS migration process. Some aspects of the migration may still be unclear or preliminary at this stage, as the actual scope of the project will be determined during the work outlined in the following steps.

If you are working with a good web development agency, they can help you manage the project by providing a dedicated project manager.

Preparing Data For CMS Migration - Review Site Architecture & Content

Before the actual transfer, prepare your existing website's data for migration. A thorough audit of your current site's architecture and content is essential. This stage involves:

  • Content Inventory/Audit - Create a comprehensive list of all site content, including pages, posts, media files, and any custom content types.

  • Review and Cleanup - Identify outdated or irrelevant content that can be archived or deleted. This reduces the amount of data to migrate and can improve your site's performance and visibility in search engines.

  • Structure and Organization - Evaluate your site's architecture for improvements. Consider how content is categorized and whether the new CMS might allow for a more intuitive structure.

The Main Step - Transferring Content From One CMS To Another

This critical phase requires careful execution to ensure data integrity. When migrating content, it’s crucial to use trusted tools for a smooth transfer. Ensure redirects are in place to keep your SEO intact.

After moving content, verify everything is correct and that SEO settings are properly implemented in the new CMS. This will help maintain your site’s search performance post-migration.

Here's the big move! Utilize migration plugins or tools offered by your chosen CMS platform to transfer your content from the old system to the new one.

  • Content Transfer Tools - Many CMS platforms offer tools or plugins designed to automate the content transfer process. These can be a time-efficient option but verify their compatibility and reliability.

  • Manual Processes - For complex sites or custom content types, manual migration might be necessary. This involves exporting content to a universally compatible format (like XML or CSV) and then importing it into the new CMS.

  • URLs, Redirects, Metadata, and Links - Maintain the SEO value of your site by ensuring all URLs remain consistent or by implementing redirections where changes are unavoidable. Implement proper 301 redirects from your old URLs to the corresponding new URLs on the migrated site. Metadata and internal links should also be accurately transferred to maintain visibility and UX.

  • Content Mapping - Verify that your content is mapped correctly within the new CMS structure.

A successful migration goes beyond just transferring content. Here's how to ensure a smooth transition for your users and development team:

  • Animations/Figma Designs:  Animations and design elements are key to user engagement and brand consistency.  Ensure these are transferred accurately to the new platform to maintain a familiar and positive user experience.

  • Special Pages:  Pay close attention to migrating special pages like targeted landing pages, product pages, or contact forms. Maintain their structure and functionality to avoid disruptions in user experience and potential SEO impact. Consider testing these pages thoroughly after migration to ensure everything works as expected.

  • Content Types:  Different content types have varying requirements. Carefully migrate blog posts, product descriptions, user-generated content, etc., preserving their formatting and metadata for optimal SEO performance and user experience.  For example, ensure product descriptions retain key details and high-quality images.

  • 3rd Party Integrations & Plugins:  Beyond marketing automation tools, consider migrating and reconfiguring any other third-party integrations or plugins crucial for your website's functionality and user experience. This could include analytics tools, social media integrations, or custom form builders. Test these integrations thoroughly after migration to ensure they function correctly.

Testing And Launching The New CMS

Don't rush the launch! After transferring your content, thoroughly test all functionalities of the CMS. Before officially going live with the new CMS, conduct thorough testing.

  • Functionality & Usability Testing - Test all features and functionalities to ensure everything works as expected.

  • UX Testing - Ensure the site is easy to navigate and that the layout is responsive across various devices.

  • Broken Link Check - Check for broken links that might redirect users to non-existent pages.

  • Content Accuracy - Verify that all content has transferred correctly and displays accurately on the new platform.

  • SEO Implementation - Ensure SEO elements like meta descriptions and title tags are properly implemented on the new platform.

We recommend testing throughout the migration process, not just at the end. This will help you identify and fix any issues early on, saving you time and frustration in the long run.

In addition to functional testing, we also recommend conducting usability testing and ongoing acceptance of individual stages, migrated pages, content types, or components. This incremental approval process helps ensure that the new CMS meets your needs and expectations.

At Naturaily, we also offer onboarding services to help your marketing and technical teams learn how to use the new CMS. This can help ensure a smooth transition and that your team is able to get the most out of the new platform.

Once you've completed testing, you can launch your new CMS!


Looking for the best alternative to WordPress?

We covered the factors to consider when choosing the right CMS alternatives in one of our articles!

Best Practices For SEO Migration For Custom CMS - Is It Necessary?

SEO migration is absolutely necessary when migrating to a new CMS, regardless of whether it's custom-built or not. A well-executed migration ensures search engines understand the changes to your website and maintain your existing SEO value.

Here are some key best practices to follow while migrating from the old CMS to a new one:

  • 301 Redirects - Implement proper 301 redirects from your old URLs to the corresponding new URLs on the migrated site. This clearly communicates the change to search engines and avoids broken links that could harm your rankings.

  • URL Structure - While some adjustments might be necessary, try to maintain a similar URL structure as your previous website whenever possible. This helps search crawlers understand the relationship between your old and new content.

  • Meta Tags - Ensure all meta tags, including crucial elements like title tags and meta descriptions, are transferred correctly to the new platform. These elements play a significant role in search ranking and user click-through rates.

  • Content Hierarchy - Maintain the existing content hierarchy from your old website during migration, and consider improvements to enhance user experience and search systems' understanding of your content structure.

  • Performance Monitoring - Closely monitor your website's performance and search engine rankings before, during, and after the website migration process. Check Google Search Console for any crawl errors or indexing issues after the migration. This allows you to identify and address any potential issues promptly.

Challenges Of Migrating To A New CMS - CMS & SEO Tools For Search Engines Optimization

Challenges include ensuring compatibility between old and new systems, maintaining rankings, and managing the technical aspects of the migration.

  • Content Loss or Duplication - Ensure a smooth and error-free transfer of content to avoid losing valuable information or creating duplicate content that can harm your website's visibility.

  • Technical SEO Issues - Improper implementation of redirects or broken internal links can negatively impact search rankings.

Thankfully, there are several CMS migration tools and SEO plugins available to assist with the process. These tools can help automate tasks, identify potential issues, and streamline the overall migration. 

However, using such tools shouldn’t be driven by the plain ‘click & run’ tactics. Most of the CMS migrations are complex operations that need to be carefully curated – even if automated migration tools are being used.

It’s highly expected you’d need support from an experienced team who’d lead the process of proper preparation of the data. Otherwise, you may face big troubles with your content accuracy, technical SEO, or lowering traffic.

CMS Content Migration - What You Need To Remember About?

Migrating CMS content requires more than just text transfer. Here's your essential CMS migration checklist:

SEO Must-Haves:

  • Migrate meta descriptions & title tags.

  • Optimize images with proper alt tags & file names.

  • Consider structured data migration (if applicable).

  • Remember about on-site SEO elements.

    • Schema Markup: Migrate schema markup code used to define specific types of content (e.g., products, events, articles) to the new platform. 

    • Canonical URLs: Ensure you have properly configured canonical URLs on your new website. 

    • Sitemap: Create and submit a new sitemap to search engines after migration. This helps search engines discover and index your new website content efficiently.

Content Prep:

  • Back up your original website.

  • Clean & organize content before migration.

Internal Links & Redirects:

  • Update internal links to point to new URLs.

  • Implement 301 redirects from old to new URLs.

Testing & Launch:

  • Test content display and functionality in the new CMS.

Following these steps ensures a smooth migration that preserves SEO and user experience.

What Is A Headless Migration & Should You Migrate To Headless CMS?

Recent statistics show that headless CMS adoption is on the rise, with a significant portion of CMS migrations favoring this approach. There's a good reason for this trend: headless CMS solutions offer numerous advantages for businesses seeking greater control over their content operations and a future-proof technology foundation.

A survey conducted by Salesforce indicates a significant shift towards headless commerce, with 8 out of 10 brands currently lacking this technology and expecting to implement it within the next two years.


of brands not using headless solutions is expecting to implement them in 2-years time

The State of CMS 2024 Report from Storyblok found that companies migrating to headless CMS not only saw a significant return on investment (ROI) - with 61% reporting increased profitability - but also experienced a productivity boost. 58% of them reported saving time on content management after the switch.

A headless CMS decouples the front-end presentation layer (the website design from the back-end content management system (the CMS itself). This allows for greater flexibility in delivering content across various platforms and devices (mobile apps, smart displays, etc.) through APIs.

Migrating to a headless CMS is worth considering if you need to support multiple frontends, require high performance and scalability, or want to improve your development workflow. It’s always beneficial to look into headless solutions, especially given the headless commerce advantages

However, migrating to a headless CMS can be a more complex process requiring advanced development expertise.

Here's a breakdown to help you decide if migrating to a headless CMS is right for you:

Go Headless If:

  • Omnichannel Content Delivery - You need to deliver content to a variety of platforms beyond a traditional website.

  • API-Driven Development - Your website relies heavily on custom integrations and functionalities.

  • Future-Proof Scalability - You anticipate significant growth in content volume and require a highly scalable architecture.

Stick with Traditional CMS If:

  • Straightforward Website Needs - Your website primarily serves a static content delivery purpose without extensive customization.

A successful CMS migration can significantly enhance your website's capabilities and propel your digital marketing efforts forward. But navigating the complexities of the process can be daunting. This is where Naturaily comes in.

Naturaily is a leading web & e-commerce development company with extensive experience in CMS migrations, including custom web development services & CMS solutions. Our team of experts can guide you through every step of the process, from initial planning and platform selection to seamless content migration and SEO implementation.

Contact us today to discuss your specific needs and explore modern CMS solutions.

Let's talk about Composable and headless e-commerce!

Contact us and we'll warmly introduce you to the vast world of composable & headless development!