Growth Hacks I: Fear and loathing in Site Migration Land
So this year we decided we really wanted to go for it on the website speed front. We’d spent a lot of time improving the site and – quite frankly – we felt the need for speed.
I mean, we’re not speed freaks, but we’re in tech…
We should know this stuff, right?
So in January we decided to really go for it and move rainmakrr.com from a perfectly good and fast hosting provider called Siteground.
Siteground is great. Really fast, well organised hosting provider with excellent support. We’re giving them a 10 out of 10.
But we had to move due to some deep geek reason that we had been evaluating the “Time to First Pixel” at server level and come to the uninformed conclusion that there was a difference in terms of how the PHP is compiled between NGINX and Apache servers and might be worth switching.
And – let us be clear – we’re not back-end engineers or system architects. Hell, we’re don’t even cut PHP code. So this is not a hosting provider review. If you’re on SiteGround, please stick with them. They are great.
But we felt an itch that we just had to scratch for a while.
And then we came across this server tech call Litespeed.
And it was love at first caress…
We now realise we’ve lost 90% of all readers so if you’re still here can we just say a big…
We came across Litespeed (to be covered in a follow up article) by trying to improve the image optimiation of our graphics on wordpress and had pretty much tried every optimisation, cache and CDN tool and combo available.
And many of them were very, very good…
But then we plugged in Litespeed on a test play around site we have that sits on pretty much the same stack as our main site excluding hosting provider and server and it blew our tiny minds.
We were a Sub
Yes you read that’s right.
We were a sub 1 second site.
We couldn’t believe it. Our stripped down home page (i.e. chat client removed etc etc) on Pingdom (not GT Metrix) was serving up in the UK at 0.6 to 0.8 seconds.
Wowzer! That is what we call Litespeed!
We genuinely thought that was impossible for mere mortals, especially the amount of images and calls our test site was making
So we decided to move and started the process to migrate from SG to the new host with 100% fantastic service from SG.
So if anyone not familiar it is quite technical but straightforward. The key steps are as follow
Back up back up
Give the new hosting provider access (unless you are seriously technical). This can be free under a new plan for instance or for a small fee.
Repoint name servers to new hosting environment
So we did this with great support on both sides with the new host helping remove some conflicted WP plug ins.
And it was fun watching our repointed site start to awkwardly propagate and thank you to the new and our current host for correcting all the conflicts causing the formatting to flip out because that was all quite scary.
So now we just had to wait for Google re-rank up our now much faster website up.
AND THEN IT HAPPENED…
Next day we woke up and checked our google ranking (I know, sad…) and all the pages we’d worked so hard on creating and improving over the last couple of months had disappeared from Google!
We literally had Page 1 and Page 2 ranked articles in niche business terms that we’d spend hours if not days working on updating improving linking to and optimising and they were gone.
Now only the root domain was ranking and some posts for obscure terms google clearly (clearly!) hadn’t got round to reindexing and dumping us out yet.
We were devastated. It was like losing part of your soul (online voice, surely…?).
We’d messed up.
In our manic pursuit of Google’s love we’d flown too close to the sun….
We – of course – turned to the great fountain of knowledge the random web search for help and there was a lot of contra info out there, strangely…
Our assumption was we’d angered the gods by sending a negative signal in the change of IP and triggered their interest and some unknown offence had become visible and they had penalised this.
Yup, web self-diagnosis in full effect…
So we checked for manual actions and nothing.
We all had to head back to normal life. SEO wasn’t the chosen land. We began to be philosophical. Maybe there was a lesson here…
We’d spent far too much time on SEO. Yes it’s great to get gains and work on them but it’s a long game largely eroded by rich snippets and paid search.
We should have been doing more outreach, building our real world network and – god forbid – writing better content!
I know, the thought…
And then that night we checked the SEO ranking one last last time I promise get a life time in bed and…we were back!
All the pages had been re-indexed. And some of them were higher!!!
WE WERE BACK!
Thank you God-gle
Thank you Litespeed.
Life is a rollercoaster
You get knocked down, you get up again.
We ride again.. 🙂
So we hope that somehow this article ranks and people going through the same fear and loathing and regret during a (successful) site migration will find this article too and it brings some solace to the pain and shines a light at the end of the tunnel.
Experiment. Learn. Improve.
Keep with the hustle.