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Content migration is such a tricky term. It sounds so easy sometimes – just set up an automated tool to move all the content, page by page and field by field, from the old system to the new one.


In reality, that’s pretty much never how migration goes.


Instead, the process looks more like this:

  1. Inventory all the content to determine what needs to be migrated, noting what must be rewritten before migration and what can be edited afterwards. (I’ll be writing another blog post soon about creating and getting approval for fact-based criteria for content decisions.)
  2. Map the existing content to the new IA. This usually results in identifying LOTS more changes that need to be made to the content in order for it to accomplish the business and use goals for the revised sections and content types.
  3. Identify content types for the existing content. These new types pretty much never have the same fields as the existing types, which (you guessed it) results in even more content needing to be changed.
  4. Identify what metadata needs to be defined for each piece of content, and who should best tag the content.
  5. Paste the good-to-go content into the new CMS, possibly in a partially automated way. This is probably 25% of the total content, max, that will ultimately need to be on the site before it launches.
  6. Start the content cleanup process identified in Step 3.
  7. Start the content cleanup process identified in Step 2.
  8. Start the content cleanup process identified in Step 1.
  9. Make sure every piece of content is tagged, as identified in Step 4.
  10. Start the process of creating the content that didn’t exist in the previous version of the site.


Content migration typically happens when you move to a new content management system and/or redesign your website.


Here are my 5 pieces of advice for planning a content migration effort

  1. Allow enough time. According to Shane Diffily, it usually takes 20 minutes to cut and paste a single web page into a CMS. Shane has a great downloadable tool that lets you calculate migration time.
  2. Don’t assume that much (or, in many cases, any) content can be migrated automatically. David Hobbs has great advice and tools that help you ask the right questions.
  3. Make sure you’ve done your homework before you start migration – i.e., completed the content audit, defined all the content types, identified metadata, and created and tested the IA.
  4. Know the state of your content pre-migration. If the content has been neglected for a long time, it’s likely to need more editing before it’s ready to migrate.
  5. And finally, keep the vision for the new website top-of-mind with both the people who will be doing the content “transformation,” as well as with the people who employ and support those people, so that they continue to support the effort over the long term.

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