Content migration: where to start

  • Posted on February 22, 2018
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes
content migration

Content migration: how to get started

The time has come. Your current content management system (CMS) is past its useful lifespan. Whether it’s become harder to keep pace with the evolution of the marketplace or your team has simply outgrown it, there may come a point in time when you must migrate your content to a new system.

It may sound like a simple process to move content from one system to another, but it’s not always so easy—particularly if you do not already have a solid governance* framework in place. If your current CMS is full of old, outdated content and digital assets, then a clean-up process is required in order to prepare for migration; especially if you are moving to a more robust system like Sitecore.

Why do I need to review my content?

Content is a business asset created to support a function or idea. It is created to educate, inform, and persuade prospective customers and clients. Content is created to support a business’s needs at a certain point in time. As such, it is liable to become outdated or irrelevant.

Content creation takes effort, but that doesn’t mean that content should be kept forever. Users need change. Search engines want fresh content. Outdated content can impact your business’s reputation. A content clean-up will help ensure that your content is current, relevant, and impactful, and reduce the costs of migration.

Step 1: The content inventory

Do you know exactly how many pages you have on your site? Videos? Images? PDFs? Other documents? A content inventory will show you exactly what you have to work with for your future state. A simple content inventory can include links, page titles, and metadata for each page laid out in tabular format. Separate tables should be created for other asset types, which should include the file name and where it is stored.

This inventory will support your end-to-end content migration process. To assist with future governance, your inventory should also include:

  • Date Published
  • Content Owner
  • Format
  • Content Tags

If you are moving to or from a digital experience platform with built-in capabilities for personalization and A/B testing, any content variances you’ve created will need to be identified alongside the core content they branch from. Multi-lingual and regional variances need to be identified here as well.

Step 2: The content audit

If you have not previously performed a content audit, now is the best time to streamline and focus on the content that is valuable to your business. Review all available content for:

  • ROT (Redundant, Outdated, Trivial): content that is similar/duplicated, no longer relevant, or not informative enough to be valuable should be removed and/or archived.
  • Brand/Content Strategy Alignment: does content align to current needs?
  • Asset Applicability: is the content on-brand, optimized for page speed, optimized for display?
  • Accessibility: compliance with WCAG 2.0 A, AA, or AAA depending on your business’s requirements.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): page performance, keyword density, technical components.

The list above should be repeated for each regional or language variance you have for your content.

This phase should identify the next steps in order to get your content into shape for the current market it lives in, and the business objectives it is supporting.

Step 3: Rewrites and content classification

Based on the needs identified in the audit, content rewrites and classifications should be completed. Your site’s content may need only a few tweaks, or it may require a major overhaul—particularly if you are moving to a new design where the components may necessitate a change in content, or new pieces.

Content classification will assist in governance and identification in the system. Classifications may inform the rules engine for items such as auto-archive dates. Content classifications may include:

  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • Content tags
  • Expiry date
  • Geographical targets
  • Author name
  • Target personas

Work with your content strategist to ensure that you have the necessary content and classifiers in place for your new system, and to support any advanced functionality such as multivariate (A/B) testing and robust in-platform personalization that Sitecore offers in order to deliver both a continually optimized and highly relevant experience.

Step 4: Content matrix

The last step before migration involves placing your content into a content matrix, from which a script can pull content into the new system. In a tabular matrix, content is uniformly structured and mapped to page templates and components. The information architecture and site hierarchy is also identified for placement in the CMS.

The content matrix can be an evolution of your inventory and audit spreadsheet that also includes:

  • Page IDs
  • Template types
  • Content pieces (based on components)
  • Linked asset IDs
  • New URLs/Alias URLs
  • Language indicators
  • Canonical URLs

Additional long-form content including HTML links may need to be placed in either an XML document or a rich text editor for proper migration.

The content migration process

Depending on the size of your content body and how many people are available to work through the above steps, content migration can take weeks, months, or even a year of preparation. The more work you put into it up front, the better value you will see in the long term.

Your migration specialist, typically a developer, will run scripts against your content matrices and load content into your new system. For this process to run properly, the right page templates and classifiers must be assigned within the matrix. Any errors can create hours of costly amendments.

Once your content is placed in the new system, you’ll be ready to run QA on your site pages to ensure everything is displaying properly. At this point, content migration is done and you’ll be ready to start managing content in a new, improved CMS.

These fundamental steps provide guidance when planning content migration. Our experts can help you execute. Connect with Avanade to learn how our content and digital strategy professionals can help you go even further by consolidating content management, shifting to the cloud, and building your customer experience strategy for long term success.

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