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Moving a site... Google

Posted on 2011-09-22
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Last Modified: 2013-11-19
HI all,
I am moving a site from domain.com to newdomain.com

Planning on using 301 redirects to ensure that google sees the new site, is there anything else I should do to try and ensure I dont loose a good pageranking and search results placement?

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Question by:fox_statton
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Matthew Nguyen earned 350 total points
ID: 36581334
Hi Fox Statton,

Though you'll probably see a drop in rankings when you go live with the migration, warranting that most of the site architecture and internal linking remains the same, you'll see those rankings come back as your new site gets recrawled.  Here are some steps to follow to ensure a good migration to a new domain:

1.  Make sure you create a site map of your old domain
2.  Register and set up your new domain
3.  Verify your new domain in Google Webmaster Tools (assuming that your old domain is set up in WMT already)
4.  Create and implement a custom 404 page for your old domain telling them the site has moved to a new domain (this is just in case you missed something in the site migration)
5.  Make sure you test your redirects before you go live (should be 301 as you mentioned).  Ideally, you want the URL structure to remain the same.
   Example:  www.oldsite.com/my-blog-post/ should redirect to www.newsite.com/my-blog-post/
6.  Go live with your 301 redirects to your new site
7.  Submit your old sitemap to Google (This will essentially tell Google to recrawl your old URLs, which will tell Google that all your URLs are 301 redirected to a new domain).
8.  Fill out the Google 'Change of Address' form
9.  Create a new site map and submit that to Google (This will tell Google about any new URLs that you have on your new site that weren't on the old site)
10.  Wait and regularly watch Webmaster Tools reports to see if there are any errors in the migration (Diagnostics section)  --> fix the errors as they are reported
11.  Don't forget to watch your Google rankings to make sure everything is indexed properly.

Hopefully this helps... the other thing to remember, sometimes people noindex or block the new domain through the robots.txt file so that they can do the migration without the new site being indexed right away.  I know it sounds silly, but if you do this, don't forget to remove the noindex or the block from your robots.txt file.  I've seen this happen a number of times, just a simple step that sometimes gets lost in the commotion.

Good luck!
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by:jhoekman
ID: 36581945
Matt outlines a great process above.  I agree that a 301 redirect is going to be your best bet.  Remember, you are going to lose about 10% of your traffic for a 13 week period of time.  

You could also try using a rel canonical tag on your pages on the old site and direct them to the new site.  There are some examples where that has worked.  

BUT, a good ol 301 is still the way to go, and ultimately and SEO best practice.

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by:freshcontent
ID: 36582543
foxstatton - It sounds like you are set on moving your <domain> to <newdomain>.

However, if you can avoid having to move it, I would suggest not moving it.
Moving a domain is complex and will cause you to lose site traffic in the short term.

Your safest bet to not lose website traffic is to not move your <domain> or any of your content URLs at all.

Many times people buy domain names thinking that a new domain will garner more traffic.  However, if you've built up a website on a <domain> over time, chances are that there are many links (backlinks) from other websites to your domain and that you've built up your <domain> brand-name over that time period.

Bottom line - if you follow mattnguyen's list of things to do, you will be OK with Google, and you will likely be able to regain your previous search engine traffic levels with the 301 redirect strategy.

However, if you were my friend/family and I was giving advice to you, I would strongly urge you not to move to <newdomain> at all and working on enhancing your existing website on your existing <domain> and avoid the time/effort of the move to a <newdomain>.
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by:gwkg
gwkg earned 150 total points
ID: 36713689
Use a link tag with rel=canonical on your old site if you dont want your rankings to drop.

<link rel="canonical" href="http://mynewsite.com/moving-to-this-page.html" />

Case Study: http://visiblefactors.com/blog/1234-canonical-tag-or-301-redirect-serps/
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by:gwkg
ID: 36713694
Use a link tag with rel=canonical on your old site if you dont want your rankings to drop when moving your website.

<link rel="canonical" href="http://mynewsite.com/moving-to-this-page.html" />

Case Study: http://visiblefactors.com/blog/1234-canonical-tag-or-301-redirect-serps/
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by:jhoekman
ID: 36713698
Yup, proves that what I was also suggesting can really work well.   I will use that case study in the future, for sure!

I guess great minds think alike, eh gwkg?  ;)
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by:gwkg
ID: 36714545
Yes!  =)
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by:fox_statton
ID: 36909314
Thanks guys, some great advice here.

I wish I could avoid moving, but unfortunately its a requirement.
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by:jhoekman
ID: 36910461
Ouuuch, the original suggester of the Rel=Canonical doesn't get any points?  :(  Sniff, sniff.  

;)

Glad you got what you needed, fox_statton.
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