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Website migration and SEO concerns. Need qualified opinions on procedure.

Posted on 2011-10-08
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Last Modified: 2013-11-18
We have a main site for our business that receives a lot of traffic from our diligent SEO efforts. Let's call it DOMAIN 1. We have other site that we our developing with our new logo and modified name. Let's call it DOMAIN 2. We want our customers to interact with only DOMAIN 2 at some point, but we don't want to lose our traffic and stats that have been built from DOMAIN 1. We have compiled what we think we understand and options below. We need EE members to pick this apart and tell us if we are wrong on some of our assumptions and also tell us what option or additional options would be best. If posting opposite knowledge than what is provided below, please site examples or credibility. Thank you.


Option one:
Splash on every page of the DOMAIN 1 site that redirects the consumer to click a redirect to DOMAIN 2


Benefits:
The traction on the current DOMAIN 1 site through search engines would continue with no hiccups.  
All indexing and back links would still continue and the redirect to the new site would literally bring the DOMAIN 2 up to speed.
Virtually the update could be made over night.

Negative:
Two sites would possibly confuse the customer
I would recommend the site exist for roughly about 6 months or until the traction from the new site is up to speed.  
Expense of hosting and maintaining two sites..  Minimal but it adds up.


Option two:
Backup the current DOMAIN 1 site and install WordPress on the DOMAIN 1 site while loading the DOMAIN 2 site  (DOMAIN 2 is done on WordPress) to the DOMAIN 1 Server. Virtually DOMAIN 1 would visually become the DOMAIN 2 site with the DOMAIN 1 domain.


Benefits:
As long as we examined the current site and re-titled each page and updated the key words…  Traffic to the site should maintain roughly the same numbers.
All back links would still be in play and that would be a huge plus.
We still own the DOMAIN 2 site and would redirect the current traffic it is receiving to the DOMAIN 1 site

Negatives:  
There would be a slight down time to make the updates.
Brand confusion? Are we branding DOMAIN 1 Name or DOMAIN 2 Name?  And will this confuse the customer?
Prep for the change would take extended time just to ensure everything is exact and correct.


Option Three:

Perform option two except redirect the DOMAIN 2 site. Keep DOMAIN 2 and DOMAIN 1 and make them exactly the same…  as the database is updated on either site back it up and update the other site. The sites would be mirrored.


Benefits:
Obviously having the two sites just ensures each of them earn a place on the search engines.  Giving you more opportunities to be hit.
Fairly easy to maintain both as long as we keep the sites mirrored and update each data base to reflect the other. This will require some coding changes in the database.
As time goes on we can pilot changes on one of the sites rather than make them both live in order to see benefits of the change or negatives. This would need detailed attention and has to stay under control… One pilot at a time.

Negatives:
Slightly more upkeep.
Expense of hosting two sites
Ensuring exact info…  We DO NOT want to confuse branding
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Question by:ZionTech1
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Accepted Solution

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Matthew Nguyen earned 1800 total points
ID: 36937199
Hi ZionTech1,

This is a common question and I would say, if you have the option of not switching, I would suggest not doing so.  If your full intention is to migrate websites, there are some best practices to help limit the negative SEO impact.  In simplicity, you would 301 redirect your DOMAIN 1 website to your DOMAIN 2 website.  You will see a drop in your SEO rankings and traffic in the initial switch, but if everything is done correctly, all those things should come back.  Note, doing a 301 redirect, you do lose out on some "link juice."  There isn't a definite percentage loss, but people have noted 2%-7% losses with redirects, just know it's the nature of the game when doing a redirect.

I started to list out the steps for redirecting your website but thought I would point you to a question I answered a few weeks ago that addresses the same thing.  Here is the question:  301 Redirecting Website

Hope this helps you, please let me know if you have any questions about this process.
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Expert Comment

by:jeremyjared74
ID: 36937321
I would consider combining the sites into one, and dos as suggested above with the 301 re-directs. This is in my opinion the only way to go (and the sooner the better). You will take a small hit as far as Google is concerned, but in the short/long run it will pay off. If you go to the Google Webmasters Tools you can learn how to minimize the effects:
http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=93633

There are a few major issues with the other option (keeping separate URL's).

1. Even though the web is getting faster, viewers are becoming less and less patient. Viewers are also aware that the web is full of scams and malicious sites. Although you have a legitimate site, I believe that the re-directing will loose a significant amount of viewers.

2. If you simply have them arrive at the home page of the other website and then they click to go to the other domain, it's considered a bounce which is bad for SEO rank.

3. You would basically be competing against yourself with the two websites.

Given the reasons listed above, I would take the steps to minimize the blow of the merge and know that in the end it's the right decision.
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Author Comment

by:ZionTech1
ID: 36937468
Thanks guys. This is fantastic info. Does it change your answers for me to note that the 2 websites are completely different, but of course based on the same company? The 2nd website is the newly designed one.
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LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:Matthew Nguyen
ID: 36937480
What do mean by different? If the content, site architeture and internal linking remains the same, you should be fine even if your design is different.  
 
Hope that answers your question.
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Author Comment

by:ZionTech1
ID: 36937497
Different Site architecture, different internal linking, different look, but based on the same company and products.
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Expert Comment

by:Matthew Nguyen
ID: 36937534
You are going to have to be very careful here and meticulous here.  A good example is something I've encountered with category consolidation and site navigation. On the site navigation, over 70 categories were removed/consolidated on the new site.  Because of this, a couple hundred internal links were lost, which resulted in a big drop in rankings to major traffic driving pages.

So if you are completely changing the site architecture and internal linking, you have to make sure you're not losing your internal links. As well, you have to be careful you are not breaking links thus causing 404 pages.

It's not bad that you change your site design, you just have to be very careful.

Matt
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Author Comment

by:ZionTech1
ID: 36937542
Thanks Matt. So out of the 3 options I listed, which would you choose and then implement your suggestions with?
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LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:Matthew Nguyen
ID: 36937557
I wouldn't go with any of the options if you want your customers to interact with Domain 2 and want the branding to be on Domain 2.  Implementing 301 redirects from DOMAIN 1 to DOMAIN 2 is your best bet and SEO best practice.  So when someone goes to DOMAIN 1, they will automatically be redirected to DOMAIN 2. If the redirect is done correctly, search engines will automatically detect the new URL to DOMAIN 2 and re index appropriately.
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Author Comment

by:ZionTech1
ID: 36937571
Thanks so much Matt. Completely understood.
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LVL 8

Expert Comment

by:Matthew Nguyen
ID: 36937575
Sure thing, good luck!
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Author Comment

by:ZionTech1
ID: 36939187
Matt one last question. Since DOMAIN 1 and DOMAIN 2 don't have any links that are the same, how effective is this 301 procedure?
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Expert Comment

by:Matthew Nguyen
ID: 36940503
Can you clarify what you mean by "...don't have any link that are the same?"

Do you mean the links are different URL structures?  This goes back to what I was talking about above to make sure all pages from your DOMAIN 1 map to proper pages on DOMAIN 2, even if the URL structure is different.  

Anyhow, can you clarify this point for me?
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Author Comment

by:ZionTech1
ID: 36940510
I guess the best thing to say to sum up, is this is not truly a migration per se. Both sites already exist. They have different domain names. We just want the traffic from DOMAIN 1 to be pushed to DOMAIN 2 in the best SEO fashion, no matter what we have to do.
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Expert Comment

by:Matthew Nguyen
ID: 36940531
Got it.  You would still do the 301 redirect and make sure the same content from DOMAIN 1 exists on DOMAIN 2 and that your 301 redirect pushes to the proper pages on DOMAIN 2.  So, to your previous question, the URL structure can be different as long as the content is the same from DOMAIN 1 to DOMAIN 2.
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Author Comment

by:ZionTech1
ID: 36940543
Okay... what if the content is different? I guess I need the true definition of content. Sorry to be so meticulous. Both sites are for the same exact company, selling the same exact products. The sites are just visually and content wise...different.
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Expert Comment

by:Matthew Nguyen
ID: 36940568
No problem at all, by content I mean to actually information that is on the page.  So, in your case for products, you need to be redirecting to the exact same product on the new site.  The copy (actual text) for the products should be identical from DOMAIN 1 to DOMAIN 2.

If you content and on page elements are different, those things could affect your rankings for keywords (maybe good, maybe bad).  Just be sure to keep track of where your products rank for specific keywords and monitor your rankings when you do migrate to DOMAIN 2.  This will allow you see pretty quickly which products are losing rankings and need attention.

Matt
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Assisted Solution

by:jeremyjared74
jeremyjared74 earned 200 total points
ID: 36940735
Just one last comment then you can do what you wish. I strongly recommend using only one domain and for the re-direct, you should re-direct the newest domain to the older domain. Use a 301 to direct the entire domain. To do this you would point the name-servers to the new domain from the old domains name server provider (who you bought the domain name through. Then in your control panel for main site, you add the other site.
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