Google recently updated their Webmaster Tools section about transferring, moving and migrating a website, and they’ve made it very easy to understand exactly what one needs to do to maintain and even boost rankings when moving their site. But the first question to consider is when and why a move should occur.
Here Shweiki teams up with SEO expert Alicia Lawrence of WebpageFX to present a must-watch webinar on search engine optimization and how to stay optimized even when moving sites, focusing on the four basic types of moves, the pros and cons of each, and tips for moving a website.
Facts and Info
-Before making any changes to a site, it’s crucial to back everything up and make a copy of all current HTML, graphics and files in case something happens when moving the site (even if it is a simple web host change).
-It’s important to always keep the customer top of mind. When making changes to the website, customers should know what to expect. This can be done with a banner or pop-up on the site that alerts them of upcoming changes (or when the change has taken place) and what that means for customers on that website.
-When changing a website, it makes sense to also improve it. Some of these migrations can be done without harming rankings, but for those that involve changing something (like url paths or keyword insertions), it makes sense to improve upon what already exists and go all the way while revamping the site.
-Typically, it takes three to six months for old rankingsto be re-achieved at Google when moving to a new domain.
Type of Move: Changing The Web Design
Pros and Cons:
Ranking might be lost, but it could be worth it to have a more user-friendly site that attracts more customers.
-One should keep the same file-naming structures (for ranking and for those who have links to the site).
-It’s important to use 301 redirects for old and changed URLs to direct to the new page.
-Creating a 404 page makes it easier for clients to find what they are looking for when they aren’t used to the new design.
-One should create a new XML site map to submit to Google (and create one for users as well).
-Keeping title tags and content similar is a way to maintain page rankings (while, if page ranking isn’t great, one should improve them). When fixing the site, one should also be improving it. One way this can be done is by putting together an information architecture and keyword mapping report.
Type of Move: Changing The Content Management System
Pros and Cons:
This makes for easier backend site management and has the potential to save one thousands of dollars if they publish a lot of content. If switching to a different CMS causes the syntax to change, then it could affect the ranking. Also, when many businesses transfer over their content to a different CMS, they often change pages or URLs, which can make the move more complicated and very detrimental to good rankings.
According to Vasont, a CMS provider, Vasont clients average 71% content reuse, which saves them a considerable amount of time on creating new content.
-One should identify their needs and how the CMS they want will help them meet those needs or overcome a certain challenge.
-It’s important to be aware of the domino effect. When correcting one thing (like keywords in URLs), it often makes it necessary to change a whole slew of things that are affected by it. One needs to be aware of everything they have to do to keep up their rankings so one little tweak doesn’t bring down the SEO house of cards.
Type of Move: Changing The Site Name
(This includes changing example.com to examples.com or just example.com to example.net.)
Pros and Cons:
This maintains link equity if one redirects everything (though might still affect SEO temporarily as the search engine sorts the redirects). One should think again, though, if they’re doing it to get away from a penalty, because even if one doesn’t redirect all the old links, Google can sometimes pick up that one has moved domains and will send the penalty to your new site.
-It’s important to use 301 redirects.
-One should keep the old domain for around 10 years, if possible.
-It’s necessary to make sure to have a valid reason before changing the domain name and consider whether a problem could be solved by adding a subdomain.
-One should change areas that still have an old domain (directories worth keeping and social media).
-If possible, it’s a good idea to ask the high-authority websites that are linking to the old site to now link to the new site (even if the pages they point to are redirected).
Type of Move: Changing The Web Host
Pros and Cons:
When taking the correct steps to change the web host, this shouldn’t have any impact on rankings (as long as only the host is being changed and not the domain name).
-When moving the site to a new host, it’s important to make DNS changes to point to the new hosting location.
-After Google crawls the new location, one can shut down the old hosting location.
-It’s a great idea to own the domain.