How to move a website to a new domain

How to move a website to a new domain

Moving a website to a new domain?

This post addresses some of the key challenges faced during moving a website to a new domain. Moving can be very smooth if planned well. For instance, move to a new domain and a new hosting provider all at the same time may not be advisable. It is best to do one move at a time. Changing a website’s address will have an initial impact on the rankings and the traffic of the new site, but the good news is, it is only temporary, so there is no need to panic.

Some of the reasons why we may consider changing the URL because the existing domain does not make sense any more, or the website’s content has changed and does not compliment the domain name, or a need to transfer a free blog to an  independent domain….there could be several reasons….

whatever be the reason, websites do change addresses, and the transition to a new address happens quite seamlessly, all it needs is careful planning. One can compare it to shifting homes. Yes, it is pretty similar to physically moving your home. This move is a virtual move of course but some of the check points (as mentioned-below) for both the moves are “virtually” the same. Pun intended:)

1. When to move
2. How to move
3. How to ensure that SEO best practices are applied during the move
4. Who to inform
5. How to inform
6. When to inform
7. How to ensure no loss of belongings in transit

1. When to Move a website to a new domain

Even though it may not be that critical, it may be a good idea to execute the move when there is the least amount of traffic to your site.That way even if something goes wrong you can quickly revert back to your old site without causing much impact. It is recommended that you keep your old domain up and about for a while.

2. How to move

This is quite simple, if you are moving within the same host provider and if you are not changing your website’s design, all you will need to do is copy the existing files from your earlier domain folder to the new one. However, if you are moving from a free blog to a new domain, that would be a slightly different process and I will get to that in my next post.

3. How to ensure that SEO best practices are applied during the move

The SEO best practice for changing a website address, is to use the server side 301 redirect method to redirect traffic from your old domain to the new one. 301 redirect means it is a permanent move to a new location. A 302 redirect should not applied since that is for a temporary move only, and is not SEO friendly.

In order to execute the 301 redirect, the .htaccess file in your root folder (the folder where you have your index file) of your old site will need to be edited, the 301 redirect code will need to be included at the beginning of the .htaccess file as follows:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule (.*)$1 [R=301,L]

Replace “xyz” with the new domain name. Once it is done check to see if the redirection is happening.

You may want to visit this 301 redirects information page to know more about 301 redirects.

4. Who to inform 

Almost everyone who knows you and interacts with you needs to know and should be informed. A good way to begin is with the Search engines and then your human visitors.

5. How to inform about the move to a new domain

The 301 redirect will do a good job of informing the search engine bots. But in addition, it is a good practice to inform Google about the change. Log in to the Google webmaster console, and go into the setting section. There is an option to request “Change of address”, clicking on it will take you to the page where you can let Google know about your new site,  but not before you have done the following:

1. Added the new site to Google webmaster console
2. Checked that the 301 redirects are working fine
3. Both of your sites, the old and new, are Google verified

Check out Address change request at Google to learn more about this process.

In addition, do not forget to submit your updated sitemap page to Google.

6. When to inform

Once you have ensured that everything is working well, start by reaching out to your followers through social networking sites and publishing a press release, if possible a paid press release to announce this change would be very effective. If you have links from high traffic portals and authoritative sites, don’t forget to reach out to them and requesting them to update your URL.

7. How to ensure no loss of belongings in transit

A thumb rule is to back up everything before the move, a sort of insurance if you may, your data base and all of your content needs to be backed up before making any changes. A must do is to continue to retain access to your old site’s folders for a while. A through quality check of the new site to ensure that all of your content and database has moved, and there are not broken links is absolutely necessary. Any missing files can be easily copied and moved to the new site folder.

These are some of the basic steps to ensure that your move is smooth and successful. It may take a little while for search engines to update their database, and there will be a dip in traffic for a short while, but we can live with that.

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