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How to Successfully Move Your Website: A Quick Guide

G4 Communication / SEO  / How to Successfully Move Your Website: A Quick Guide

How to Successfully Move Your Website: A Quick Guide

This article outlines the steps to alter the URLs of existing pages on your site while minimizing the adverse effects on Google Search results. Examples of such site moves include transitioning from HTTP to HTTPS, changing domain names (e.g., from example.com to example.net), or modifying URL paths (e.g., from example.com/page.php?id=1 to example.com/widget). If you are making infrastructure changes, such as switching hosting providers, refer to specific guidelines for those scenarios.

Follow these general best practices for site moves to anticipate and mitigate any potential impact on your users and search rankings. For HTTPS transitions, review the best practices for secure website configurations.

    1. Prepare the new site thoroughly and conduct comprehensive testing.
    2. Create a URL mapping from current to new URLs.
    3. Initiate the site move by configuring server redirects from old URLs to new ones.
    4. Monitor traffic on both old and new URLs.

General Best Practices for Site Moves Divide your move into smaller steps if it aligns with your site’s characteristics. For larger sites, consider testing a section first before moving the entire site. Changing only one aspect at a time and timing the move during lower traffic periods can further optimize the process.

Expect temporary fluctuations in site ranking during the move. Submitting a sitemap can expedite the discovery process for Googlebot. Don’t worry about link credit, as 301, 302, and other server-side redirects do not impact PageRank.

Make use of Search Console to verify and monitor data for each property separately. Be patient and allow time for Googlebot to visit every URL on both the old and new sites.

Prepare the New Site Tailor your site preparation based on your specific move. This may include:

    1. Setting up the CMS (preferably the same as the old site) and importing content.
    2. Transferring images and downloads, ensuring correct annotations for embedded content.
    3. Configuring TLS certificates for HTTPS moves.
    4. Setting up a robots.txt file for the new site and aligning rules with crawling preferences.

Ensure correct Search Console settings for both old and new sites. Verify ownership, review and update crawl rates, and address any manual actions or removed URLs.

Prepare URL Mapping Accurately map old site URLs to their corresponding destinations on the new site. Determine old URLs through sitemaps, server logs, Google analytics software, and content management systems. Include images, videos, and other embedded content in your mapping.

    1. Create a mapping of old to new URLs using a database or URL rewriting rules.
    2. Update annotations, internal links, and sitemaps on the new site with new URLs.
    3. Save a sitemap file containing new URLs and a list of sites linking to old URLs.

Plan Your Redirect Strategy Plan server-side permanent redirects for optimal results, and avoid chaining redirects. Decide whether to move the entire site at once or in sections based on your site size.

Start the Site Move Once your URL mapping is accurate, and the redirect plan is finalized, implement or activate the redirects. Test them using tools like the URL Inspection Tool and submit a Change of Address in Search Console.

Update links on both internal and external sources, including social media profiles and ad campaigns. Keep the redirects for at least a year to transfer signals to the new URLs.

Monitor Traffic Regularly monitor user and crawler traffic on both old and new sites using Search Console and other tools. Submit the new sitemap in Search Console, update links, and analyze usage with web analytics software.

Troubleshooting Your Site Move Be aware of common mistakes during site migration, such as noindex or robots.txt blocks, incorrect redirects, crawl errors, insufficient server capacity, and not updating sitemaps. Address these issues promptly to ensure a smooth transition.

Remember that visibility fluctuations in Search are normal during the move, and rankings will stabilize over time. If challenges arise, seek advice from reputable sources such as Google Search Central or consult SEO specialists during office hours.