As an SEO, moving a domain name comes with a certain degree of fear. Search engine rankings can drop, site authority can be lost and traffic can plummet if you don’t tie up the move perfectly.
Almost a year after its reincarnation, I decided to move my domain name from www.goosh.co.uk over to www.kevstrong.com. Why? I had finally secured the twitter username I had been chasing for almost two years – @KevStrong (another post is coming on how I achieved this).
In doing this I wanted to ensure I retained all of my inbound links, all of my traffic and, ultimately, all of my website authority; I never expected my TBPR (Toolbar PageRank) to update after 2 hours.
When moving a domain you have to ensure that all of your existing URLs resolve correctly upon completion. Several problems can arise during this transition due to a number of reasons, of which these can include:
To ensure the search engines and users alike are redirected, I recommend using a 301 server redirect which sends them to the new URL and, in the case of the search engines, pass all authority to the new destination you have specified.
After I had installed a new version of the website, design etc and imported all content onto the new domain I had to ensure the move was seamless. To do this, I prepared the following checklist to ensure I didn’t miss anything whilst moving over:
With nearly 60 pages of content all interlinked as part of my onsite optimisation I had to ensure that all links were updated so they passed full authority directly and not through a 301 (where a small amount of authority attrition can occur).
This would have been easier to do had I used absolute path interlinking ( href=”/path/” ) as opposed to domain interlinking ( href=”http://” ) but I chose domain interlinking to ensure I receive link backs to my content should it get scraped (as often happens in the SEO niche) and the domain name not replaced.
Getting a list of indexed URLs is easy and acts as a priority list for you should you have a large number of indexed content. This is achieved using the site: operator in Google.
In the case of moving my website to a new domain it was a simple mirror image of my website on the new domain name so I didn’t have much complication. As I am hosted on a Unix Apache server this was achieved with a flat URI remapping in my .htaccess file. E.g.
RewriteRule (.*) http://www.kevstrong.com/$1 [R=301,L]
Had this not been the case and I was moving to page names, server languages this could have got much more extensive and complicated. In this case I recommend the creation of an excel document with the following layout to ensure you map a concise list of rules to pass to your website developer to follow:
|Page Name||Old URL||New URL|
This is essential for making the transition as seamless as possible. Access Google Webmaster Tools and “claim” both of your domain names if you have not already done so.
I highly recommend using the “Upload HTML Verification file” where possible as this not only reduces code bloat on your website, but it also hides your META verification number from prying eyes.
Also, Google are kind enough to let you upload one file once your 301 redirect rules are in place.
Creating a sitemap.xml file and submitting it to GWT ensures you are letting Google know of all URLs that you have on your site. When used with a brand new domain I have seen new sites indexed in less than 10 minutes using this sitemap submission service.
Google allow you to notify them of a change of address (much like moving house) and I can only assume that requesting this change directly via two verified accounts gives Google the upmost authority it can get to move everything to the new domain name.
This appears to be the Holy Grail when it came to retaining my TBPR so quickly (remember: 2 hours).
I would like to test this in the future to see if it:
This is, without doubt, the cleanest domain redirection I have ever completed. Most are much more complicated and require much more work. However, with this exercise I have noticed several things:
I doubt this will count as duplicate content as Google is aware of the redirection in place, but it’s good to dominate the SERPs for a little while whilst it serves up dual-index pages:
Despite being able to find my new domain in the search index, GWT does not show any content indexed:
Interestingly Google seems to have only updated the homepage TBPR and none of the inner pages.
I hope this helps throw some insight into moving a domain name with the minimum of downtime to your rankings, authority and traffic and how you can really get the search engines to do the work for you.