How to move a site without losing rankings
Site moves fall into 1 of 2 categories
1 – Moves with URL changes and
2 – Moves without URL changes
There will always be a risk that you will confuse the search engines and potentially harm search rankings and organic traffic if you do any of the following:
- Change domain name
- Change your content management system
- Re-design your site
- Add e-commerce functionality
- Change your blog platform
In a nutshell, anything that alters your sites front end and/or back end visual or functional elements could potentially influence your organic search performance.Bare in mind this doesn’t automatically mean it’s going to have a negative effect!
When you move content you need to make sure that the users who visited the old url are presented with the information from the new URL.
Unless you properly implement a 301 redirect (permanently moved) you will lose the value from the old URL from the links that you worked so hard to gain.
The above two points are very, very important. Don’t let anyone do your re-directs unless they are experienced and are not in a rush! ie webmaster and development teams.
Link to duplicate content issues
NB Golden rule of moving content * The search engine needs to see a 301 HTTP status code whenever you redirect the contents URL to a new location.
What happens when you put a 301 redirect on a URL?
When the search engine sees a 301 HTTP status code it will pass most of the value of any links for the original page over to the new page and should result in a quick deindexation of the old URL
Domain name changes and things to think about
Be aware that:
You could potentially lose the trust search engines have associated with your old domain.
If there were business specific keywords present in your old domain that are not in your new domain, you may see a decline in organic traffic.
If you have a brand new domain and it was recently purchased and it has no historical back link profile it may be very slow to rank. The search engines need time to trust a domain even though you will have done your 301’s correctly and are hopefully establishing new links.
You could actually buy an old domain (relevant to your industry) that has a back link history associated with it. It is essential that the history is a positive one to avoid potentially getting de-indexed by Google and you should perform a back link audit to ascertain this.
How to perform a back link audit on an old URL
If it is possible to contract the previous owner of the domain it would be worth asking for Search Console access to research whether there were any manual spam actions reported against the domain.
How to monitor Search Engine Spidering Using Search Console
You don’t of course have to do the whole shebang in a oner! It’s a pretty scary thing to do and if you have a particularly large site then start out by first moving a sub directory and then a sub domain.
Make sure the rankings are ok over a couple of weeks and then move another part of your site etc etc.
This will reduce the risk associated with the move by breaking it into smaller pieces. it will be much easier to spot any potential difficulties and allow a better level of control in what can be quite a disruptive process.