Domain Name Migration

I sometimes get questions about moving a site to a new URL.

There are many things website owners need to consider when making the domain name change and some of these are listed below:

1. Ensure current site is free from broken links. It sounds obvious but if you have a site that has many pages and does weekly updates you can be sure of finding errors on the site. Run a link checker to see what internal broken links there are and view the server log files to see what external sites are linking to pages that don’t exist. Fix the internal links by removing the link, updating it or creating the page that should be in the location.

Broken links from external sites will need a little bit more thought in determining how to deal with them. For links that come from a high PageRank site you may try to contact the webmaster and ask them to update the link to a new page you have created. This may not be feasible if you have many sites pointing to a particular URL. In these cases you may want to reinstate the page or 301 redirect it to an existing relevant page.

Having an error free site makes troubleshooting on the new domain so much easier after migration.

2. Check 301 redirects for multiple hops. A multiple hop redirect is where a URL is redirected to another URL which in turn gets redirects again to another URL. Old sites may have gone through a lot of structural changes so there will be naturally 301 redirects to help manage visitors. Somewhere buried in the Google webmaster guidelines it advises to keep the number of hops to below 4 or 5. Website owners should check each redirect to make sure it lands on the final URL destination on the first hop.

3. Minimize site changes during a domain name change. A lot of webmasters will overhaul the complete website and change the structure as they see it as a good opportunity to get a lot of changes done. If you have a site that is ranking well then making a lot of drastic changes will cause a change in traffic that is harder to troubleshoot and may never be recoverable. My suggestion is to migrate the site over to the new domain name with the same existing structure. This will make it easy to also manage the redirects as you can just use a sitewide (domain only) 301 redirect. Once the site has migrated correctly to the new domain name, you may then consider updating the structure and pages of the site. Alternatively you may want to complete all the structural and content changes on the current site and allow Google to pick up the change and then make the domain name change.

4. Other things to do is to update Google Analytics Profile with new domain name, notify Google Webmaster Tools of the new URL and off course test the new domain name for 404 and 301/2 errors.

There are also many other things to consider that I haven’t included so please leave a comment with any other tips.





By Trung Tran

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