Despite your best intentions when it comes to building and launching your website, situations do occur in which you’ll need to move your website.
Maybe your company is going through a re-branding and redesign process and you’d like your website to reflect your new business name. Or maybe you’re moving your website to get away from a hosting provider whose actual up-time never quite reflected the guarantee advertised on their sales pages.
But whatever the case, moving a website is a process that should be approached with caution. Depending on the specifics of your proposed move, it may be necessary to take proactive action to avoid losing the SEO authority your content has built up at its current location.
Here’s what you need to know…
Typically, there are two major types of website moves – hosting provider moves and domain name moves. The specific actions you’ll want to take to move your site safely will vary based on the type of move you’re completing, so be sure you understand the distinction between the two before you get started.
Scenario #1 – Moving website hosts
As far as website moves go, switching hosting providers while keeping the same domain name isn’t nearly as complicated as moving your site to a new URL. Because link authority is based on your URL (which isn’t changing in this situation), there’s no risk that you’ll lose the accumulated value of your backlinks when moving your site.
However, when performed incorrectly, a website hosting provider move can result in downtime for your site. Too much downtime may negatively impact your site’s SEO and rankings, so it’s important to pay attention to the following recommended steps:
Keep in mind that, when moving your website to a new hosting account, it isn’t necessary to move your domain name registration as well, as your domain name’s nameservers can be adjusted to point at any hosting account.
However, if you do decide to move your domain name (either because you prefer keeping your accounts consolidated or because you got a good deal on renewal registrations by changing hosting providers), you’ll need to release the URL from your previous registrar’s account. Different registrars have different processes for conducting domain name transfers, but you’ll likely need to supply a code from your old registrar to your new registrar indicating that you do, in fact, want to move your domain name.
Scenario #2 – Changing URLs
As mentioned previously, changing your website’s URL is a little trickier. If you’ve spent any amount of effort building backlinks to your new site, changing URLs risks losing the value passed by these web addresses, as any links pointing at your old site will no longer be valid.
While it is possible to notify the search engines of these changes in order to diminish the impact of moving your URL, you’ve got to perform the following steps in the right order for this process to run smoothly:
Once you’ve addressed any errors that appear in your Webmaster Tools account, you can assume that your transfer has occurred successfully from the point of view of the search engines. As long as your 301 redirect was set up correctly, the link authority pointing at your old URL should carry through to your new URL, although it may take some time for the search engines to process all of these changes.
But what about your human visitors? Although you may be tempted to take down your old site in celebration of this lengthy process being completed, consider temporarily putting up a single page explaining to users who enter your old URL directly into their browsers where to find your new content. Think of it as a “We’ve moved!” courtesy announcement that will prevent visitors who haven’t been on your page in some time from receiving a “Site not found” message that could diminish their trust in your brand.
Alternatively, you could simply create a domain redirect that automatically sends visitors who land on your old URL to your new pages. If you do decide to take this route, be sure to keep your old URL’s registration up-to-date. Although this type of redirect won’t offer a personal message to your visitors explaining the reason for your move, it will ensure that they arrive on the correct page after entering your old URL into their browsers.