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Guidelines for Moving Websites

Sometimes website owners have to move the site, from a more basic server move to a more complex domain change. These changes can have a varying degree of impact on Google and other search engines, depending on the way the move is managed, so Google’s Webmaster Tools have recently provided guidance on best practice for such changes, to minimise the impact on Google Search.

Website moves involve two types of content transfers, from transferring a website without a URL change (such as moving hosting) to transferring a website with a URL change (such as a full domain change, or a sub-domain or page URL changes following a redesign). The steps needed to move a site with no URL change are more simple and straight-forward, such as setting up a new hosting plan, removing temporary blocks to crawling and updating the relevant DNS settings.

However, moving a website with URL changes can be a difficult process and the risks of impacting the way that Google indexes and ranks a website can be more significant. There are 4 basic steps to follow, which are: prepare the new site and test it thoroughly; prepare a URL mapping from the current URLs to their corresponding new format; start the site move by configuring the server to redirect from the old URLs to the new ones; monitor the traffic on both the old and new URLs.

Google has recently provided a series of help pages for Webmasters, which outline these steps in more detail and provide best practice actions to help minimise the risks and to enable the transfer to occur with the minimum of risks to the way that Google views the site. It’s certainly not a process to be undertaken lightly, especially if the website is well established and has built up some good value with Google over the years, but sometimes these things have to take place and these procedures need to be followed.

In addition to this new content, Google has also produced information for developers of mobile sites to cover the issues involved with such configuration changes as moving from a separate mobile URLs to using responsive web design, which is becoming increasingly common.

If you’d like more details about best practice for website transfers, please contact us now.