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Domain Migration and SEO
rocco1999




msg:4563889
 6:36 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Say you have a website.net and website.xx (country specific translated version) and you want to 301 redirect domains like this:

website.net -> website.com
website.xx -> xx.website.com

And at the same time you are also thinking about doing a complete redesign of website with some content and url stucture changes as well. Also, the .com version is currently set as "Website Alias" of main .net domain and it has been like that for years (showing same content on different domain which is not good, I know).

How would you proceed with this migration? What would you do first or would you do an all-in-one type of migration? What is the best possible strategy for this in order to keep as much as possible SEO work and current rankings?

 

Robert Charlton




msg:4563927
 8:00 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

rocco1999... welcome to WebmasterWorld. You're wise to want to plan this out in advance.

My initial take on this is that I would do it in steps... not all at once. I'd make the broad domain migration/consolidation changes first, one at a time, to give Google a chance to figure out the new domain relationships at each step... and then deal with the redesign and restructuring.

So, establish the .net to .com 301... then the subdomain... and then the restructuring.

You don't mention anything about the size of the sites, CMS systems, etc, and nature of the urls, though... and the types of url changes that would be involved in the restructuring, which can affect the approach and add levels of complexity. Definitely, do a backlink check to see what particularly important backlinks you might want to pay attention to, if you can't set up global rules to handle all pages.

There's also the issue of dealing with the .net to .com redirects and then subsequently with the changes in the .com structure.... and avoiding chained redirects of inbound links on those pages that are affected.

rocco1999




msg:4563931
 8:23 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thank you Robert for your fast reply.

You said that you would first do domain redirects and then do the redesign process with changing url structure. Wouldn't that mean that I would be again redirecting previusly already redirected links from .net and that original redirects on those links would be lost this way?

Luckily, it is not a big site but it has some good SEO rankings that I don't want to lose, especially on the .xx version.

CMS, IP and DNS would remain the same but WHOIS from .si and .com are different even though they're both hidden - would this be an issue too ?

martinibuster




msg:4563934
 8:46 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Somewhat similar. I just did example.com/folder/ to example.com/file/ redirect so that all URLs remained the same except the folder names. This was part of a software upgrade. Wow, Google picked up on the redirect within a week to ten days. Yes there was a period where I dropped out but within ten days everything was pretty much stablized. To make things even more fun and keep me awake at night there were even a couple days when the site was entirely down- poof! Gone from the Internet! Yet even with the crawl errors the site rankings still returned. Same with Yahoo/Bing.

There was a moment during all the bugginess when I panicked and felt sick in my stomach, existential-type nausea, and almost vomited. My kid heard me gagging in the next room and said, "Heh, daddie's coughing up a hairball!"

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4563936
 9:05 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

You said that you would first do domain redirects and then do the redesign process with changing url structure. Wouldn't that mean that I would be again redirecting previusly already redirected links from .net and that original redirects on those links would be lost this way?

If you did it that way it would be best to change the initial redirects to point to the new locations after restructuring the URL so there aren't 2 redirects to get to the final location.

I think I would personally redirect to the final location on the new domain initially but I would not change the link structure or template or anything else until after the move had been made and was complete for a period of time, likely 2 or 3 months would be my initial plan which could change and be delayed further depending on how things were going.

Basically for me the old URLs would point to restructured URLs on the new domain initially, but template, links, content, everything else would stay exactly the same until the change was "established" and traffic had returned.

rocco1999




msg:4563939
 9:34 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

So basicly you're suggesting:

1) Restructure the URL's on new locations.
2) Move the .net to com and .xx to subdomain using 301's.
3) Wait a while until rankings return.
4) Launch the redesign with all the content changes.

Is that the best way of doing it? Also is it ok to move .net and .xx at once or wait for a while ? And what about my WHOIS question from previous post?

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4563943
 9:45 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'd wait to move the .xx to the subdomain and go with exactly what Robert_Charlton said, except to go to the new URL structure initially. (And, the way he suggested might actually be better, but I would personally go "to the final location" from the start.)

I think it's very important to understand: Patience is definitely a virtue when moving domains and doing things slowly, methodically and patiently are the best ways I've heard or found in the years I've been doing this.

By being patient, you have a "known traffic level" to at least one of the domains and you can fairly certainly count on that level while you're moving the .net site.

Then when traffic to the .com gets to the level (or close) the .net was at you will again have a "known traffic level" to at least one of the domains you can fairly certainly count on.

If you rush and move both at once, then something "goes wrong" with the move you can be completely and totally hosed for any traffic at all to any site you have, and like it's been said here over the years... "You can't uncook an egg.", so once you move, reverting for recovery might not be an option.

I'd definitely recommend, a careful, slow, methodical move of any site or set of sites these days, unless you can afford a total traffic loss if something goes wrong.

Robert Charlton




msg:4563949
 10:07 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Writing and posting overlap here, so I'm not commenting on immediately preceding posts...

You said that you would first do domain redirects and then do the redesign process with changing url structure. Wouldn't that mean that I would be again redirecting previusly already redirected links from .net and that original redirects on those links would be lost this way?

I mention this in my post, where I suggest "avoiding chained redirects of inbound links on those pages that are affected."

Multiple changes are going to be an issue either way... ie, whether you do the domain redirects first or whether you do the redesign first, you will still have the potential of chained redirects to deal with.

Doing the domain redirects first gets the alias domain out of the way asap, so you're not picking up additional links to the .net, so offhand seems like the best way to go... but one could probably argue it either way.

With either approach, though, this is where you'll want to carefully check backlinks and carefully note which links specifically are important to "preserve", as you will have to go back and make changes in your redirect rules the second time around to avoid "chaining".

Note that you should set up your DNS so everything is going to one IP... the IP address of your .com. You won't be setting up separate redirects on your .net hosting account to redirect to the .com. You'll be using only one .htaccess, eg, that's on your final domain's web hosting space. This is an important point. I'm not understanding your specific DNS and WHOIS concerns, because I don't know your hosting is set up now, and because the questions aren't clear... but keep in mind that you should have only one hosting space where you do all your mod_rewrite work.

Also, fwiw, the current estimate on what is lost per redirect is about 15%, so in two redirects link credit won't be entirely lost, but you should try to avoid that loss if possible.

Some of the comments I make in this thread, along with the thread references in my section post, might be helpful....

Links or 301 Redirects - from Old to New Site?
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4172816.htm [webmasterworld.com]

There's been a more recent discussion on multiple redirects, which I'll dig out if no one else finds it.

rocco1999




msg:4563958
 10:37 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

In my original post I've mentioned that the current .com version is already a Website Alias of .net site which means that currently it already has indexed same pages as on .net with same url structure (I know this is not good).

So if we want to change URL's on .com, won't this be another problem in line and wouldn't that require 2 different redirects ? What is the best solution in this case? Is there some safe way of first removing the current .com url's from index and then adding new ones?

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4563959
 10:46 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I missed that...

In that case, I'd redirect the .net straight across to the .com and wait until the traffic level of the .com was about the same as the .net and .com combined. Then I'd change the URL structure of the .com.

In answer to your question, no it does not require 2 redirects. It requires you to change where the redirects on the .net point, because if you can redirect the current .com locations to the new .com location and the URLs on the .com and .net are the same, then you can as easily redirect the .net to the same new locations on the .com.

So...

In the .com .htaccess:
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^old-location-on-the-dot-com\.ext$ http://www.example.com/new-location-on-the-dot-com.ext [R=301,L]

In the .net .htaccess:
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^old-location-on-the-dot-net\.ext$ http://www.example.com/new-location-on-the-dot-com.ext [R=301,L]

Regular expressions may help you avoid having one redirect for every single page on either site, but there's no guarantee and that's a topic for the Apache Forum linked below.

All you have to do to avoid multiple redirects is set the .net to redirect to the new location on the .com when you set the .com to redirect to the new location on the .com. If the URLs are the same and you can redirect one to the new location, then you can redirect both directly to the new location.

If you don't know how or can't figure it out, I'd recommend either spending some time in the Apache Forum [webmasterworld.com] and learning or hiring a professional.

rocco1999




msg:4563963
 11:20 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yeah I understand what you're saying. Looks like this will be the plan:

1) 301 Redirect .net to .com using same URL structure and wait.
2) Change URL structure on .com and update original .net redirects to match new URLs.
3. 301 Redirect .xx domain to subdomain of .com and again wait.
4. Launch Redesign

Any other comments or disadvantages with this plan ?

Leosghost




msg:4563967
 11:23 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why ?..
Why do you want to do what you outlined in your OP..You explained the "what"..but not the underlying "why"..?

rocco1999




msg:4563969
 11:31 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Business owners want to focus on building a brand on a .com domain and .xx has to be migrated due to the country legal issues. In the future there will be also more country specific translations using subdomains.

Leosghost




msg:4563973
 11:44 pm on Apr 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

and .xx has to be migrated due to the country legal issues

Ok..now "it" ( what you wanted to do in your OP, makes sense )..given that there are "legal issues"..get paid..in full.."up front"..and make sure your contract covers you against client "screw ups"..legal or otherwise..

rocco1999




msg:4564147
 12:04 pm on Apr 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

One more thing. Is there a way we could deindex all of the pages on .com using robots.txt and then reindex them again with URL updates on some of them?

Would this work using robots.txt as then we could skip the 2) and save some valuable time which would push the redesign process further ahead.

martinibuster




msg:4564154
 12:21 pm on Apr 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

You're no longer doing?

website.net -> website.com
website.xx -> xx.website.com

rocco1999




msg:4564159
 12:29 pm on Apr 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am and I'm sorry if my previous question wasn't clear enough. We will still do redirects as explained in OP, I'm just trying to find out what would be the fastest(and safe) way to do this.

martinibuster




msg:4564208
 2:10 pm on Apr 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I just did a server migration, which meant I had to shut the site down first, creating hundreds of thousands of page not found errors, while we changed the DNS settings and then waited over the course of several days for the DNS to change. Disruption in search traffic fun ensued.

The following week we did the software upgrade, again shutting down the site, resulting in hundreds of thousands of pages not found errors. Despite pre-upgrade testing and rehearsals, the actual upgrade did not go smoothly, resulting in an extended downtime of a couple days. THEN we did the htaccess rewrite so that all the link equity of the former pages went to the new URLs. Needless to say, our rankings were in flux as it took another week for the new URLs to work their way through the system. However to compound things, in the middle of URLs getting updated in the search system, Google's own Custom Search Engine updated which resulted in a random code being appended to hundreds of thousands of URLs. Yes, we now had a new set of URLs!

Despite all those hairball inducing events that resulted in the site being down more or less for half the month, traffic and rankings soon returned. So what I'm trying to communicate to you is not to get too caught up in doing many SEO related things for the transition. The less you do the better. The rule of thumb is that the more technical ingredients are introduced the greater the chance that an error will appear. This applies to pretty much any web related project. The simple approach worked for me, despite the transition happening in a stormy manner.

I think here is no need to de-index former pages. In fact, if I understand you correctly, it's possible you'll kill your link equity robot texting the old pages. Although once you start rewriting old URLs to new URLs, old URLs don't technically exist.

I would be much obliged if someone corrected me if I'm in error on any of the above points.

rocco1999




msg:4564474
 1:08 pm on Apr 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thank you for your reply. I think my only "safe" option would be to go through the 4 steps I described in my previous posts.

My only concern is that it will take too long and it will push the redesign stage back even futher. If someone has an idea how we could merge some steps in order to make the migration and redesign process faster, please share as time might be an important issue here as well.

rocco1999




msg:4566381
 2:48 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

So finally I did the first step and doing 301's from .net to .com. I also added new site to GTW and submited a move request and also submited sitemaps for old .net and new .com site.

I was wondering how long does it usually take to start seeing improvents in GTW on new domain? It's been few days and so far only 17 pages were crawled from 400 submited with sitemap.

TheOptimizationIdiot




msg:4566386
 2:58 pm on Apr 19, 2013 (gmt 0)

Depends on a number of things, including your crawl frequency.

One thing I've noticed is lately they've been snail slow in updating to new locations. I've had cases where a page has been redirected for 3 weeks, the title is from the new location, the information on the page in the preview is from the new location, the breadcrumbs in the results under the title are from the new location but when you hover over the title or click the old location is linked.

There's no way they have all the new info from the new location of the page, are displaying it in the results for the page, but haven't found the redirect yet, so there seems to be a delay in updating the old URL to the new URL in the system at times. It hasn't happened every time, but I have seen a definite lag between them finding a 301 and updating to the new URL recently.

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