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Latest Thinking on URL Redirect Old Site, Old Domain To New Domain, New Site to Retain Google Ranking
engine

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 3:14 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

A new site for a merged business on a new domain name and new host has been created and launched.

The new site is indexed in Google, but doesn't rank well.

The old site, on a different host is well-indexed in Google and very well ranked.

All the new urls are different from the old, in part because the merged business has additional products and product rationalization.

Redirecting the whole site is easy, but I was thinking of saving the traffic from the old long tail urls.

A 301 from old to new would be fine with the same structure, but we don't have that luxury of the exact url. It'll have to go to a section of the new site.

Note - GWT is not installed on the old site.

How would you go about redirecting those old urls from a site that will eventually be closed, for example, in a year's time?
If was asked before the new site was developed I might have suggested a more elegant solution.

 

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 3:42 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

So if I understood well, currently there are no redirects implemented from the old to the new site?

How big is the old site, that is, how many URLs are we talking about?

Does the site have analytics to see which old URLs drive traffic? How many of these are (or is it the whole of the old site) ?

The redirects to be implemented - would this be for traffic only or to pass link juice too?

When the old site is shut down eventually, would the business still own the old domain, i.e. could the redirects from the old site still remain in place?

engine

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 4:07 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

So if I understood well, currently there are no redirects implemented from the old to the new site?
Correct, there are no redirects at all.

How big is the old site, that is, how many URLs are we talking about?


Old site is small-ish: about 150-pages

Does the site have analytics to see which old URLs drive traffic? How many of these are (or is it the whole of the old site) ?
The site has analytics, and probably 50% of the site generates referrals to varying degrees.

The redirects to be implemented - would this be for traffic only or to pass link juice too?


Ideally, both. The traffic would be to avoid losing the opportunities from now until the site is closed. The link juice to the old site would benefit the new as they begin to build the new site's inbound's. Customers will eventually use the new site, and no further redevelopment of the old site would be undertaken.

When the old site is shut down eventually, would the business still own the old domain, i.e. could the redirects from the old site still remain in place?

They will still own the domain, but they may not wish to retain the existing hosting after a sensible period of time. I estimated a year would not be unreasonable.

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 4:57 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

This is not a lots of pages to analyse and this is what I would do:

- Analyse 150 pages and find the best page to redirect to. Worst case, analyse these 50% of pages that do get traffic. Ideally the redirect would go to the same / very similar product, second best is to redirect to the category.

- If there is a page on the old site that does not really have any good page on the new site and the page does not generate much traffic, I would leave it 404. But if this page brings reasonable traffic, I would consider developing a page on the new site where this one could be redirected to (visitor-focused landing page, perhaps with an explanation why the product is gone or something).

- I would change the custom 404 pages on the old site to invite visitors to vist the new site.

- Before the old site hosting is shut down, I would point the old domain to the new hosting and create redirects (first make changes to .htaccess which will have a set of redirects based on host name = old site, after this re-point the old domain to the new site hosting webspace). In this way the business can keep the redirects from the old site indefinitely.

engine

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Msg#: 4613792 posted 7:50 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks aakk9999

I just hate wasting traffic that is hard enough to come by and you've helped me confirm my idea was about correct.

claus

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 8:47 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

-what akk9999 said, and:
I'd put a very visible message on all pages of old site (eg in the header) explaining that a shift will come, with a link to the root of the new site. I'd leave it there for a year, while I gradually worked on making 1-to-1 replacements for the 150 old pages.

As the closing deadline approaches, I would implement the redirects. Perhaps a week in advance, not sooner. Why? Well because you have one well ranking site, and this is the one. Don't risk that traffic before you have to.

Place a prominent link on the pages to inform your visitors about the shift. The loyal visitors must learn to use the new site first. Search Engine considerations can follow, when it is due time - no need to hurry on their behalf.

Redirects get picked up almost instantly, so no worries - Google will know. What doesn't transfer easily are rankings. So even if Google will know that this page has moved, it may not allow the ranking to move along with it, at least for some time.

best of luck :)

claus

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 8:54 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

Just an afterthought....

You use the wording "retain old ranking"...

I understand what you mean, but: Technically speaking this is not what you are trying to achieve.

You have built a brand new site. And you want that new site to rank just like some other site with a history of its own is already ranking. This difference isn't just semantics, it's key. This is not about moving a site, it's about closing one established site after building another one. Entirely different problem in terms of ranking, imho.

You are not transfering site-to-site, but you are hoping to be able to transfer part-of-site-to-part-of-site.

The old site and the new site are very different, it seems. As redirects mean "this page has moved", they will only have the desired effect if it is actually "this page", and if "this page" is actually "moved". Ie. it might not work if it's some random page on a brand new site that might have a subject similar to the old one. That might even be consiered deceptive, depending on the difference from page to page.

So, the redirects should be very carefully crafted so that the target pages are as close as possible to being a verbatim copy of the html-code (not just the visual page) of the old pages on a 1-by-1 basis... then some juice might start to flow reasonably quick. Otherwise probably not much and/or probably not soon...

Above, like anything else I post, is AFAIK & IMHO. :)

aakk9999

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 10:57 pm on Sep 30, 2013 (gmt 0)

so that the target pages are as close as possible to being a verbatim copy of the html-code

This is not my experience. I have done quite a few site moves, site merges and site splits that all required redirects and the HTML was completely different, and there were no ill effects.

Best practices when moving your site
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2008/04/best-practices-when-moving-your-site.html
[googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk]
If there won't be a 1:1 match between pages on your old and new site, try to make sure that every page on your old site is at least redirected to a new page with similar content.

To be extra cautious, you can pick one page (or a handful of pages) and redirect these to the equivalent page(s) on the new site and see the effect, then make the decision on how to proceed.

This is also interesting for this case:
301 redirects
https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93633?hl=en [support.google.com]
301 redirects are particularly useful in the following circumstances:
(...)
- You're merging two websites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected to the correct pages.


As to when to execute the redirect, pending the redirect test of moving handful URLs not showing adverse effects, I would personally do it sooner rather than later. Otherwise your old site and new site are competing in SERPs and the new site could even be labelled as being duplicate content / content scraper (depending on how similar the pages are).

What is important is that the technical execution is flawless. It would also help if both sites are in the same WMT account although engine says the old site does not have WMT account. Unless there is a specific reason not to, I would verify the old site in the same WMT account with the new site (if the new site has one, or create WMT account if there isn't one) before implementing redirects.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4613792 posted 6:07 am on Oct 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

Redirecting the whole site is easy, but I was thinking of saving the traffic from the old long tail urls.

You are correct that preserving the old long tail traffic will require some special attention, particularly when the site structure and destination page content may have changed. That's because the old long tail pages cease to exist when you 301 redirect them, and long tail in particular can depend a lot on onpage factors and internal navigation. So it's not just about link juice and external inbound anchor text, which do survive redirection.

so that the target pages are as close as possible to being a verbatim copy of the html-code

I definitely would not go that far. I've had long tail rankings survive substantial rebranding/ redesign/ and recoding, and I agree with aakk9999 that the HTML doesn't make any difference.

But the onpage text, as I note above, can be important, and reproducing that text might be more or less the most expedient way of preserving some of the key reasons for a page's long tail ranking. The onsite nav anchor text that points to the page is likely also a factor. Hard to say how many links back in the chain you can reproduce this, though. But, on those levels (onpage text and navigation), I agree with claus that "you are hoping to be able to transfer part-of-site-to-part-of-site."

It's worth noting that much of what will affect long tail in this kind of move will depend on factors that work differently for different sites and for different SEOs. As I see it, these factors include...

- styles of optimization (onpage vs inbound linking)...
- site structure...
- onpage content...
- the particular combinations of onpage content with the inbound link authority and anchor text...
- how competitive the long tail searches are.

Normally, I'd say that taking pages that had inbound links and traffic and redirecting them to appropriate matches would suffice. With preserving long tail a concern, though, I'd definitely want to be aware of why those pages were ranking the way they were and to do all possible to preserve the text and most important aspects of nav and structure that helped in the ranking... and to include that material on the new site.

I've seen two side-by-side sites up in situations like this, and it's been educational. More to be said in subsequent posts, but I wanted to get these thoughts in the hopper.

I assume from earlier comments that you will be able to make some changes on the new site before you start redirecting.

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