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Rename and rebrand for an established forum

How should I tackle it?

3:42 pm on Dec 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I have been running a forum for several years now for a particular niche, the membership isn't huge at about 1300 but the forum has a reputation for being a good, welcoming and friendly site with lots of useful information and helpful members.

In recent months we've seen an increased growth in members and people participating, which is good. I have a good team of moderators and tend not to be troubled too much with flamers and trouble makers (touch wood).

The site is based on a particular brand of gadget in a popular niche. When the site started the gadget was owned by one company who has since been merged/bought by another bigger company who have since changed the model range name. The current url includes the old model name which is now out of date. It doesn't contain the manufacturer/owners name, just the model range name.

So an update is due. I have the new domain names, again no mention of the manufacturer, but a mention of the model range name. I now need to rebrand the site and move to the new domain. I know including the model name is a risk, as there is a remote chance it could change again, but otherwise it sounds to generic in an already competitive niche.

The forum uses an open source script which is due to have a new version release soon, and I want to move to that new version of the script as part of the rebrand.

So, the challenge:

1. Move to a new domain. 301 all old addresses to point to the new url. Is that all for that? Url structure should stay consistent (but I'm still checking that bit)

2. Rebrand. New site design, better placed advertising space/management. More user friendly, taking on board a lot of good suggestions by members.

3. New script. I don't see this as a big issue, I am testing the beta at the moment.

Has anyone successfully moved a forum to a new domain while keeping good SERPs and traffic?

Any tips would be useful.

2:32 pm on Dec 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

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As long as your URL structure is not changing, you should have no problem 301-ing everything to the new domain.

From what I have read, this is about all you can do aside from contacting sites that link to you and letting them know of your new domain.

Most search engines will understand that you have premanently moved your domain and there shouldn't be too many issues.

Can't say the transition will be perfect, and I'm sure you might see a flux in search rankings. But it should go back to normal in time.

The question I see is the relevence of domain age as it relates to rank, and whether age gets passed via the 301. That may not be a even 1 to 1 trade. But I am not sure.

2:11 pm on Dec 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Maximillianos, I get the url structure checked and work out the relevant 301's I'll need.

The contacting other sites will be done as part of the launch too, thanks for that reminder.

My aim is to also introduce improvements that should help the SERPs too so all being well after the initial change things should go back to normal or preferably better.

4:12 am on Dec 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

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joined:Jan 26, 2004
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I would expect 10+ months until your new domain shows up in Google.