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Mass changes of URLs and Domain names

old sites to become subdirectories of a single domain name

     
1:47 pm on Jun 1, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

I have an interesting challenge to advise on how to undertake the following, limiting the impact on Google rankings!

Following a change in corporate policy a new CMS system has been introduced across our organisation. This CMS is being used for all our websites (so all page URLs will change). At the same time the domain name policy is changing so instead of having website running under their own domain names, they will become subdirectories of a single domain name.

So the following:
www.maincompany.com
www.mycompany.co.uk
www.anothercompany.com
www.yetanother.org.uk
www.evenanother.net.uk

Will become:
www.maincompany.com
www.maincompany.com/mycompany
www.maincompany.com/anothercompany
www.maincompany.com/yetanother
www.maincompany.com/evenanother

The question is what should be done to minisime the impact on Google search results, or should we expect total chaos. The present idea is to provide 301 redirects on as many URLs as possible (tens of thousands, as there are actually upto 26 websites each with over 1,000 pages). But what else should or could be done?

One last question, is the challenge made any worse by changing domain name, or would it be the same if they were continuing to use their own domains, but all had new page URLs?

Many thanks.

3:58 am on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Hello dwarren01, and welcome to the forums.

Sorry that the first thing I have to say to you is so pessimistic -- I would say to expect total ranking chaos.

Your challenge is made MUCH worse by using a new domain name. Introducing all new urls within an established domain is tricky, but still do-able with a minimum of loss as long as you take precise technical care of how your old URLs are treated.

But moving to a new domain usually involves many weeks/months of lost traffic. And then there's the fact of combining 5 old domains into a single new one. Very long term, the new unifiede domain might eventually dominate, but certainly not for quite a while.

If this is only to accommodate a new CMS, I'd say don't do it. If the new corporate policy really needs one domain, then be prepared for either a big PPC ad spend or a loss of income that was driven by search traffic.

1:41 pm on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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www.maincompany.com

Are we to assume that this is already an established and ranking domain or a brand new unused domain?

5:18 pm on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Good question. I was assuming a brand new domain when I wrote my reply. If the domain is already established, things do get a bit easier - but still the likelihood of big trouble is very real. This is doubly so if even the file names are changing to accomodate the new CMS. Placing a 301 for every page that points to its new location -- or at least every KEY page (external backlinks or good search traffic) -- is extremely important in that case.
7:03 pm on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Several other quick questions/comments come to mind....

First, is the CMS search engine friendly?

Secondly, the site architecture that's going to result from the re-organization (as suggested below) is not likely to be even close to optimal structure for SEO....

Will become:
www.maincompany.com
www.maincompany.com/mycompany
www.maincompany.com/anothercompany
www.maincompany.com/yetanother
www.maincompany.com/evenanother

It's not necessarily topical and doesn't appear to take into account logical PageRank distribution. It's company/prior-site centric, and raises a big flag for me, which is....

...is the intention to preserve old domain name identity for each corresponding subdirectory? Ie, do you intend to have "anothercompany.com appear in the browser address bar when you access www.maincompany.com/anothercompany?

If so, then you're planning to 302 redirect anothercompany.com to www.maincompany.com/anothercompany, and you're going to have dupe content issues and total chaos... even more so than the above consolidation outline suggests.

You should use 301 permanent redirects, which will cause your original domains effectively to disappear and be replaced by the new directory names.

If you are going to consolidate sites (and good arguments might be made for doing that), then you really need a topically logical architecture... and you should be prepared to lose rankings for a fair amount of time in exchange for eventual gains.

Among other considerations, you need to consider current rankings and reasons for them, including inbound links, particulary deep inbound links, to the current sites.

In any event, btw, the subdirectory...

www.maincompany.com/anothercompany

should end with a trailing slash, as in...

www.maincompany.com/anothercompany/

Edited to clarify.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:33 pm (utc) on June 4, 2007]

8:55 pm on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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I very recently moved several sites to folders within another site. I did not, however, change anything else about the sites (no cms / url changes, etc.). I 301'd the domains to their new corresponding folders on the new parent domain. (New doesn't mean brand new either. The new domain is several years old, but has never had the content from each of these sites before, so that's what I mean by "new"). No content changes were made. No other url changes were made (other than the obvious domain to folder changes). It took a month or two for all the sites' rankings to first disappear, and then reappear. Some sites reappeared more quickly than others, but none of it was too excruciatingly long.

So...the move itself isn't likely to be a problem. The CMS change...that's another story, and 301's will be your friend here as well, I'm sure.

10:28 pm on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Other issues to this changes are:

- Will the incoming link for the old 301ed url still count as a "vote" for the new url? I mean should dwarren01 ask all his linking partners to rewrite the links in favour of the new ones (if the sites are well established could be thousands, even the ones dwarren01 is not aware about) or will the link pointing to 301ed-url still be counted by G as good for the link popularity of the new_url?

- Ok, "size matters" for Google, therefore it could be wise to put all dwarren01's urls under one hat. But: say dwarren01 is using a keyword in the current domain names, like widgetcompany.com will any url holdingcompany.com/widgetcompany/ have the same "allinurl" power of the old widgetcompany.com? I mean having the keywords in the foldername instead of in the domain name, will it affect the visibility power of having the KW in the domain?

- Interlinking issues. Say that all the companies' websites of the dwarren01's constellation are linking all the other companies' websites. Today, he has interlinkings between different sites/domains (hosted or not on the same server): will this condition of risk (risk of being penalized for interlinking) be removed or increased?

In general, then: how much "size matters" for Google? 10 sites of 1,000 pages each are less worthy than one only site of 10,000 pages (given all the other parameters as fixed, of course: backlings, navigation structure etc.?) Is is something "straightforward" or someone of you has had different experiences in the past? In short: is 1+1=2.X always true?

Of course I'm making these questions as I could also be interested in doing something like this.

What I would do is keeping not only the same structure but the same, identical, exact files, navigation structure etc.

In short, I'd phisically copy the entire htdocs directory of a certain child-company.com under the holding-company.com/child-company/ directory of course. In this way every single url will point the very same exact, identical HTML on the new location. there will be not even one bit in difference between the old 301ed location and the new one. The only difference will really be just the url...

I hope I have put some more issues to discuss about...

10:38 pm on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Slightly off-topic as far as an answer is concerned, but this may be worth keeping in mind.

While at first glance my initial impression was "don't do it", thinking about it, it depends how valuable the traffic is. That may sound silly, but look at this way. Many big sites have a web presence to back up the brand, provide information to consumers, but are not necessarily relying on it to make sales.

The site of a car manufacturer for example, or even a finance company, is often primarily a product/company information site and a search on their products or services in Google will bring up plenty of options to buy them elsewhere. Similarly, if it's a well known brand, or brands in your case, the buyer is already on your trail by searching so chances are they will be looking for your site or a partner irrespective as to whether you are top of SERPS.

If that is the case, then yes, much care is needed, but the impact will be far less than if you need to sell.

If sales are key, you could back up the change over with PPC for the short-term to guarantee maintaining exposure while the new site clicks into gear.

Just my $0.02.

Cheers

Simsi

[edited by: Simsi at 10:41 pm (utc) on June 4, 2007]

11:36 pm on June 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

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Will the incoming link for the old 301ed url still count as a "vote" for the new url?

Yes, as long as it only goes through one redirect to get to its destination. Chains of several redirects seem to lose all the backlink influnce and PR passing.