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Checklist for Moving an Existing Site to New Domain



6:17 pm on Apr 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

For branding purposes, we are moving a blog from its current URL (a subdomain of the main site) to its own domain. The blog has grown big in the past few years, developed its own audience, with loyal visitors and lots of referrals. Search engines account for only 40% of its traffic. It is in Technorati's top 100 for politics.

The site will be moving its own domain and launching a new site design. Based on Google's advice [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...] we're doing the whole thing as a two step process: move the site first to the new domain, before launching the redesign.

I've read through the various posts for moving an existing site to a new domain. I've compiled a list of things to do, and I'd really appreciate it if you could take a look at it and let me know what else needs to be done.

Before the Move to new domain:

- List all current URLs and the corresponding URLs of the new domain
- List all sites currently linking to the blog and contact them and request them to change their links to the new site
- Change all links within the blog itself and the main site is edited to the new domain
- Add the new domain in GWT and verify the new domain name
- Use the change of address tool in GWT to notify Google of the site's move
- Inform Google News of the change of the site's domain
- Install Wordpress in the new domain (blog runs on Wordpress)
- In Wordpress, tell search engines not to index the site yet
- Copy the database, contents, files, etc. in the new domain
- Change the Feedburner settings
- Put in the redirect 301
- Test the install, and verify the header response
- Let search engines crawl the new site
- Keep the old domain to make sure everything is redirecting
- After two weeks, launch the new design for the blog

My questions is:

1. How long should we let the blog sit in its new domain with the current design before changing the design? Is 2 weeks enough to let the search engines catch up?

2. At what point should we use the change of address tool in GWT to notify Google of the site's move? Should it be as soon as we move the contents of the site? Or is this something we could do even before? We've been using the new domain currently to redirect to the old domain, and this whole thing is intended to reverse this.

Thanks for your advice


7:01 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Reversing the direction of a domain 301 can be a challenging step to take - you're wise to be approaching it so systematically. Two weeks does sound like enough time to me.

About using the change of address tool, I'd say as soon as the content is live at the new address. Same thing for the Google News account. However, I would make sure any robots.txt disallows, meta noindex tags or x-robot directives were all changed to allow crawling BEFORE notifying either WMT or Google News.


7:31 pm on Apr 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I'll be spending the weekend doing something very similar.

For me the new domain was set up and pointed to the server 2 weeks ago to make sure it resolves for everyone by the time of the move (dns takes a time to propagate). The new domain will be disallowed by robots.txt until the site is set up and working on there. Once it's set up and working I'll allow on robots.txt and put the 301 redirects in on the old site. Then I'll change links and any google stuff (they can go through the redirect initially).

My design change happened about 2 weeks ago. Main thing with timing is to try to see what effect the design change has as opposed to the domain change. You never really know which has what effect and effects can be delayed, though it's worth doing the two on different dates - if traffic stops dead just after a change then it gives you less to debug.


10:57 am on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Thanks Ted

My confusion lies in the instruction in Google News that said

Before switching, submit the URL of your new site at least two weeks before the scheduled change

Moving domains sure is scary :o(


6:03 pm on Apr 22, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I assume that applies to Google News, because they have certain systems they need to change. Organic search isn't that way. In fact, the change of address form is rather new and it is not a requirement at all. It is supposed to help them sort out some complex cases, I think.

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