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How do I move my website from one domain to another?

     
1:31 pm on Jul 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Guys, I've recently bought a much nicer domain name for my website, and now I need to move this website from old domain to this new one, without getting penalized by google.

What's the best way to do this? Some kind of redirect?

The site has lots of pages, a few thousand. I need this all done automatically.

Thank you.
8:08 pm on July 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

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If you've moved the whole thing you can use google's Change of Address feature. So far I don't think they have a per-directory move option like The Other Search Engine does.

Yes, of course you have to redirect all requests from old name to new. Mechanics will depend on your server. If it's apache, and you're moving the entire domain, it's a single line in htaccess or config. But don't remove any existing rules that lead to a 403. No point in making it too easy for the robots; they'll find you soon enough. Keep any existing redirects, such as for pages you've previously moved or renamed, but change the hostname wherever it occurs.
9:41 pm on July 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

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Google just recently posted an updated guide to site moves that was covered here: [webmasterworld.com...] - that helps give you information of their recommendations to avoid penalties. I don't know any way to do everything "automatically", it does require some work and research but it helps to know what to do and what not to do.
3:08 am on July 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I don't know any way to do everything "automatically"

Well, it depends what you mean by automatic. You have to do the initial work: do a Change of Address in gwt and set up the redirect. But once you've done this-- which should only take a few minutes unless you have a lot of old redirects to customize-- you can sit back happily and never have to think about it again.

At least until the day you realize that the stupid server didn't understand that when I said "rats/" I didn't mean /paintings/rats/ or /fun/images/rats/ or /myrats/ or ... et cetera.
5:24 am on July 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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As lucy said, setup the web change of address in Google's Webmaster Tools. Then you'll want to do a 301 redirect on the old domain pointing at the new domain. If you are on an Apache server, do a search on '301 redirect htaccess' and that should give you some direction on how to setup the htaccess file on the old domain. Also I'm assuming you are keeping the existing file structure the same (i.e. olddomain.com/page1.htm becomes newdomain.com/page1.htm and not olddomain.com/page1.php). If the file extensions or file names change, you'll need to map each one over individually to the new page on the new site.

Since you bought the domain from a third party, I'd run it through a thorough link audit before you make the change. You have no idea what the previous owner did with regards to questionable SEO and unnatural linking. It would be a shame to move the site to a penalized domain, only to find out after the switch.
8:53 pm on July 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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What will you do with the old domain? Park it or let it go? This has to be considered for the future as no SE I know has ever forgotten a url it has indexed. And this is necessary for at least a time period for the redirects to work...
10:21 pm on July 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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What will you do with the old domain? Park it or let it go? This has to be considered for the future as no SE I know has ever forgotten a url it has indexed. And this is necessary for at least a time period for the redirects to work...

Some caution needed here about how this is described.

It's not like once the DNS has propagated the redirect has "worked" and you're finished with it.

You need to continue to hold the old domain and to address its A-records to the new hosting space as long as there's any reference to it on the web (or bookmark remaining) that you might care about. If you remove the old domain from this chain, the redirect is no longer happening. Google (and all the rest of the web) will cease to see the redirection... because at that point there isn't any.

I generally tell clients to keep the old domain for infinity and beyond. ;)
10:59 pm on July 5, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I generally tell clients to keep the old domain for infinity and beyond. ;)


Thanks Robert... I was a bit short speak in that post. I do (and mean) the same thing. You keep it alive. Forever. If for no other reason than a "paper trail" for tax purposes if the site is involved in any kind of commerce as it will show time in business.

Secondarily such maintenance of old site continues any copyright or trademark which might apply.

And (aside) gaining control of a "better" domain name does not mean one SHOULD migrate an already established domain! One could take that newly acquired site and redirect THAT to the existing domain, thus making the old stronger. More than one way to skin a cat... as they say.
2:53 am on July 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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The bottom line here is if you can't or don't want to do the various technical tasks yourself, then find someone or hire someone, because it should be done with care and you want it done right. The first time.
2:55 am on July 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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I generally tell clients to keep the old domain for infinity and beyond.

Along with keeping the code for any redirect you have ever issued anywhere under any circumstances :) (This is the google forum, but Bing's memory is even more tenacious.)

No reason not to keep a name forever: It shouldn't cost you anything beyond domain-name registration. After a few months you can toss it onto a spare server or cheap-ish hosting, because all you have to do is send out the residual 301s in a reasonable amount of time. That's not very resource-intensive.
2:22 pm on July 6, 2014 (gmt 0)

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You need to expect some decrease in Google traffic.

We just moved our blog to its own domain in June and lost 48% Google traffic, even if we did a lot of the recommended pre-move steps.

Before the move, we already contacted the sites linking to us to change the link to the new domain and a big part did it. All redirects were also put in place. Unfortunately, because it was just a subdomain of the main site, we couldn't do the Change of Address notification in GWT. We contacted Google News prior to the move and gave them the move date, and they quickly picked up the new domain on the day the domain switched over.

Thankfully, we made the domain move when we have shrank Google's share of traffic from a high of 60% four years ago to only 1% this year. We have successfully reduced our reliance on Google as the biggest source of traffic. So even if we lost 48% of the traffic, nobody really cared in the organization because Google traffic is now so small as compared to social, email and referral traffic.

If Google is the biggest source of traffic for your site, you need to seriously think how you will mitigate the traffic loss resulting from a domain move.