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Site/Domain Migration - Timing on "Completion"

     
12:55 pm on Jul 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hi folks - long long long time lurker here and haven't really needed to post as I haven't run into many "issues" with Google.

I wanted to query the community to get some insight as to what I should expect for timing on a site/domain migration as what I am currently witnessing doesn't feel right. Per Google's docs they will keep the "change of address" status in effect for 180 days and "within that time they will have crawled and indexed accordingly". I, personally, have seen a few domain change migrations in my time in SEO and they've all taken roughly 3-5 days to make the switch, I am currently going on a month with no change. We knew it wouldn't be a same day change but we are kind of shocked it's taken this long for Google to figure it out.

A little backstory:

- about a month ago we initiated a domain name change (setup new hosting, setup new instance of site, 301'd old pages, submitted 'change of address', etc.)
- we followed all of the steps outlined in Google's own docs (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6033049?hl=en&ref_topic=6033084)
- we have kept everything on the site the same throughout this process (aside from what the help docs above mentioned) and haven't changed anything to avoid any hiccups for Google and to try and limit how much time it would take to be re-indexed at our new brand name's domain


What we are seeing (all via GSC):

- we have no manual actions but when we inspect tools, several URLs are being flagged as duplicate content while others are indexed and fine
- we are seeing Google "indexed but not in sitemap" but when we go to look at the sitemap we submitted Google has a "success" on it
- they are selecting our old URLs as the canonical
- the URLs they have "indexed" are not seeing the same ranking/visibility as they did at our previous domain (we are under the impression it shouldn't be affected too much, we expected a few ranking drops but not completely off the SERP)

I can't really give you any more information than that (NDA) so I understand if you can't pinpoint any specifics. I am just looking more so for feedback around any migrations/timings you guys have or what we should expect. There are a few of us here who think it would be smart to revert and try to recoup and some that think we should keep pushing along and let Google figure it out.. thoughts?
5:55 pm on July 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Hi teepleb and Welcome to WebmasterWorld [webmasterworld.com]

301'd old pages

they are selecting our old URLs as the canonical

several URLs are being flagged as duplicate content

I would take a closer look at how the 301s were done, not saying they were not done correctly but it is a frequent cause of the symptoms I quoted above. Some common issues are combining mod_alias where mod_rewrite is also present. Or leaving off the explicit [R=301] from the rewrite rule (default is 302)

Of course this is all guessing as it assumes you are using an Apache server and are using .htaccess to 301 to the new URLs. IF that is the case you can use various tools to check the headers OR just look at the access logs on the old domain and ensure it shows '301' and not '302' as the response code. Without knowing more about the environment(s) it probably is not helpful to keep guessing here. ;)
7:06 am on July 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Be sure that your sitemap features links with the "new domain name" in their URLs.

It's possible that GoogleBot found the new pages, before finding that the old pages are 301 redirects, so for a while, the Google's index can still have both pages. Just a guess.
2:26 pm on July 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I, personally, have seen a few domain change migrations in my time in SEO and they've all taken roughly 3-5 days to make the switch,


Yes, that used to be the "standard" with everything usually transitioned over the following couple of weeks however this year, especially February/March until May/June, G was definitely, for me, having huge indexing problems with both new pages and 301s.

For the moment this seems to have been resolved for sites up to 2,000 pages, I have no idea for much larger sites.
2:46 pm on July 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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I have to agree with you RedBar, Google seemed to be having multiple issues on multiple fronts starting last April and it took months before there was some return to expected behavior from anything G. If the move started at that time, it would be highly confusing data/info feedback from any of the Google services.
2:48 pm on July 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hi! Thanks for the replies so far.

not2easy - Thanks for the welcome! I appreciate it. We did pull our 301s and verified they were being handling appropriately with little to no chains (had a couple due to https and www things). We have been monitoring access logs and have seen Google crawling/accessing URLs that haven't been seen in years (on the old domain's logs and the new one) that they are now indexing that are being handled via a redirect and/or canonical setup. To make a long story short they are not indexing the pages that are live and chosen as canonicals and claiming those as duplicates while indexing pages that no longer exist or are handled via 301s.

Dimitri - Thanks for the input, we have a sitemap on the new domain that references all of the URLs and we also have a sitemap hosted on the old domain for Google to hit (they've continued to hit it) and see the URLs are redirecting.

RedBar - Yea, we really are not sure how to go about handling this with Google moving forward. After following all of Google's steps & using GSC to monitor (the tool we are told to use) it's really not giving us any information and we are seeing conflicting data. Ex) Inspecting a page on the old domain says our new domain's page is the selected canonical for user and Google. We inspect the new domain's page and Google has declared it as duplicate and they selected a different canonical and they don't give us that canonical. Both pages are no longer indexed, etc. We are seeing this kind of data inconsistencies everywhere in GSC which is making it harder to diagnose legitimate problems. The site sits around a couple hundred pages so the size of the site is rather small in comparison to others in our competitive space which tend to have closer to 1,000 or more.
3:39 pm on July 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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We did pull our 301s and verified they were being handling appropriately with little to no chains (had a couple due to https and www things).
Just a reminder that the order of rules in htaccess is important. Make sure that your canonical rewrite rules for https and www are the last rules in the order. If your rules are OK you should not be able to access the old URLs in a browser and Google should not be able to crawl those URLs.
11:41 am on July 10, 2019 (gmt 0)

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not2easy,

After confirming with our devs again, that is how we handle our redirects. We believe that Google is still treating this site and our old one as two separate entities and just hasn't made the switch yet. It's only been 2-3 weeks, however, we still would have thought our key (top ranking, highest traffic, etc.) pages would have switched but they are actually the last ones to move and because of this we've lost rankings on high volume terms and even several answer boxes waiting for this migration to happen. All of that loss was/is to be expected, however, we felt that this extended time on the "most important pages on the website" wasn't that warranted.