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Out with the Old, In with the New: How to Correctly Move a Website

Jul 05th, 2016

Sometimes you want to change your website domain. Maybe you’re unhappy with your host and want to move to someone else, or maybe you just want a domain name of your very own. Whatever the reason, at some time in the future you might want to move your website and when that day comes, you want to do it properly. The biggest mistake website owners make when it comes time to move their website? They shut down their old site and just start uploading to the new one. This causes several problems which in the end will only frustrate you and your visitors.

If you simply take down your old site, you’ve effectively lost all of the hard work you’ve put into getting Google and other search engines to recognize your site. And while those search engines will eventually find the new site, it’s not going to happen overnight and having an old site to redirect to the new will help speed along that process.

By simply taking down the old site, you’re also losing any links to that site that appear on other pages. This will result in broken links on those pages and that will frustrate everybody – readers, owners of other websites, and you, because you’ll lose traffic that was directed right to your site.

So how do you solve those problems? No, you don’t have to continue to run two separate sites. Well, at least not forever.

You do need to keep the old site around for a little while, if only so that you can place permanent redirects on every page. A permanent redirect is a link that will automatically redirect visitors from the old page to the new once you have moved your site. You’ve most likely seen these on other websites. They typically come in the form of a message that says, “You are being automatically redirected to the website www.newwebsite.com. Click here or copy and paste the address if you are not redirected in 5 seconds.”

Remember that any page that’s on your old site can still be found by Google, and may still be searched for by users. Because of this, it does no good to simply place a permanent redirect on your home page only, because now only that home page will be redirected to the new site. Visitors that have made their way to your site via a link on another page may still be left with an error message, and Google is no longer seeing any new content on your website.

Configuring the pages to include permanent redirects involves using meta elements in your HTML, and it can become a bit complicated. If you’re unsure of how to do it, ask your web host or an IT consultant that might even be able to complete the process for you.

You should keep your old site up and running for a little while after you’ve already moved in, but there are a couple of ways you can tell when it’s ready to be taken down. The first is to search different search engines for your company name. When you’re no longer seeing the address of the old site in the search results, Google is no longer picking it up anyway and enough time should have passed that visitors are already aware of the change in address.

Also remember to start tracking traffic to the new site right away, using web server log analysis. This will tell you when visitors are starting to find the new site and how many are visiting every day or month. When that starts to reach the numbers your old site once did, it’s safe to take the old site down.