Domain Migration: How to do it in an SEO-efficient way
- September 19, 2013 5:00 pm
- Web Hosting
Domain migrations can be challenging. No matter how fast the transfer speed is, there will likely be some downtime during the process. There is also the SEO aspect that needs to be taken into consideration. Since there are many tasks that are performed during a domain transfer, SEO can be affected, making it hard for search engines to crawl and index your site. This can lead to a loss in rankings and organic traffic.
No matter how big or small your site is, migration is a process that needs to be planned out well in advance in order to minimize headaches. If you’re thinking about going through a domain migration, either now or in the future, here is what you need to be aware of, and what you need to do to transfer your domain with ease.
- Plan and organize
Planning for the migration is tedious work. However, the more you plan and prepare, the better it will be before, during, and after the migration process. During the planning stage, you need to build a sitemap which outlines your site pages. This makes it easy to organize which pages will remain the same, which pages will need changes, and which pages you need to get rid of. Your sitemap should include the current URLs from either your own database or from server logs, as well as outline the updated URLs for the new domain. For example, maybe your current URL for your blog is www.karenscafe.biz/blog and you’re changing it to www.karenscafe.com/blog. The details for every URL need to be outlined so that everything is kept organized and documented.
You will also need to gather your rankings and traffic information. Collect the rankings and related keywords per page, as well as the organic traffic information and related keywords per page. It’s also important to list internal and external links to your site pages citing things like the source, authority, and anchor text.
Essentially, the major point of the planning stage is to organize and gather all information about your current site and figure out what will be changing for your new domain.
Next, you will want to implement the plan you organized in Step 1. First, you should block your new domain from being viewed by visitors and crawled by search engines so that you can verify that the transfer has been done properly. This can be done by requiring authentication and enabling robots.txt blockage. By enabling robots.txt blockage, search engines will not be able to crawl your site while you are transferring and making changes. Once the transfer is complete and all changes are made, you can disable the blockage so that search engines will be able to crawl and index your new domain. Take a look at this resource from SEOmoz that explains what robots.txt is and how to enable it. More information about robots.txt can also be found on the Web Robots Pages.
Now you will be able to verify that all of your links are directing to the new URLs of your new domain. So, going back to our example, you will want to ensure that www.karenscafe.biz/blog is now directing visitors to www.karenscafe.com/blog (along with all other URLs on your site). Once you have made sure that all URLs, links, and content are correct, you can disable the authentication and the robots.txt blockage so that people can visit your new domain and search engines can begin crawling and ranking your new site.
Now that you have planned and executed the migration of your site to a new domain, it’s time to observe and monitor the migration. You should track the rankings and monitor the organic traffic of your new domain. Determine which new keywords are driving traffic to your new domain and which keywords are not working so well. Compare these numbers to the data you gathered from your old domain. This will help you determine what you are doing right and what still needs work.
It’s also good to verify which external links are still linking to the old domain and ask these sites (where possible) to update links to your new domain. In our example you may find that an online business directory of restaurants and cafes is still linking to your old domain www.karenscafe.biz. Ask them to update the link to your new domain www.karenscafe.com.
Now you know what you need to do in order to transfer your domain name with ease. It can be a long road, but following the above steps and being well organized will make the migration process much easier.