Occasionally, it can be necessary to move a website onto a new or different domain. You might have acquired a better domain name (like home improvement store B&Q purchasing diy.com) or just want to consolidate domains after a merger or takeover.
Whatever the reason, moving domains shouldn't be undertaken lightly; if you get it wrong you risk damaging (or even completely losing) your search engine rankings. A botched move won't do the user experience of your visitors any favours either - 404 (File not found) errors are the last thing anyone wants to see. Image credit: Salim Fadhley
Think of moving domains as a bit like moving house - you can opt to just move your stuff and leave it at that, but for continuity you should really let everyone know where you've gone, arrange to get your mail forwarded etc. Making the transition to a new domain as seamlessly as possible is a similar process; it's essential that everything redirects properly from your old domain to the new one.
How to move domain
1. Place a copy of the old domain website files on the new domain.
2. Create 301 redirects from each page on the old domain that point to the same page on the new domain (A guide on how to do this can be found here: http://www.webconfs.com/how-to-redirect-a-webpage.php).
A 301 redirect tells search engines like Google that the page has permanently moved and to index the new ones instead.
3. Do not use a blanket redirect on all traffic from your old site to the homepage of the new one. Although this will pass search engine ranking value, it will provide a poor user experience for website visitors trying to access specific pages.
If there isn't a corresponding page on the new site, redirect to one with similar content.
4. Update the internal hyperlinks on your website and point them to the new domain locations rather than having them redirect from the old ones. If possible, contact external websites that link into the site and ask them to update their links.
5. Login to Google Webmaster Tools and (a) verify your new site and (b) submit a sitemap. You can also use GWT to check for crawl errors and verify that the 301 redirects are working properly.
6. It may take a while for Google to register the changes in its index, but if the redirects are functioning properly it should only be a matter of time.
If you are also planning a site redesign or changing the branding, it is a good idea to wait until the redirect has been successfully completed before implementing any further changes; it's not only easier to handle, it also limits the change to which you subject your users.
It is likely you will experience a fluctuation in rankings as things settle down - this is normal and, provided everything has been redirected properly, should only be temporary.
If you are considering moving domains, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise you on the process and help ensure it is as painless as possible.