If you're planning on moving your site to a new domain, here are some tips that will help you retain your site's ranking in Google's search results. Your aim is to avoid 404 (File Not Found) errors when users click on links to your site.
- If you're changing your domain because of a rebrand or redesign of your site, you might want to think about doing this in two phases: first, move your site; and secondly, launch your redesign. This manages the amount of change your users see at any stage in the process, and can make the process seem smoother. Limiting the number of changes at any one time can also make it easier to troubleshoot unexpected behavior.
- Use a 301 Redirect to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site. This tells search engines and users that your site has permanently moved. We recommend that you move and redirect a section or directory first, and then test to make sure that your redirects are working correctly before moving all your content.
Don't do a single redirect directing all traffic from your old site to your new home page. This will avoid 404 errors, but it's not a good user experience. It's more work, but a page-to-page redirect will help preserve your site's ranking in Google while providing a consistent and transparent experience for your users. If there won't be a 1:1 match between pages on your old site and your new site (recommended), try to make sure that every page on your old site is at least redirected to a new page with similar content.
- Check both external and internal links to pages on your site. Ideally, you should contact the webmaster of each site that links to yours and ask them to update the links to point to the page on your new domain. However, if this isn't practical, make sure that all pages with incoming links are redirected to your new site. You should also check internal links within your old site, and update them to point to your new domain. Once your content is in place on your new server, use a link checker like Xenu to make sure you don't have broken legacy links on your site. This is especially important if your original content included absolute links (like www.example.com/cooking/recipes/chocolatecake.html) instead of relative links (like ../recipes/chocolatecake.html).
- To prevent confusion, it's best to retain control of your old site domain for at least 180 days.
- Use the Change of Address tool in Webmaster Tools to notify Google of your site's move. (Note: To use the Change of Address tool, you must be a verified owner of both the new and the old sites.)
- Add your new site to your Webmaster Tools account, and verify your ownership of it.
- Use the Fetch as Google tool to ask Google to crawl your new site.
- We recommend that you create and submit a Sitemap listing the URLs on your new site. Submitting a Sitemap is a way to tell Google about pages on your new site that we might not otherwise discover.
Once you've completed all these steps, you can use your Webmaster Tools data to check that everything is working correctly. While it can be some time before Google crawls your old and new sites, and all these changes take effect, here are a few ways to check that the process is working correctly:
- Check the web crawl errors for both your old and new sites, to make sure that the 301 redirects from the old site are working properly, and that the new site isn't showing unwanted 404 errors.
- If you've submitted a Sitemap for your new site, the Sitemap Details page lets you see how many URLs in your Sitemap we've crawled and indexed.