Preparing to Move a Large Website to a New Domain

Are you moving a website to a new domain, combining multiple websites into one website or changing to a new content management system with new, different URLs?

There are many reasons for changing a website domain name including rebranding which could result in a complete change in both the corporate name and the matching domain name or merging one brand and domain name into another.

Someone in the marketing department of a medium-size hotel chain wrote a question to Kalena Jordan at SiteProNews.com asking about what to expect after a rebranding and a domain name change for each of their hotels.

Among other good suggestions, Kalena wrote that the company “keeps ownership of the old domains and keeps all sites live until the new domain has fully propagated.”  However, because of incredibly bad mistakes I’ve seen, I wanted to add two points:

  1. The old domain name(s) should be kept not just until the new site is live but be kept forever; and
  2. Most importantly, that the old domain names point to the new domain name! One of the really unbelievably bad mistakes I frequently see is where a company, because of rebranding or restructuring, uses a new domain name and keeps ownership of the old domain name registration but fails to point the old domain name to the new website so thousands of visitors to the old domain name see absolutely nothing.  My guess is that somebody in the corporate structure thinks it would be a good idea to completely separate the two brands and kill off the old brand but this is a major mistake.  Pointing the old domain name to the new domain name has no negative impact on the brands and instead of converting website visitors from the old brand into the new brand, they are just lost forever.  Make sure you redirect your domain name using a 301 redirect (if you don’t know how to do that, ask your domain company).

Another very common change I often see done incorrectly is changing the website navigation structure. I frequently see both small and large company websites move content to new pages with new URLs without using a 301 redirect.

Other websites which previously linked to the moved page now have a dead link which takes a website visitor to a 404 Page Not Found error page resulting in loss of the SEO benefit and even worse, most likely loss of an interested visitor when confronted with a 404 Page Not Found page.  Make sure all of your old pages have a 301 redirect to the new page location.

It’s amazing how many webmasters of even large corporations fail to use a 301 redirect and also fail to use a custom 404 error page with corporate branding and which can properly redirect a lost visitor.

Kalena Jordan wrote a good outline of the phases for a successful website migration at her website, “Ask Kalena | Your Daily Search Engine Advice Column”.

Read how the Guardian moved their website from the domain guardian.co.uk to theguardian.com

Achieving an SEO-Friendly Domain Migration – The Infographic with links to articles on migrating a website

How to clean up your site structure – by Michiel Heijmans at yoast

How To Move A WordPress Site – A Checklist

How to Protect Your SEO Rankings When Migrating Content to a New Domain – Elegant Themes Blog

If you need help migrating your WordPress site, Fantasktic is a company that does migrations.

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