7 Jul, 2015

Migrating to a New Domain

Changing your website address? It doesn’t happen that often, but when it does you need to make sure it’s done right – the results of getting it wrong can have repercussions up and down the business.

It doesn’t help that URL changes most naturally occur at the same time as big moments for your company – times like a new brand being announced or that big merger deal finally through. Your website is likely to get more traffic at these times – so don’t leave anything to chance.

At Pixelbuilders we understaand the importance of keeping your online presence up to date and to help you with your site migration we’ve put together this handy list to help you outline some of the key steps you should go through.

Pre-address Change

- Set up your new address in Webmaster Tools – you don’t need a site live at this point and can generally use domain settings to verify the domain in the account.

- Make sure you’ve got your old address set up in Webmaster Tools – you probably already have, but worth double checking.

- Map all your old URL paths to their new pages – if you’re launching an entirely new site at the same time, it’s highly likely that your website URLs have changed so /our-company is now /about-us. Lots of CMS systems, like Kentico or WordPress, have tools you can use to do this and give the correct 301 code for the re-direct (that’s really important for search and telling Google where the page now lives).

Options for Go-live

- Decide how you’re going to go live – domain changes can take a while to come through (up to 24 hours) and depending on how you want to launch or if you’re delivering an entirely new site at the same time, there are a couple of routes you might want to take regarding when to point the old domain to new and whether or not to use a holding page.

On Go-live

- Don’t rush too much, it takes time for domains to resolve and whilst you might be working on the new site with the new domain it might take another few hours for the rest of the world to catch up. Trying to make changes in analytics or webmaster before its’s fully resolved won’t work.
- Just do a double check on the site and run a broken link check – we’re sure like us you’ve checked dozens of times before, but it’s always worth that last check.
- Check your 301s are working.
- First at domain level – does typing in your old domain automatically change to your new address when you press enter?
- Go to Google and type in your company name, click a lower level page (perhaps the /our-company we discussed before) does it redirect to its new location?
- In Webmaster Tools, ‘Fetch as Google’ your new homepage and ensure the status is complete. You can always submit the URL and linked pages to Google at this time too.

As soon as possible after go-live

  • Update your domain in Google Analytics.
  • Submit a change of address to Google Webmaster Tools (and the other search engines too) to let them immediately know your website address has changed, this should stop you losing Google position whilst you change to your new domain.
  • Submit your XML sitemap to the search engines and ensure your robots.txt exists and also includes a link to the XML sitemap.
  • In the days after go-live.
  • Try to change as many listings of your old domain to your new domain as possible – those old membership organisation directories and event listings that you set up a few years ago need changing if you can.
  • Use Webmaster Tools to monitor errors – with the best will in the world for mapping your old URLs to your new one, it’s possible you might have missed one that Google holds a link for – find them, update the 301 and mark them as fixed. Keep on top of this job to make sure that the movement of all your search pedigree transfers to the new site.
  • Use analytics to monitor progress – if your 404 is being hit, where is the traffic coming from (it might be one of those old directories we talked about).
  • It’s a process we’ve been through lots of times and if you follow the steps, it’s relatively easy and pain free – resulting in your new domain being easily available, fully indexed and driving traffic.

For more information contact our friendly team of experts.