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Safely Redirecting Your Domain Name or Moving Webpages

Webmasters and naturally paranoid they will accidentally lose their search engine positions if they change their domain name, or permanently redirect web pages using 301. The whole experience of moving webpages from a static file structure to a dynamic file structure has to be handled with great care, planning and forethought….

Will Moving Domain Name or Webpages Hurt My Website?

It is quite common that webmasters need to change their domain names, either for re-branding purposes, or to switch to a more country specific domain. Similarly, many Webmasters want to permanently convert from static HTML pages, to dynamic asp or aspx webpages within their existing domain. Older websites that were originally built using static HTML files become increasingly difficult to manage as the number of pages increases. Similarly, it becomes beneficial to store files in logical subfolders from the root. This helps search engines understand the nature of the content and its relationship to similar files. In addition, with the advent of MVC, many Webmasters need a migration process to take them from a physical file structure to a virtual file structure.

So the need increases to permanently redirect those old flat files using server side includes or to a database connected content management system. Although there is little SEO benefit from doing this, as any Webmaster knows, using dynamic webpages can dramatically speed up personal productivity.

Naturally, webmasters are concerned that such a wholesale change will damage traffic volumes. Changing domain names should not be done lightly. Start with a written migration plan. There are plenty of online site migration guides, depending on your individual circumstances. As I am about to change the name of this site and move a few files around, I thought it highly pertinent to share my migration plan and progress…

There is no right or wrong way to permanently redirect an entire domain or webpages within a domain – especially if you are relying on shared hosting. If your site runs on a shared Windows server, you will need access to IIS Software control panel. If it’s hosted on UNIX on LINUX, you will need access to the .htaccess file. These processes are vital. However, many hosting companies deny customers access to either of these functions, on security grounds. However, some hosting companies may be able to implement the following migration steps for you…

Redirecting Individual Files Within a Domain

To eliminate unnecessary penalties, the following logical steps need to happen in a very short sequence from one another.

The first step is to replicate the destination webpages which are mirroring your source files. It might be prudent to temporarily password restrict the new destination webpages, to stop spider bots accidentally caching them, thereby risking a duplicate content penalty prior to redirection.

Then just after you have unlocked the new source file to the public web, you should make sure all site wide internal links are re-pointed to the new destination file and not the source file. The physical method of redirection will depend on the file type of the source webpage. If the webpages you want to redirect are static .aspx or .aspxl flat files, you should update the .htaccess file or use the IIS control panel.

Redirecting an Entire Domain to a New Domain Name

Prior to doing anything, you should gather up a list of all external links to the site you are going to redirect. To do this, make a list of contact forms and email addresses associated with each full url where your link is located. Following completion of the redirection process you should contact all Webmasters on websites where your link is located and respectfully request that they update their own webpages with your new link details. Some webmasters may take weeks to respond, (if at all). So build in some extra time into your migration plan.

To permanently redirect all traffic to a new domain, the first step is to create a locked off mirror of the web files. Then redirect all the files to their counterpart mirror (as per above). Check all internal links are pointing to the new site. If you are happy to unlock the new website to the public web, you are ready to create a new domain in Webmaster tools and verify it. Enter a ‘change of address’ (under ‘Site Configuration’). Keep the old site going forever (to prevent competitors or domain name pirates from damaging your new website).
We hope these migration tips help you in migrating your website safely and sensibly.

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