Moving a website can be a time consuming and irritating task. Not only do you have to cope with the technical challenges of the move itself, and update all of your marketing information and your links, you need to make sure that Google is able to figure out that the web address has changed, and that Google will not penalise your new URL in the search engines.
Google has just updated their guidelines for webmasters who are moving their websites. The new guidelines cover some of the most common issues that webmasters are likely to encounter when they are updating their URLs, and they also cover some issues such as changing your website to a responsive design.
Google’s guidelines are quite extensive, covering not just moving to a new URL, but also moving from one hosting provider to another while keeping all of your existing URLs intact. This kind of move is usually hassle free, but there are some things that webmasters should remember.
Mapping Old URLs to New Ones
The most in-depth part of the guidelines is how to move a site to a new web address. Google provides a lot of detail about how webmasters should map their old URLs to new ones, and also how to ensure that any missed URLs are still redirected for both end-users and the search engines.
The biggest problem will be for webmasters that serve different pages to mobile users and desktop users. Migrating one website is challenging, but migrating a website that serves different URLs for different devices is even more complex. Google advises webmasters to try to get away from this kind of redirect paradigm, focusing on using responsive design so that your initial website design looks good no matter what device it is viewed on.
Google recommends that webmasters use the Change of Address tool that can be found in Google Webmaster tools. To use this tool, both the old and the new domain must be verified. If you no longer have control of the old domain then you will not be able to verify your ownership of it, so it is important that you consider the issue of SEO early on in the moving process.
Even if you are not planning on moving your website any time soon, reading Google’s guidelines is a good idea and could offer some valuable SEO insights.