8 SEO tips for migrating your site to a new domain

04. Country code top-level Domains (ccTLDs) example.co.uk, example.de – Country-level domains will typically only rank in their   equivalent country, so if you want to market your site across the globe, don’t use one of these. However, link building comes in many forms and it can be difficult   to contact everyone who has linked to your content, especially if you haven’t built the links yourself. Reporting links  
Another element of SEO that shouldn’t be overlooked during a   site migration is link building. First, you need to add your new site to your Webmaster Tools account and verify it. In this tutorial, I’ll take you through some of the basics that you should think about before, during and after a big international site migration, so you can be sure your website and business don’t suffer. As well as email addresses, you can also view Facebook, Twitter and Google+ profiles of site owners, drastically cutting the time you need to spend on research. 02. Sub-directories can be geo-targeted using Google’s Webmaster Tools, so ranking shouldn’t be an issue. The main way to signal to search engines that your site is written in a particular language is to use   hreflang tags, which can be added either to the head   section of the page or to a sitemap. After all, you don’t want to have to go through all this again in a year or two. 01. Once you have migrated your site successfully, create a sitemap of the new URLs and upload it to the   site’s root with the standard filename: www.example.com/sitemap.xml. The Sitemaps section enables you to see how many pages have been successfully submitted and crawled, helping you to identify and rectify any issues with your sitemap or your site’s structure. You can do this easily using Google Webmaster Tools. First of all, you don’t want your new site to be   crawled and indexed by Google while your old site is still around, so you need to block it until it’s ready to go live. To block the entire site, add the following code to the robots.txt file and upload it to the site’s root:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /
 
To block a single sub-directory, simply use the folder name instead of the slash:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /folder-name/
 
Once your new site is ready to rock and roll, unblock it   and submit your sitemap to Google. 07. If you check each of these small tasks off your list, you’ll be well on your way to a well-optimised website that’s loved by search engines all over the world. Using permanent 301 redirects ensures that most   of the value from your old pages is passed onto the new ones. It’s important to cover everything, though, otherwise Google may see your pages as being   duplicates – which can generate major ranking problems for you. If you have a ccTLD this is automatically set as the domain’s default country; however, if you are using sub-directories, sub-domains or a global domain, then definitely spend five minutes setting this up. This means that repointing these valuable links is just a case of pinging off a few emails. Robots.txt
A robots.txt file is essential when migrating a website. However, if you’re moving from a .com to a sub-directory or vice versa, then you might have issues when the search engines try to rank your site in the relevant countries. Once this is set, Google should start to index and rank your site in the correct country. This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 256. This means that the file can get pretty large. A hreflang tag added to a single page would look something like this:

link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http://example.com/es/page.html” /
 
The above tag shows Google that the specified page in the /es sub-directory is written in Spanish. Next, you should submit the sitemap to Google using Webmaster Tools. Just go into the Site Settings menu, accessible via the   small   cog icon in the top left of your Webmaster Tools dashboard. Whether you’ve expanded your business into a   new market, or simply want to help existing international customers find your site more easily, it’s important to maintain your web presence in international markets. 301 redirects don’t pass 100 per cent of the value gained from external links, so always look for opportunities to repoint your links if you don’t want to lose any of that hard-earned authority. Domain Choice
Whatever your reason for migrating your website, you should put some thought into the domain you want to move to. 301 redirects can be set up on each individual page, or by using the .htaccess file. Thankfully, there are a few tools out there that can help you manage the process. Change of address
Just like moving house in the real world, you need to notify the post office – or in this case, Google – of your new address. 301s
Redirects are probably the most important part of any   migration, because they make sure both users and search engines are taken directly to your new site. The Sitemaps section is located in   the left-hand menu underneath the Crawl   heading. The various languages for one URL would be written   out like this:

url
lochttp://www.example.com/en/page1.html/loc
xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://www.example.com/de/page1.html” /
xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr” href=”http://www.example.com/fr/page1.html” /
xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://www.example.com/en/page1.html” /
/url
 
The hreflang sitemap should include every page of your site, with a list of every equivalent page in the various languages. Linkdex also comes at a cost but, if you have a large number of links to repoint, it’s well worth the investment. Geo-location  

As well as stating the languages, you should also tell Google which country you want to target. If regex isn’t your strong point, a quick Google search should provide you with an example to copy. You can also use sub-folders to leverage the authority that the TLD may have built up over time, giving your new site a boost. Sitemaps
XML sitemaps are important to ensure your newly migrated site is crawled and indexed by the search engines quickly and efficiently. But that doesn’t mean you have to risk your traffic and search engine rankings to do so. This is really simple and, again, can   be done within Webmaster Tools. You can use Open Site Explorer for free, but for a full list of your links you need to sign up to Moz Pro and pay a monthly fee. You may see a slight drop in some rankings, if your   pages are vastly different, for example. There are ways around this, of course, which I’ll go into later in this article. 05. 06. 03. Language  
Search engines strive to present the best content possible to users, and helping them to understand the   language of your content – and the country you want to target – will go a long way towards helping it   rank well. If you have been conducting targeted content creation and manual outreach, then you should already have developed relationships with some of the site owners who have linked to you.

Updated: 13.11.2014 — 07:07