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There are many reasons to decide to move a website. These range from moving to a new server because you’ve decided to switch hosting providers, to simply redirecting your existing files to a new domain name. Either way, when you move your website, your search engine rankings may be affected. Here’s some common website moving methods that will affect your search engine rankings if all you do is move your website, without letting the search engines know you did:
Reasons you might want to move your website
Moving to a new server
You may be moving to a new server because your current hosting company is experiencing too much downtime, or has crappy customer service, or maybe even because you need to upgrade from a shared hosting to a dedicated environment because of an increase in online traffic or bandwidth consumption.
Moving to a new domain name
You may be moving your website because you’ve found a spiffy new domain name that you like much better than your current one. Or maybe you finally got enough cash together to buy the name you’ve been eyeing for a while.
Whatever the reason for moving your website, it’s important that you move not only your live files, which are the ones hosted directly on your server – i.e. the ones you upload and edit every day (or, if you’re using a CMS such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, the values stored in a database that are affected directly when you login to edit a page), but also your pages indexed in search engines.
How do I know what pages are indexed in search engines?
To find out which of your pages are indexed in search engines, you can query the search engine. Each search engine uses a different method for this:
- Google: type “site:example.com” to get a listing of pages indexed. You can click on “show omitted results” on the last page to get them all.
- Yahoo: the same, except you will be redirected to Yahoo’s Site Explorer.
- MSN: the same, except you will be redirected to Bing.
Each search engine will return a list of indexed pages, along with a number of how many pages are indexed. You’ll want to go through these and redirect each one to your new website.
Setting and maintaining your 301 permanent redirects
If your new website is simply moving to a new server, and you are keeping your domain name, all you will need to do is keep both sites up for a few weeks to ensure the search engines are aware of the switch. If, however, you are using a new domain name, you will need to physically program 301 (permanent) redirects for all your pages. We recommend leaving the 301 redirects up indefinitely, as some pages take longer to redirect than others. To find out how to implement 301 redirects using various programming languages and server systems, visit our article on search friendly domain and file redirects.