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How to Move Website to a New Domain Without Losing SEO Value

Changing your website’s domain name does not affect your SEO value – if you do it correctly. In fact, depending on the domain name you choose, you may find that you get additional benefits in other areas, such as better positioning in Google Adwords and reduced online campaign costs.

So how do you do it?
Generally, this is done through the use of 301 redirect codes. There are two types of redirect codes that are commonly used in web development – 301 (which indicates a permanent move) and 302 (which lets the search engines know the move is temporary). The transition to a new domain is nearly always a permanent move, which is why the 301 redirect code is used in this case.

Of course, implementing the correct redirect codes is only one part of the domain moving process. Here’s how the entire process looks:

  1. Start by making a copy of your old domain’s sitemap, as well as saving a backup copy of all files from your old domain. You’ll use the sitemap later on when notifying the search engines of your domain change, but you may also find it useful when moving your site over to its new domain.
  2. Rebuild your site on the new domain. Begin creating new content as quickly as possible, paying special attention to link bait style articles that will help build up backlinks to your new domain right away. At the same time, build a new 404 page for your old site that points visitors to your name.
  3. Register both your old and new domains in Google’s Webmaster Tools
  4. Create your 301 redirects using one of the following techniques:
    1. PHP header redirects. If your site is small, add the following code to the header of every page on your site. All pages using this code must be saved as .php files for the script to perform correctly.
      Header( “HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently” );
      Header( “Location: http://www.new-url.com” );
    2. .htaccess redirect. Alternatively, consider adding the following code to your site’s .htaccess file (if one exists) in order to carry out a site-wide redirect. In this example, “/old/old.htm” represents the original folder path and file name, while “http://www.you.com/new.htm” gives the new path and file name.redirect 301 /old/old.htm http://www.you.com/new.htm
    3. Apache mod_rewrite module (if your site is large). This method is quite a bit more complicated, but will allow you to redirect all pages at once. For complete instructions, check out SEOMoz’s Redirection SEO Best Practices page and the Apache URL Redirecting Guide.
  5. Once your 301 redirects are in place, resubmit your old sitemap to Google and Bing, which will cause the search engine spiders to index your 301 redirects and make note of the changes. You should also complete Google Webmaster Tools’ “Change of Address” form to notify Google of your domain change.
  6. After these steps have been completed, submit your new sitemap to the search engines. Then, watch the Google Webmaster Tools account for your new site – once your site has been indexed, your account will be updated and the Diagnostics section will list any errors that have occurred. Also, keep an eye on your search engine rankings throughout this process, as any drops could indicate URLs that aren’t redirecting properly.

This process isn’t an easy one, and considering the stakes at hand should your new site lose any of the SEO authority built up at your old domain, it’s not a bad idea to hire a qualified web developer to manage the process for you. By working with someone who is knowledgeable about the process of moving domains, you’ll ensure that all the hard work and effort you’ve put into your old site won’t be lost throughout the transition.

Source: http://singlegrain.com/how-to-move-domains-without-losing-seo-value/

See also

SEO and Domain Name Best Practices
By Bill Hartzer, Senior SEO Strategist, Globe Runner
What’s a domain name worth nowadays? How does one evaluate a domain name? Importantly, what about moving to and re-branding on a new domain name once you acquire that new domain? These questions, as well as questions about performing due diligence on a domain name and marketing your website on a new domain, are answered in this white paper entitled “SEO and Domain Name Best Practices.”