Google’s internal process for dealing with a site domain migration
As a business, especially one that needs to have an online presence, there will be instances that you would need to change your domain name (website address) or implement an HTTPS (a secure port on the host server). This is something that needs careful planning, especially if you will plan on just changing the website address and keeping all of the old content in your present website.
If you are planning a site migration, you also need to consider that you cover all bases so you don’t lose any of your SEO footings on the web. Read our site migration SEO checklist so you don’t lose site traffic.
The Sandbox Effect
It has been speculation among many that site migrations trigger the “sandbox effect.” This situation puts your website in a “sandbox” where you are not “discoverable” (or are on the least priority) on search engine page results (SERPs).
John Mueller of Google disputes this. In his opinion, there is no sandbox effect—it is just a traditional site move as you move from one domain to another. If you are keeping your content, you need to redirect your old URLs to the new ones, and that process takes time.
“If you have to do a site move, then do a site move and redirect all of your pages.
It’s often the easiest approach to redirect all pages at once. Our systems have the ability to recognize that.”
Furthermore, he advises doing all redirects in bulk. This means if you move sites, redirect your old pages all at once. Google recognizes this movement and will speed up processing your new website—indexing it—than slowing it down.
Domain Site Migration Checklist
Site migration can be part of a digital marketing strategy, and that is perfectly fine. Be sure to follow this guide to ensure it is implemented correctly:
- 1. Consider if migration is the only choice or the right choice. Migrations always result in a temporary loss of traffic. A digital marketing agency can help you discern if a site migration is worth it.
- 2. Test, test, and test. Never do a site migration without testing everything first before roll-out. Use a test server and verify if redirects work properly and don’t slow down anything.
- 3. Migrate during downtime or a slow period. If your business booms on a specific season like the holidays, plan your migration after.
- 4. Have a complete list of URLs from your present site before migration. Remove or replace links that point to 404 pages. This can be done by doing a site crawl.
- 5. Take note of Google analytics data. Since you will be migrating to a new address, your analytics will also change. You need a benchmark to compare when you move so you can adjust if there is a loss of traffic.
- 6. Map changed URLs. Again, you should have a list of old and new URLs. This is so you can also update all internal links eventually.
- 7. Resolve duplicate content issues that might arise.
- 8. Submit sitemap for the new website on Google Search Console. Make sure the Google Search Console is set up properly.
- 9. Make sure that a custom 404 page is created.
- 10. Keep your old domain name. Do not let it go.
Plan Your Site Migration with a Search Engine Marketing Expert
If you are planning a business rebrand, a site migration is in order. However, doing a site migration with taking SEO into account can worsen your rebrand, not strengthen it. Make sure to consult with a digital marketing agency like IBA that has a team of search engine marketing experts that can advise you on the best way to move forward. Ring me today.
Mustafa Hassan, Mr. SEO