I’m moving to a new domain: how can I ensure I don’t lose my rankings?

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Today I look at the question from Pete Allen at Piano Tuner & Repairs Leicester on how you can ensure you don’t lose your rankings when moving your website to a new domain.

In my #asktheukdomain video I’ll cover the following steps:

Step 1.  Benchmark current performance using Google Analytics, Google Search Console and keyword positions.

Step 2.  Put together a page inventory and redirect plan, mapping old pages to new.

Step 3.  Go live including adding redirects, crawling old pages, updating Google Analytics, creating a new Google Search Console property and submitting a new SML sitemap.

Step 4.  Monitoring traffic, number of indexed pages and sitemaps (pages submitted vs. pages indexed).

You can also take a look at our online guide to migrating your domain or you can download our PDF guide complete with checklist.

Video Transcript

Hello, and welcome to The UK Domain. Today’s question comes from Pete Allen. He’s a piano tuner based in Leicestershire and he asks, “I’m moving to a new domain. How can I ensure I don’t lose my rankings?” So you spend a lot of time and effort putting together a brand new shiny website. Without a decent site migration strategy, nobody’s going to able to find your new pages.

So we’ve covered some of the main points here. We’ve also included a link to a guide in the comments below. So check that out. That’s also got a checklist so you can run through each point and make sure you’ve covered everything.

So, to begin with you want to make sure that you benchmark your current performance. So Google Analytics is going to be a great tool for this. If you don’t have an account already you can sign up for free and it’ll give you lots of information. So if you have an account you should probably look at the last years’ worth of data because that will allow you to account for any trends like seasonal trends and that kind of stuff.

So the organic traffic reports that will show you all the traffic that comes in from the search engines. So you’ll be able to identify later on if there’s any drop or spike. You can also look at your referral traffic. So this is traffic coming from other websites that might be associated with you. And your top landing pages, so this is your most visited pages you obviously want to make sure that you’ll keep driving as much traffic to those pages as you can.

The next tool is another tool from Google, that’s Google Search Console. Again, that’s a free account you can sign up for. If you’ve already got some historical data you can look at the last 90 days’ worth of search queries. So using the search analytics tool you can find out how many people have searched for you and what your top ranking keywords or positions you’ve got, how many people have…the impressions you’ve had, so how many people have actually seen your search result within the SERPS.

And you can also look at the keyword positions as well in there. So once you’ve got those keyword positions you can check them for local results as well, so for Pete’s piano tuning website. He’s based in Leicestershire so he might want to check for the term ‘piano tuner’ and look where he ranks in Leicestershire which is different for the rest of the UK because it’s a local search listing.

The next step you want to do is put together your page inventory. So you can do this quite easily by…it depends if you’ve got lots of pages you might want to crawl your website using a tool like screaming frog. But if you’ve only got five or six pages like in the case of Pete’s piano tuning website you can just list them out and then you want to map those pages to the new ones. So you might have piano tuner repairs/piano tuner, and that might change to piano tuner repairs/piano tuning, and you just want to make sure that you’ve got the redirect in place for that. So as you can see here you’ve got the old website, the new website, all the pages are just going to be simply redirecting across.

So moving on to the actual Go Live. So obviously you’ve put together your list of redirects, so you actually now have to set them live. So they should be 301 permanent redirects. And then you want to crawl all of the old pages. So basically either crawl or just visit the pages to make sure that you are actually being redirected to the new page.

You should update your Google Analytics account if appropriate, so you’ll have to add the tracking code onto your new pages. You’ll also want to update any events or goals that you’ve set up or any filters that you may have set up in your Google Analytics account. You should create a new Google Search Console property for the new domain and then through that you want to upload your new XML site map. And then you should check on your robot.txt file. So it’s quite common if you’re working on a new website you might want to disallow all the pages while it’s in the development stages. So you just got to remember to remove that disallow statement otherwise Google will not be able to visit it.

And then update your links, so internal links, if you’re just moving content straight across make sure that they’re pointing to the new pages and then external links as well. So if you can get, or inbound links should I say, if you get any of those updated so you may have a friend of yours is linking to a webpage, you could speak to him asking him to update to the new webpage. And then finally if you’ve got any paid activity going on, so you might be running an AdWords campaign just make sure that they’re linking through to the correct pages.

And finally you want to check on how everything went, so you want to be monitoring the accounts. So to begin with, you should be looking at your traffic. You want to know if you’ve had any sudden dips. It can be expected to see a bit of a dip in traffic, so you probably want to leave it for a couple of weeks and wait for things to settle down.

The number of index pages. So this is in the Google Search Console report. You can check and compare it with the number of index pages that you saw before and make sure you have a similar amount. Your site maps, so again, within Google Search Console they’ve got a little tool in there, you can see how many pages you submitted via a site map and how many of those pages have actually been indexed, and it sometimes shows you if you’ve got a discrepancy or an issue between that.

You can use the 404 error report. So if you have any page that the Google tries to visit that no longer exists, they’ll show up in this report, so it can be a good way of identifying issues. And then finally the search query report keeping an eye on that making sure that your rankings haven’t changed and checking them against the benchmarking that you previously did.

I hope that’s answered your question. Thank you very much.

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Sam Gooch is Web Optimisation Lead at the UK Domain. Sam leads the online search strategy, combining both organic and paid advertising to drive awareness around our brands and content, helping small businesses to succeed online.

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