WWW FAQs: How do I move my site to a new location?

2005-07-05: When you move your website to a new location, such as a newly registered domain name of your own, you should never just shut down your old site. If you simply remove your old pages, search engines like Google will not automatically know about your new site. And other people who have made links to your pages (bringing you visitors!) will now have broken links in their pages. That's frustrating for them and it doesn't help you either.

How To Correctly Move Your Site

The best way to move your site is by issuing permanent redirects for each page of your old site. Ideally, you'll do this for every page of your old site, because any page of your site could be coming up in search engine results.

This does require some skill in configuring the old website. The next best way is to redirect the user with meta elements in your HTML, and also provide an ordinary link so that search engines understand that the new page is important enough to index.

I have already written a separate article explaining exactly how to do these things. So I won't duplicate that information here. Just check out the article how do I redirect the browser to a new page?

When To Take The Old Site Down

Do we have to keep the old website up forever? For a good long while, yes. But not forever. There are two steps you can take to find out whether it's OK to remove your old site at this point:

1. Search Google and other search engines for things that appear on your site, such as your company or organization's name. If you are still not seeing your new site among the results, don't take the old site down yet. If you see both the old and new sites, it's safe to take down the old one, as far as search engine users are concerned. There may be a brief period of adjustment, probably a few days, during which people will have trouble following search engine links that point to the old site. Then the search engines will catch on and keep only the results for your new site. You'll get the best results here if you use the permanent redirect method discussed above.

2. Use web server log analysis software to analyze the traffic to your new site. Pay close attention to the "Referring URLs" or "Referring Sites" reports. These should show less and less traffic coming from your old site as time goes on, meaning that users are finding the new site directly without the "training wheels" of redirection from the old site.

There will always be a trickle of people finding your old pages until you choose to shut them down. Deciding when the costs of keeping them up outweigh the benefits is up to you.

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

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