Don’t forget about robots.txt! And other considerations for moving your content
The time comes when you need to move your website content; this could be with a new site, a new domain or creating subdomains. It is vital that this process runs smoothly as you don’t want to lose all that SEO goodness that you have worked so hard at achieving.
In the Webmaster Central Blog Google has given some pointers on how you can use webmaster tools to assist you in your move.
As with moving house, a site move needs to be carefully planned. Good planning will remove some of the risk associated with the move. Unfortunately you can’t alleviate all risk; sometimes you can follow all of Google’s recommendations and still you lose your rankings, but being prepared as possible gives you a head start!
There are a number of key SEO considerations when moving content.
- It is essential that you use 301 redirects from the old pages to the new ones. This moves the history of the page, the incoming links and tells search engines which page to index. The 301 redirects should be in place as soon as the site/pages are moved. A small delay could have a detrimental effect to your ranking.
- In a small number of cases you may not be able to implement 301 redirects. If this is the case you can use cross domain canonicals; Google will then try its best to index the new version and pass the link equity.
- Update your xml sitemap and submit to webmaster tools.
- If you have moved the website to a completely new domain, make sure you inform Google of the change, using the change of address option in webmaster tools.
- Check that Google can crawl your site by using the ‘Fetch as Googlebot’ tool within Google webmaster tools.
- When you move your site from the development/testing server to go live make sure that your robots.txt isn’t blocking search engines – you would be amazed at how many times this gets forgotten during the excitement!
- Make sure the site isn’t generating loads of broken links.
- Ensure that you don’t have duplicate content; either use 301 redirects or the canonical tag.
- Geotargeting – if the site is location based select this option in webmaster tools.
- Check who’s linking to you and ask if they will change the link to the new content.
This isn’t a comprehensive list of considerations when moving a site, but following Google’s recommendations is a great starting point!