How to Transfer a Website to a New Domain and Maintain Search Engine Rankings and SEO using 301 Redirects
Moving an established WordPress website (or any website) to a new domain name can scary. In this blog post, we will show you the best way to move your existing website to a new domain using 301 redirects and Google Webmaster Tools (now called Google Search Console) Change of Address Tool to keep your search engine rankings.
The first step is to duplicate your website to the new domain. This can be done in several ways. You can use WP Clone by WP Academy, ManageWP, cPanel Backups, etc. There are plenty of other tutorials explaining how to move a website, so we won’t cover that here. Radiant Design can help if you need it!
The next step is to make sure that both domains have been verified in Google Webmaster Tools (now Google Search Console) and they’re both in the same Dashboard.
The third step is to create 301 permanent redirects for all pertinent pages in the old website to the corresponding pages of the new site. For WordPress sites, we recommend a plugin called Simple 301 Redirects by Nelle. After installing the plugin, we recommend going to Google.com and entering site:yourolddomain.com into the search bar. This will show all indexed pages of your website. These results are ranked by relevance, which is very important. If your site has thousands of pages, you may only want to redirect your top 100 pages. Next, create the redirects within the plugin. NOTE: Do NOT redirect your homepage yet. Test a few of the old pages to make sure they are redirecting properly.
The fourth step is edit the .htaccess file of your OLD site (if you have access to it) using the supplied code below. NOTE: once you make this change, you will no longer have access to any page within your site, including the wp-admin area. If you do NOT have access to your htaccess file, you can redirect your homepage in the Simple 301 Redirect plugin instead. NOTE: replace yournewsite.com with your NEW domain name. Once the .htaccess file has been saved, all traffic from your old site will forward to the new site.
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yournewsite.com/$1 [R=301,L]
The last step is to use the Change of Address Tool provided by Google Webmaster Tools or Google Search Console. When logged into your Webmaster Tools account, click on the old site, and then look for the gear icon at the top-right. Click that and you should see the Change of Address link. Click that, follow the steps, and you should be good to go. If you need more detailed instructions, please use this link.
That’s it! Make sure to test several of your old site links and homepage to make sure they are redirecting properly. Please note, the new site URLs will not show up in Google search results right away. It can take several weeks for Google to index the new site and approve the redirects.
Want help moving your website? Or do you need WordPress website maintenance? Radiant Design can help.
Copyright 2017-2018 Tom Lempner and Radiant Design.