Changing your website’s domain name

MATT CUTTS: Hello. We’re back for another
tutorial video. Today, we’re going to talk
about a topic that lot of people are interested in– how do I move from one domain
to another domain and try to preserve the rankings
as best as possible? So you might be moving from
old domain to new domain. Let’s talk through some of the
possible things to be thinking about and some of the stuff that
you might want to make sure you avoid as far as problems. OK. Here’s what we’ve got. We’ve got a site, maybe with a
subdirectory or a subdomain. In fact, we’ve got two
or three sites here. And you’ve got a new domain. Right now, it’s just
a parked domain. One piece of advice I would give
very early on is, if you know that you’re going to move
to a new domain, don’t just let it be parked. Go ahead and say, OK,
I’m going to put something up there. Even if it’s just a small,
mini, stubby version of the site. Even if it’s only the one page
that’s the main page of the site– the root page
of the site. But it’s got something there
that indicates it’s not just, like, one of the tens of
millions of parked domains. So go ahead and put a
new site up there. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to have a lot of
CSS and Javascript and all that stuff. Just a couple paragraphs
to say this is going to be the new site. This is going to be the new
destination of whoever the company is, or something
along those lines. Because we have classifiers
that try to detect parked pages. And if you go from parked to
a normal domain, we try to detect that transition
as quickly as we can. But if you give us a little
more time– more time to crawl, see, process the page– it’s a little more likely
that we’ll be able to handle it just fine. OK. So we’re moving from an old
site– in fact, maybe two or three old sites– and
we’re going to consolidate to a new site. So first off, you really would
rather not just jump in with both feet, dive into the
deep end of the pool. What you’d rather do is test
it a little bit first. So what you can do is you can
make sure that you’ve got the new content– or the content ported over
to the new site. And you can just kind
of start with a subdirectory or a subdomain. Start with a part of the site
and do a 301 permanent redirect to the new location. Now this is assuming that
you’re moving for all time and eternity. So this is the good case for a
permanent or 301 redirect. If you were planning to undo
this later or it’s temporary, then you’d use a 302 redirect
whenever you send the HTTP status codes. OK. So what you can do is you can
test by redirecting this part of the site over to the new
part of the new site. And you can say, does this
continue to rank OK? And if for some reason, like,
you 301 and it just turns into a black hole and it doesn’t rank
at all, then don’t move everything over quite yet. Do a little bit of
investigation. Maybe the previous owner had
done some spam on this domain and you need to do a
reconsideration request, or something along those lines. But don’t just move everything
over without doing a little bit of a test if you can on a
subpart or a part of the site first. Now what if you’ve got multiple
sites– like, here’s site one, two, and three– and you’re going to consolidate
them all into one brand or all into one website? That’s a perfectly fine,
perfectly natural thing to do. So you can do the 301s with
these guys as well. But the thing to do is I would
start with the smallest traffic domain. So imagine that you’re merging
these three sites together. Start with the one that doesn’t
get much traffic. Do that 301 redirect. And make sure that
things flow OK. Make sure that things look
all right as far as the transition. That way, you’re not putting the
domain that’s responsible for most of your traffic
at risk. You’re making sure that
everything is flowing OK before you start to eventually
take the next-biggest site, and then the next-biggest
site, and do those 301 redirects that way. OK. Some other stuff
to think about. If you own all of these sites or
if you control all of these sites, you can add the
verification codes and register your site in Webmaster
Central so that you can get stats for
all these sites. So one thing you might want to
think about is look at the people who link to
your old domain. Now it’s definitely the case
that you don’t need to write to every single person who has
ever linked to your domain and say, hey, can you update
and point to the new location of my domain? But it might be worth doing for
just the most conspicuous, the biggest, the most important
links that point to your old site. So if CNN or The New York Times,
or the LA Times, or The Chicago Tribune, or Wikipedia,
some really big site, does link to your domain, those are
the ones that it might be worth doing a little bit of
attention to and say, hey. Write to the owner or edit the
page on Wikipedia and say that this page has moved to
this new location. That way, search engines should
be able to follow the trail of all the
301 redirects. But you’re just making
it simpler. You’re fixing it upstream so
even if a new search engine comes along and has no idea
what’s going on, they just follow that link. And then the page rank flows. Um, let’s see if there’s
anything else. If you’re going to change to a
new domain, and at the same time, you’re planning on
changing your template– so you’re going to change
your UI and all that sort of stuff– you might want to do a little
bit of thinking about trying to decouple that. Right? Because doing a redirect, you’re
already shifting from one location to another
location. And then if you completely
revamp your entire site at the same time, imagine if
things don’t go well for whatever reason. Maybe you’ve done a bunch of
AJAX, a bunch of Javascript, and there’s not as much text
that’s indexable on the page. If you’ve done something like
that, it’s hard to tell, was it shifting to the new domain? Or was it the revamp
of the site? So if it’s possible, the more
you can decouple that, just like moving a small part of the
site or your site that had the smallest amount of traffic
first, lets you just look around the corner a little bit
and see, is everything working the way that I expected
it to work? So those are some
rules of thumb. If you can, it’s really helpful
if you can leave the old site up for quite a while. I did a test where I moved to a site I had happened to buy called And I left it up for
90 days, 180 days. Plenty of time for people to
see all the 301 redirects, everything happening,
to make sure that it was processing correctly. And that worked very well. And if you handle this in a
slow, careful, deliberate way, then things should
go quite fine. And we’ve seen lots and lots
of reports about people shifting to new domains
and everything goes completely smoothly. But there are definitely these
kinds of steps that you can do to make sure that things– if anything does go wrong or if
there’s anything you can’t explain, you have an ability
to say, oh, this was the revamping of the site, versus
this was shifting the site to a new location. So those are just some simple
rules of thumb to keep in mind whenever you’re moving
to a new domain. Hope things go well for you.

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26 thoughts on “Changing your website’s domain name

  1. My old domain is 8 years old and the new is just a few months old…

    Has anyone seen any evidence that Webmaster Tools – Change of Address tool is able to transfers longevity from the old to the new domain?

    I can see how with 301 redirects Google can pass on the PR and re-index the new pages, but I am skeptical about Google's ability to harvest the original domain's reputation and longevity.

  2. i need help, i accidently changed the URL name to an existing one and everytime i go on the website it refers to it as the other one and i cant even log into my own website anymore. Even links on the website it goes, straight to the other domain and i have no idea how to undo it! can u help please?

  3. This is a great Video. I'm wondering whether a 301 would be better than a canonical rel to start moving the domain. Eventually they would be 301's but wouldn't it be better to start as a rel canonical to see if everything works fine and then move?

  4. What does it mean De-couple the things while revamping !
    I mean which part of website should be revamp first to last to the another domain.

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  6. Matt Cutts always like to use the words "We should be able to HANDLE it…" just to make things ambiguous with unclear promise, commitment and accountability.

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  8. Hey Matt, what if I just want to change the domain? Nothing else will change but the domain and of course some description referring to the new name. Is it advisable?

  9. What is the story behind to simply change the website domain? Not just portion of the website the main domain replace by another new domain very simple question!!!!

  10. is any one can help me in this topic ?!topic/webmasters/6siKRoHhxkY;context-place=forum/webmasters

  11. All i did was change the domain, not move the site.. and i lost 65% of my traffic.. what the hell. 301 redirect in htaccess. all url structure and content was the same. Things did NOT go well for me.

  12. thanks for your video! I am struggling with my wix webside. I want to redirect content into to different new domains. it is possible? I am using wix and there is only 301 to do on…the same old page and i can not find the way to divide my content into two new domain. Please help:)

  13. How to learn to drive a car, go inside the car, put the key in the sock, press on of the foot pedal on the car and drive. Thats exactly this video. My god.

  14. This is so helpful. Thanks a lot for creating such an easy and helpful video. Really, thank a lot 🙂

  15. Please, an stupid question, the content in my should be deleted? Or leave it there? For how long since i did the redirection 301 to my

    Currently both installations are serving the same exact content, but I think that could create some duplicate content warning in Google

    Hope you can help me with this question 🙂

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