How to Move WordPress to a New Domain without Affecting SEO

Posted at April 28, 2016 at 6:17 am by Manoj Kumar

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Domain names are considered to be the equivalent of real estate in the Internet world. It is essentially how your business is known throughout the Internet, therefore selecting the best domain name can often be a challenging task. Even after investing time and money into purchasing a domain you believe to be the best fit. Which still doesn’t ensure that you have selected a winning domain, essentially leaving you back at square one.

For now lets Assume that you have finally managed to secure the domain of your dreams and want to change your website address, you must know that there are a lot of things to consider before you can move to your new web address, especially if you don’t want to compromise your search rankings. Check out a simple tutorial below to understand how you can move your WordPress site to a new domain without affecting your SEO.

Step 1: Completely back up your old domain data and Configuration

The first and most important step before you can start the domain transfer process is to take a complete backup of your website. Make sure you have a complete, working back up for all your files and database. In a WordPress site you can use plugins like BackUpWordPress or BackUp Buddy to back up your site.

Step 2: Domain Migration (Critical for SEO)

Now that you have completed an entire backup of your old site, the next step is to start the domain migration process. However, before that, check out the domain name that you have purchased. Is it a new domain name or has it already been in use before? If it’s a new domain name, then you can go ahead with the migration process. But, if the domain has been in use before, thoroughly check if the domain had been previously penalized by Google for any SEO malpractices. Only after you have confirmed it, then proceed with getting the new domain registered in Google Webmaster tool.

Install and activate the Duplicator plugin in your WordPress installation on your old site.

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This plugin adds the Duplicator menu in your WordPress admin. Click on Duplicator menu and you will get a screen similiar to the one below. Click on the create button to create a new package

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Once you click on the create button, it will start the duplication process, and the plugin will ask you to give your package a name. If you don’t give the package a name, it will take the name of the website with the date as a default name. Depending on the amount of content your website has, this plugin may take some time to create the zip package.

Once this process is completed, it will take you to the Duplicator packages screen. Download package and installer files on your computer.

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Now, open your FTP program and connect to your new site. Copy your website to root directory (it should be completely empty) or the directory where you want to copy. Upload installer.php file and package zip for to the new site. After you finish uploading the files, launch the installer.php in a web browser. You can access it by clicking:  http://www.newsite.com/installer.php

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Provide database information for the new site and check the box for ‘table removal’. Make sure that the database you are using is empty. Click on check box “I have read warning and notices”. And then click on the “Run deployment” button.

The duplicator installer script will extract the zip package and install your database from old site and install WordPress with your themes and plugins. Once installation is completed, it will show the update page.

On this page, you need to update your URLs. You can enter URLs manually and click on the Update button. The plugin will replace all instances of the old sites domain to new sites domain name.

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Once this process is completed, then finish the post installation steps. Don’t forget to save your WordPress permalinks. Now login to the new site’s WordPress admin by using credentials which you had for the old site. Go to Settings–>Permalinks in WordPress admin of new site and save.

After this process, delete installer.php, installer-data.sql and installer-log.txt files from root directory using FTP.

Now, check for broken links, missing images, posts and pages in your new website. It is just to make sure that everything is in place and working fine. This completes the process of moving WordPress to your new domain. The next step is to add the proper 301 redirect plugin.

Step 3: Setup your 301 redirect for missing pages (Important for SEO and user experience)

 Include a 301 redirect rule in the .htaccess file of the old site to redirect the visitors to the new page and link old URLs to new URLs correctly.

Setting up a permanent 301 redirect is very important for both SEO and user experience. This allows you to redirect users and search engines to your new site. It means whenever someone lands on one of your old posts or pages, then they will be automatically redirected to your new site.

For setup, connect to your old site using FTP and edit the .htaccess file. Open .htaccess file and paste the below code at the top.

1 #Options +FollowSymLinks
2 RewriteEngine on
3 RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yournewdomain.COM/$1 [R=301,L]

Note: Replace newsite.com with your domain in the above code.

After you have applied these changes, when you visit your old site it should automatically redirect to your new site.

Step 4: Officially notify Google about the change (You can use Google webmaster tools)

You can notify Google by submitting the change of address in your Google Webmaster Tools. Verify that you have added both old and new domain at Google webmaster tool.

Navigate to old domain on Google web master tool, click on settings, and then click on change of address link from the drop down.

Select the new domain and click on submit button to inform Google about the new URL of your domain.

Step 5: Notify your users about the change

Always notify users before, during and after the domain update. You can notify users by making a public announcement about the migration. Write a blog post on your site about the migration to the new site. By notifying users, you can then ask them to inform you if they find any bugs while visiting the new site.

Hopefully, these steps will help you move your website to a new domain without adversely affecting your SEO.

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