Address Change in Google Webmaster Tools VS 301 Redirects
Moving a site is a tedious and difficult process, and can be an absolute nightmare from an SEO perspective. Google’s Webmaster Tools includes a Change of Address Form. This is a great way to tell Google that your site is moving, but it also adds another few steps to the process of moving a site. If you are setting up 301 redirects on your site, then you may not think that that form is necessary at all.
Matt Cutts explains why it might be a good idea in a video on the very helpful Google Webmaster Tools YouTube Channel. Basically, filling out the form is not completely necessary, but it is very helpful for letting Google know about your site move. With just the 301 redirects, Google has to follow all of the links individually and try to figure out the move.
This presents two problems – 1) Google has to try to guess whether or not the move is permanent, and 2) Google has to repeat the process for every individual page on your website. Using the form eliminates both problems. For one thing, it tells Google’s web crawler definitively that your site is moving, and it knows that it can transfer all of its old data about the reliability of your site to the new site. Also, the form works on the site level rather than the page level. Instead of having to follow many different links, Google can make the transfer on the site level.
This makes the process much quicker and smoother. Using 301 redirects is still a good idea for your users, and also for other search engines. Matt Cutts recommends using both, in order to make the transition as complete as possible. Google’s change of address notification has to be renewed every 180 days, however if it has indexed the new location, then there is no need to really do this.
The overall lesson is that it is important to use 301 redirects, however taking the extra step of filling our Google’s change of address form on their Webmaster Tools is worth the time to make sure that your new site can get the ranking that your old one had and that nothing is lost in the move.