How to Change the Location of Your Content the Right Way
Google was very busy on their webmaster central blog yesterday, namely they published 4 posts. The most noted one was announcing a new algorithm change to fight web spam.
The other three talked about images and how Google ranks them, changes in GWT, as well as a great post explaining the best ways to move your content to a new location, which is what we are going to go over.
Google explains some of the things needed to be done in order to successfully move any part of the page to a new subdirectory, subdomain or even a new domain while retaining successful site structure and user-friendliness.
– First thing that should be done is redirecting your old content to the new one. A simple 301 redirect fixes all the problems and lets Google known where your new content can be found. In some cases 301 redirect is not possible, in which case recommended option is using cross domain canonicals. Please note that 301 is the best option, sometimes Google will not be able to follow up on canonical tags as they are not absolute directives.
– The next step is to verify the location of your new content, as well as the old, in Google webmaster tools. If you want to verify a change of domains you need to use the change of address to let Google know.
– After that you need to make sure that both your new location and the old one are crawlable by Google bots. You can use Fetch as Googlebot feature in GWT to do that. make sure that your old URL’s are crawlable, because if they are not, neither the 301 no the canonical tag will be seen by Google.
– Check the geotargeting in GWT, under site configuration-settings, which is where you can change both targeting location and preferred domain as well as the preferred crawl rate.
Other things to make check in order to make sure everything is in order include checking 404 pages. When moving content we tend to make a mistake or two, so dead pages are quite common. Also, make sure that your new sitemap reflects the new URL changes, and notify all the important sites that link to your old content that your URL location has changed, so that they may link to your new content instead.
Webmasters looking to change their content location or switch to new domains should follow these guidelines closely from beginning to the end. A small mistake and you may find yourself hosting a brand new site with the old one redirecting your visitors to dead pages, so be careful.