If you are moving your website for any reason – changing hosts, seeking branding benefits, to make your URL more memorable, or ________________ (fill in the blank) – then there are some things that you should definitely do to make your change go more smoothly for yourself and for your loyal readers. The top 3 things on that list are:
- Implement universal 301 redirects
- Contact your top referrers
- Create custom 404 pages
When you create your 301 redirects don’t just redirect all of your old pages to your new index page. That will turn your readers off and you’ll lose some business as your visitors won’t go searching for the corresponding page they found in the search engine. Rather, do a 301 redirect on each page to the corresponding page on the new domain. Make sure you do a 301 redirect on every page. If you create new pages in your move, those don’t need redirects. If you are deleting old pages and not using them on your new domain then redirect those pages to a page on your new domain that has similar information.
You’ll also want to send an e-mail to your top referrers to let them know that you have changed domain names. You want to do this because those referrers can change their links to your new link addresses. If you request that they do this they should have no problem with it. Any webmaster that refuses has a right to do, but make sure you have your 301 redirects and 404 pages in place to capture the traffic they’ll send.
If you are deleting pages from the old domain and not using them on the new domain then make sure you create a custom 404 page for those pages. On your 404 pages, make sure that you link to your home page and offer some suggestions on pages that your visitors might want to look at which have similar information to the one they were looking for. Make it easy for your site visitors to find the information they want. You might even put a site search feature on your 404 page if you have a large enough site that visitors can get lost easily.
Those are the three things you should make sure happens when you change domain names for any reason. Good luck!