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Advice on Moving Blogs to a New Domain

A common problem that many bloggers face is having to work out what to do with a blog that is trapped on a domain that they wish they’d never started it on. An example of this is starting out of a Blogspot or hosted TypePad blog and then realizing that it doesn’t have the features you want (plus a longer unprofessional looking domain) and wanting to move to WordPress of MovableType on your own domain.

The only problem is that you run the risk of messing up your Search Engine Ranking by starting on a new domain – it could be like starting all over again!

I often get questions from readers about how to move domains. To be honest, I have no real idea – except to say that I’ve seen people completely loose all their SE ranking and traffic by trying.

So today when I was surfing by one of my favorite blogger’s blogs – Matt Cutts from Google – I was happy to spot him addressing the question in a post on moving to a new web host. He spends most of the post writing about moving hosts but keeping the same domain name – but ends the post by addressing the question of a new domain (bolding is my emphasis):

‘All other things being equal, I would recommend to stay with the original domain if possible. But if you need to move, the recommended way to do it is to put a 301 (permanent) redirect on every page on mattcutts.com to point to the corresponding page on someotherdomain.com. If you can map mattcutts.com/url1.html to someotherdomain.com/url1.html, that’s better than doing a redirect just to the root page (that is, from mattcutts.com/url1.html to someotherdomain.com). In the olden days, Googlebot would immediately follow a 301 redirect as soon as it found it. These days, I believe Googlebot sees the 301 and puts the destination url back in the queue, so it gets crawled a little later. I have heard some reports of people having issues with doing a 301 from olddomain.com to newdomain.com. I’m happy to hear those reports in the comments and I can pass them on to the crawl/indexing team, but we may be due to replace the code that handles that in the next couple months or so. If it’s really easy for you to wait a couple months or so, you may want to do that; it’s always easier to ask crawl/index folks to examine newer code than code that will be turned off in a while.’

Read the full post at Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I was just thinking to send you an email about the subject :) Thank you for the tip. Much appreciated.

  2. I’m in the process of doing that right now, so that’s an apposite post for me. I haven’t read Matt’s full post yet, so I don’t know if he mentions HOW TO DO a 301 redirect. In Blogspot there are limited facilities for this sort of thing, so I suppose a bit of code would have to be added to each post (Ye Gods, what a task!). If you know the code, Darren, or anyone, I’d be very grateful to know it.

  3. I recently aquired a blog that was hosted on blogger/blogspot, and I moved it to it’s own domain. The only problem is that blogger doesn’t offer 301 redirects. For the time being, I am using a javascript redirect, but may switch to a meta redirect.

    Which would be better?

    301 redirects are usually created either on the server or using htaccess.

  4. See my posting Blogger isn’t free: The cost of not using your own domain and I had a friend who ran into exactly this problem and lost most of his traffic when he switched.

    The problem with using JavaScript or meta tags to do the redirection is that the search engines won’t treat them as such. You really need to be able to do proper HTTP redirects, which does require more access to the system than Blogger provides for sites you host on its own system. It’s too bad, but something to think about when starting a new blog.

  5. Some observations from my experience and what I’ve read:

    I moved two blogs from subdirectories on one domain that had good PR to new domains, using htaccess 301 (permanent redirect) on those subdirectories and pointing to the new domain. My statistics dropped off sharply, because Google stopped pointing people at the original site, and my ranking dropped for the new domain.
    I read somewhere that you should do a 302 (temporary redirect) first, as you don’t lose ranking, but I’m not convinced.
    About three weeks after the switch, one of my blogs is now ranking better than it did before on the same terms, and my visitors are increasing at the same rate they were before the switch. Of course regular/feed readers wouldn’t really notice as all was switched.
    It’s worth doing as early on as possible. I decided that my earnings/readership wasn’t so high that any drop would be disastrous. I lost 50% visitors, but 50% of a low three-digit daily readership is better that 50% of a 4 or 5 digit readership.
    HTML header/Javascript redirects aren’t looked at favourably by the SEs, so moving from Blogger etc. might be more painful. I had the luxury of a host with htaccess.
    It’s nearly always worth moving from a free host or a non-descript/out-of-context domain to a relevant domain on your own web host. Don’t be put off by the temporary drop in traffic – carry on feeding your blog and it will continue to flourish
    Google was the harshest SE I’d seen – and that only took about 3 weeks to recover. MSN/Yahoo hardly made a difference – although I get less visitors from them, they consistently ranked my site during the switchover.

  6. This topic provides a good argument for why bloggers should stay away from typepad (and blogger, etc) if they think an eventual move to a permament host is likely. I used a 301 redirect in the header of my popular typepad blog:

    and lost virtually all traffic from google (I’m still in the sandbox).

  7. Yep, I’ve come to the same conclusion, Andy. No point in worrying about a middling PR when a specifically-targeted .com domain will quickly pick up visitors. Robert Scoble is doing something similar now, switching from Radio.Weblogs (following the sale of the main domain) to WordPress.com. But he’s had a lot of privileges from WordPress. Can’t blame them, I suppose.

  8. My experience with Typepad seems to differ from most: Mapping a “proper” URL is simple, and the Typepad templates can be edited just as they can in most Moveable Type setups. My typepad-hosted blog includes inline ads and multiple index pages (with “more…” links at the bottom). The biggest frustration is that I can’t use third-party Moveable Type plugins, but that isn’t a killer.

    That said, I had to figure out how to do the inline ads and multiple index pages myself, since TypePad doesn’t offer these as standard functionality. I’d gladly share my template code with anyone who needs it.

  9. I did this when I moved a WordPress site from a subdomain to its own domain. Traffic levels were steady (most users probably didn’t even notice) and SEs kept sending traffic to the old site for a while but the 301 redirect took care of that. After a while I got a PageRank on the new site and the old site’s pagerank disappeared. All in all it took about three months for everything to be converted (PageRank took the longest) but there wasn’t a single point of low traffic due to the switch.

  10. Thanks Darren! I’ve been thinking about this too. Could someone send me a link to a credible resource on how to do 301 / 302 re-directs? I have a site I would like to transition away from.

  11. Steamboat: In most cases it’s really easy. As long as your new site will have an identical directory structure to your old site just put the following in your .htaccess file at the root of your (old) site:

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^newsite.com$ [NC]
    RewriteRule (.*) http://newsite.com/$1 [R=301,L]

    The above will respect all page names and not just send users to the root of your new site.

  12. It’s easy enough if you’re maintaining the same permalinks but if the permalinks are going to be different you can create a template in your old blogging tool with the redirect rules to your new permalink in the format of:

    Redirect Permanent /path/to/old/permalink http://mydomain.com/path/to/new/permalink

    After you generate the template, copy and paste that into your .htaccess file. If you’re moving over to WordPress, I’d recommend putting that before the WordPress generated .htaccess code.

  13. I have done this and I lost virtually all my traffic, save a few very loyal readers. I am just now beginning to build back up. Ugh.

    I was blogspot so had to do the javascript redirect. I hate it that happened because it has taken me 2 mos to get my page rank back… The last 2 mos could have been spent upping the page rank rather than re-earning it.

  14. I recently migrated from TypePad to WordPress, and it worked flawlessly with no drop in PR or visitors, but I was using my own domain name at TypePad, so all I had to do was the re-directs via .htaccess. Pretty straightforward.

    A word to the wise might be that if you are using one of the cheap or free blogging platforms like TypePad or Blogger, you would be better served to own your own domain name…makes it a lot easier to switch to a new platform.

  15. Now with the low cost of domains and hosting, you really pay in the long run for hosting your site on a free service. I wish I had of realized this earlier with one of my own blogs.

  16. Great post Darren about something any novice blogger who wants to go pro is likey going to deal with. August 1st of this year, I moved BoysWearPants to its own domain name and a brand new hosting platform (because, let’s face it–Blogger sucks!).

    I was actually able to transition most of my traffic over to the new domain and have increased it by 100% in the past three months. I still keep detailed daily stats on the traffic of both blogs and while the Blogger-hosted version maintains a steady flow of search engine traffic, the new blog (thanks to your awesome suggestions on this blog) is really starting to break out.

    Part of the deal in transitioning all of my old posts over to my PowerBlogs platform is that the comments on older posts must still be hosted on the Blogger server, so 301 redirects weren’t an option. So, I changed my title to say “This blog is now hosted at “http://boyswearpants.com.”

    From what I can tell, it worked pretty well.

    Keep up the great work, Darren. 30 Days to a Better Blog has become my bible the past month. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  17. Moving webhosting has been a scary journey for my website for the past 48 hours since it went down on last Saturday. Keep plenty of backup just in case.

  18. […] A common problem that many bloggers face is having to work out what to do with a blog that is trapped on a domain that they wish they’d never started it on. An example of this is starting out of a Blogspot or hosted TypePad blog and then realizing that it doesn’t have the features you want (plus a longer unprofessional looking domain) and wanting to move to WordPress of MovableType on your own domain. more…   […]

  19. […] There is a related limitation in not having your own domain from the outset. When your domain name is tied to a third party web hosting service, such as yourname.hostingservice.com (or in the case of this blog coachdes.wordpress.com). That’s the problem of losing readers and search engine recognition. Darren Rowse has posted about that on his ProBlogger blog and the moral of that piece seems to be that the sooner you get your own domain and stick to it, the better.  […]

  20. I have now moved my former BlogSpot blog onto my own hosting service. A huge number of dead links remain on Google, but I am working to remove the most persistent ones manually. Eventually, I hope, the whole switchover will be properly recognized by Google.

    It’s very frustrating. 16% of visitors still come to the new URL using the META tag redirect on the old front page.

  21. I’ve been considering this for awhile now. I think your article maybe just the push I needed to get started. Thanks.

  22. I have been considering moving to my own domain. But loss of PR6 seems to be the biggest hurdle. Feedburner will take care of the feed. I hope blogger allows 301 redirect by request to staff. if you go to http://help.blogger.com/?page=wishlist , you can vote for “I want to use a custom domain name with my Blog*Spot blog.” So maybe they have this feature in mind.

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