There are a number of things that have happened over the last year that make it prudent for anyone operating on a .com to look at changing their .com strategy.

Last week, the US indicted Calvin Ayre and seized Bodog.com. Bodog, luckily, had long since shifted to a non-US based domain. Other recent cases have included an entrepreneur extradited from the UK on the grounds that this site was based on a .com domain name and therefore targeting US traffic.

Migrating a domain is a big step though and if done incorrectly, it can have a hugely detrimental effect on rankings and traffic. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk, so here is my five-step domain migration checklist.

1. Duplicate the domain 100%: This can be done through DNS (CNAME) or simply duplicating the root – either way will work. If you are going to a new design, then you may wish to connect both domains to the app and duplicate the web root so this can be accomplished.

2. Add the cross-domain canonical tag to each page on the old domain pointing to the new location on the new domain: If you CNAME, then the same tag would be added to both domains – this is okay and will work. This NEEDS to be page to page exact from a content perspective. Make sure of this or this strategy will not be effective. Reference: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2009/12/handling-legitimate-cross-domain.html

3. Allow both domains to exist in this state for 30 days: By using the canonical tag in this manner, I’ve found that the transfer of equity within the search engines (particularly Google) happens at a much faster rate than 301 redirects. The “hint” aka canonical appears to work faster than the “directive” aka 301 Redirect.

4. On day 31, employ site-wide global 301 redirects at the page level: This will then eliminate access to the old domain permanently. This redirect for the old domain should exist indefinitely. Google and Bing will read/follow and adjust their database to reflect the “directives” of permanent redirect as passed through the server header. Each and every page needs to pass the 301 from old to new domain in order for this to be effective. At this point, change the cross-domain canonical to domain level canonical tag for each page.

5. Don’t make any changes during the initial 30-day period with the cross-domain canonical tag: You want to illustrate to the search engine that this is simply a domain migration, as you do not want any other factors to alter the search rankings. This will allow both parties to monitor the results and be able to easily identify any issues without other factors coming into play.

About Scott Polk

Scott Polk has built his expertise as a knowledgeable and experienced Search Engine Optimization/Internet Marketing strategist for more than a decade.

He concentrates his resourcefulness and skills on the diversified aspects of Search Engine Optimization for clients, where he’s earned the distinction of consistent top rankings in all major search engines. Scott is consistently involved in technologies that maximize Conversion, Usability and Accessibility when optimizing & developing large web sites as well as identifying problems/solutions that result in major cost saving strategies.

Currently he is the Co-Founder of ObsidianEdge Marketing – a full service internet marketing agency specializing in SEO, Social Media, Link Building and PPC. Scott frequently speaks at professional internet marketing conferences world-wide on SEO (PubCon, Affiliate Summit, iGaming and others).



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