• Tue. Mar 2nd, 2021

i wrote a post actually one time after i helped a large-scale ecommerce retailer that hadn't 301 redirected its images right so that the images weren't right so i wrote a post about like don't forget to redirect images during a migration visual content so important very important you would recommend obviously making sure to 301 redirect all images and then just wait if it takes a little longer to refresh in the image index then definitely definitely right and just check the server locks on the old domain to see like if traffic really has ramped down and once you're happy with not seeing as much call activity you can flip the switch and say like okay we can now discard this [Music] [Applause] [Music] hey and welcome everybody to a new episode of seo myth busting with me today is ben gabe and we usually meet at conferences when we're speaking on various stages or we talk on twitter but what are you doing when we are not meeting on conference occasions or when we are on twitter yeah sure so i run my own consulting business g-squared interactive where i typically am helping companies that have experienced a drop in traffic cool yeah all right that sounds pretty awesome absolutely and today we are here to talk about one possible uh issue that they might encounter and that's site moves right site moves url migrations domain name changes right exactly all right okay that's really cool so what are like the misconceptions or problems that people are facing there yeah sure so there's lots of myths and there's actually a lot of confusion in the industry about these i mean some site owners are scared to actually pull the trigger on it because they don't know what's going to happen and others are actually pulling the trigger too quickly not preparing for it and then there's a lot of people in between right so um i guess the biggest myth is that you will always experience a drop in traffic with the domain name changes yeah right yeah i think that's a very good one because uh the answer to it is it depends as you know so a lot of times people are not understanding what a site move is so if you are literally just moving from one domain to the other copying pretty much the entire url structure and the entire content over um then you not necessarily see a drop of traffic i mean you will see that traffic drops off over time on one domain and picks up on the other but overall that doesn't really mean that you have a traffic drop you're not losing traffic if we can do this very clean move then there's not really going to be like a drop period where one one drops and then the other picks up but there's more like a fluid transition got it now what's interesting is that you know i've been part of some domain name changes let's stick on that one for a second that you know went completely smoothly sometimes the site will actually go up over time so on and so forth then there were some weird anomalies right where and like you said it depends right so a site that three days after completely tanks by 70 and is it based upon the history of the domain maybe the domain that they're actually moving to was bought and had a history of its own is there anything that you could elaborate on that maybe so normally it's not much about the history i mean the history does play a little bit into it especially if it's like basically uh being used for spamming purposes and then you buy and then immediately switch that's a tricky one you want to make sure that you're not like dealing with weird issues and you want to have make sure that you have your monitoring and search console and all that set up properly uh before you do the switch um it can also just be like if you are making other changes as part of your side move that's a risky one because then we can't really we don't know that it's just a move but we see like oh hold on that like when we're crawling this there's differences in what we're seeing here maybe we need to like be careful and recrawl a little more and then you might depending on depending on how large your your site is might run into crawl budget things um so it depends on a bunch of factors but normally getting a domain that you know is not like dealing with issues from the past should be just fine and even if it's a domain with history we are aware that content on domains do change but depending on what the domain looked like beforehand we might not consider it a site move and then we would have to recrawl and reprocess everything that takes a little longer interesting so let's say that there's a site um a domain name that was used i'll give you an example actually a client that um had a really long domain name they were an e-commerce retailer and they're like wow they want to get just the four-letter domain name that represented their their company they finally got it yeah they they went live with it right um did the domain name change and then they called me about a month in and they're like oh no this is not good what's going on it ends up that domain they didn't research and it was some like rock band from the past that had all sorts of crazy spammy links and all sorts of stuff so they definitely in the short term saw a dip but then it corrected itself over time as we see like right content can change i mean you you buy a spammy domain or you just literally have it hacked for a while and then you fix it you know how that goes right whenever you have problems that we detect and point out to you and you fix them it takes a while for us to like understand that it has changed and everything is better now um but that's generally what will happen so you want to make sure that you clean out anything that might be problematic up front and give us time to understand that things have now changed and we're now back to a clean slate so you have to do some cleanup if there was problems in the past got it so in that situation it probably would have been smart first off they researched the history and then maybe filed a disavow if there were a bunch of bad links there just to make sure from the beginning that this was more of a cleaner transition if you take over the domain make sure that you're measuring what happens through tools like search console and then you understand uh how the domain is doing maybe even consider removing the content and waiting for us to understand that content has removed so like that things are normalizing and we're clearing out the signals and then step by step migrate your domain over so that as we discover the page to other the pages to be moved uh we also understand like okay so this is a new start for this domain got it okay all right how about another myth yeah sure and then what do you have and then we can go into more details right yeah it goes on behind the scenes um how about uh taking a site merging two sites into one site and thinking that one plus one will equal two when that nest won't necessarily happen i've been part of a few of those that actually went very well and others that didn't go poorly but it wasn't one plus one equals yeah so that's that's not in such a simple uh situation anymore now beforehand we talked about the site move and set move literally just means we're moving everything we've got over to somewhere else that's the side move the moment i'm combining two sides that's not moving two sides into one that is creating a new side that is a merged version of the two so that is by definition not a side move this means that we have to understand okay so now there's a bunch of more like this content moves here this content moves here but there's like a bunch of other things going on here it's a completely different domain and or maybe not maybe it's just like the url structure change in some way or another or there's new url there's new content moving here from somewhere else none of that is as simple as a site move so we have to basically recrawl a lot of pages depending on how large of your site is that might mean that it takes a while for us to literally just get a get a layer of the land in terms of what content is there now um depending on how you set up your your site structure we might understand okay that's just like new section of the site has has been created or if you're like mixing them in then it's like uh what's happening here did the other things change as well or is it just like this new content so depending on how you merge the sites you might get very different results from how we are coming to an understanding of your new site structure and your new site content and that can go smoother or less smoothly depending on how you do it yeah got it got it now with the domain name change just hop back there so i'm really interested and i know site owners are interested in this and a lot of seos i'm assuming um what goes on in the google machine once the site movement domain name change is triggered right change of address is switched right that's right that's activated 301s are in place what happens what happens so what happens is that eventually we're gonna be um crawling what we used to know about your site and and we we do get the signals from other sites uh pointing to to your content there and we understand okay there's a there's a redirect and it's not a redirect in isolation it is basically literally just a completely move here and then we have to make sure that what we knew before is true for what happened afterwards because you could hypothetically have changed the site fundamentally and then again it is not a side move but as as more we discover that it's basically just a one-to-one copy and it's just like moving everything over from here to there we will basically make sure that we forward the signals that we had from the old site to the new site to the new domain uh and then make sure that we are getting more or less like an efficient layer of the land without having to recrawl everything um we might still you might still see like increased crawling activity but uh eventually that's gonna settle down as we understand that the site is just a copy of what was there at a different space beforehand and then eventually the the signals will fade out and the crawling will fade out on the old domain and we're just going to be moving swiftly on as nothing as if nothing happened afterwards with the new signals that we have for the new domain got it got it and how fast do signals get passed that depends on so many different things if your website doesn't get crawled as much then there's nothing that's gonna make that go like this okay uh if there's a lot of crawl demand and crawl budget for your website then we might actually um do that relatively quickly it can be in a day it can take a week it really depends also how many links do we have from different sites how often do we crawl these um and how quickly can we discover that everything has been moved over and yeah it can take a few days up to a few weeks got it yeah and what does the change of address tool do differently than just having three-on-ones i mean is there some trigger in the back that google's like okay the change of address tool is being used we know that it's verified by this this owner is there something better that happens there it tips us off that this is what you're intending to do so we know that it's not like a temporary thing or that it's like a mistake or something you're explicitly telling us you're giving us an additional signal saying like hey we're moving rather than us being like hold hold on that's a bunch of redirects happening here do we is what's hap is that what's going on so um you're giving us a more explicit signal that this is a side move so we can probably re-prioritize things we can make more uh useful decisions and how we want to crawl and how we want to identify if we can pass the signals on or not and uh that might speed things up because we can take a few shortcuts if we know that this is an intentional switch got it so good to do right now um okay one thing i've seen and i don't know if this is true or not but i'm just wondering when there's a site move if there's a reassessment of quality on a site like when there's a domain name change is google going okay well now let's reevaluate quality there or if there was a url migration urls all changed would it trigger something like that well i mean that happens constantly right i mean if you have a page that has high quality content that doesn't mean that this will always be high quality content okay which is also why having a history is not like the ends end of everything if you have a spammy or a thin content page that was bad and you improve it we gonna reevaluate the quality as well right it constantly happens uh site move is no different but obviously when you change urls and your especially url structure um then that tips us off to like oh hold on there's some we're not sure about this is is this the same as we had beforehand if so we can just like move the signals over to the new url if we are not sure about this we have to make a very careful evaluation if that is true or not so yes it is doing that but it does that all the time so got it got it so basically you know i've heard before from like john and stuff like that that you know they're going to reevaluate a piece of content based upon its current mm-hmm right so that's kind of what you're saying right so so would make sense that sometimes because what i've seen is let's say a domain name change happens or url migration then maybe two weeks later there's like a core update and suddenly the site either goes up or down it's like was that due to the change or was it something random i mean you know things always fluctuate right so it's really hard to see the signal from the noise there and sight moves it's especially if it's really is just a sight move so you change to the name domain name or something uh don't really like change the quality evaluation or something like that okay now we spoke about signals being passed can you just for some people that might not know it what signals you're talking about right so to explain that in very simple terms um when we visit a site we collect a bunch of information right so like how fast is the site this is https or not uh is is the content good what's what's this page about all this kind of stuff all these signals and information about the page uh that later go into ranking there's like hundreds of these factors that we look at um and we collect them per page if you would go to a restaurant you kind of do the same thing right it's like do i feel welcome here is the staff nice is the food quality nice is the price fair these kind of things you put in your file as signals for this restaurant and then if someone asks you for a recommendation you are probably using these signals that you picked up like oh if you're if you're into asian cuisine that place on the 35th street or whatever is really really nice but quite pricey and if you then know that this restaurant has moved you probably want to re-evaluate some of these right it's like oh yeah i was there when they were in the other location it was fantastic i don't know how it is in the new location so that's kind of the situation that we are facing as well right if you're literally just moving everything over we can be like yeah i know the restaurant just moved somewhere else or the food truck moved somewhere else it's the same food truck it just stands somewhere else it's nice it's still cheap nice good stuff um but if if something changes the food truck now moves into a location and you're like is that nice is it still the same stuff is it still cheap or is it now more pricey and that kind of is true for for search engines as well we have to then re-evaluate what we are seeing right so first we had baby algorithms analogy from gary iacon yes and now we have a food cart analogy it just keeps getting more colorful doesn't it absolutely i can see a blog post coming out about that one too how about this one right and this happens sometimes let's say there's a domain name change or url migration traffic plummets for whatever reason when do you revert right when do you roll this whole thing back now only a few times in my career and i've been through a ton of these have we had to do that and i know in the google documentation it basically says you know you have 180 days to you know reverse the change of address and then you've got to put 301s all the way back from where they were coming from it's like a total nightmare yeah um so from your perspective when do you think let's say a site saw a drop of 50 after a migration for whatever reason at what point do you go yeah maybe you should roll this thing back i think that depends on what you're identifying as the reason for what went wrong right you definitely want to do some some uh diagnosis first before you do any moves in any direction it's like so is it is it that we're still seeing the old ones and for some reason not registering that these are redirections or are we just not crawling the old old ones uh often enough so that we have just like hit a really nasty spot in the timeline of where we could potentially have moved or what's what's going on here if if you really do not understand where this is coming from and you have looked at everything and you cannot explain what's happening right i would say after a few weeks maybe like a month maybe give it a month or something and then i would consider um either getting help that's the best way to do it like get some help somewhere with this with this stuff or um if you really don't understand what's happening and it doesn't get better after a month or so consider doing uh a reversion but only if you are really really sure and out of options right because most of the times it is some sort of technical problem or it's like you missed half of your redirections and we didn't really register that it was a change of address much um or whatever has gone wrong like there's so many things that can go wrong and you can misconfigure but you want to see traffic that drops off should eventually also pick up again on the other side and you want to monitor both sides closely and if you really see that there is literally no pickup on the other side then that's a sign that something was not well done or well thought through and then you want to reconsider if you might want to go back for a while understand what happened and then regroup or something algorithmically happens or something algorithmically possible or or i mean if we just detected spammy content or you had like some issues uh manual actions that's also a good reason to say like okay got it we don't want to get these in the mix got it so make sure that you're starting from a clean state and then you should not have to revert got it and then uh on that note so from a robots.txt perspective there are some sites you know i usually help large scale sites sometimes they have you know a few hundred thousand urls being blocked by robots.txt and they want that right so during the move does it make sense to open them up so google can see all those old urls that maybe it had indexed but were blocked by robots.txt or anything or does it would you think that just change that okay i would just keep like if if you had a reason to not have them in there to not have them crawled right um i don't see why a migration would necessarily mean that you need to have them crawled now got it okay that's good to know because again some large-scale sites have a ton of urls categorized as that and then they don't know what to do you know so um how about problems that you see from google's end after migration like robots.tax blocking the new domain or no index across the entire new content or you know there's or how about um google search console settings not being set on the new domain you know things like that it's all sorts of these things i think like one of the things is that some people are trying to use site moves as an opportunity to change all sorts of things ah i was gonna bring up that which is really really weird because like if realistically you want to if you're if you're in an unsure situation or if you're in a situation where you're not sure where you're going you don't want to change all the variables at the same time because that means you have a lot of moving targets and then later on if you have a problem you're like oh no is this our new url structure or is this the new technology that we're using or is this the the new content that we put up or is it the site move or is it an algorithmic thing or is it a penalty or what what's happening here and you're not sure about this if you're doing one step at a time you move to a different domain or you or before you move to mains you're switching to a new tech stack or whatever you're doing do it step by step okay i think that's like the biggest thing that you can do for yourself to like keep level-headed got it got it and do you does google have anything behind the scenes kind of like what you brought up where some sites are like well i'm going to change domain names because i've been algorithmically destroyed over the past few years or to get out of manual action you know some people think that they're going to do that back in the day people were doing that for penguin and some people were saying that was working you know so is there anything behind the scenes that when let's say a domain name change happens they go well let's make sure that this is cool or not yeah as i said like we're constantly evaluating what happens on the page so if you have a bad bunch of content and spammy links yeah to one and then you just move to the next then we might lose some of the signals along the way but basically that stays bad no matter where you move yeah yeah okay that's good to know well i think that that was um probably that was that was probably it was a lot of information that was amazing thank you so much for making it here and i hope that you all enjoyed our little conversation on site moves and stay tuned for more bye hey everyone i hope you enjoyed that episode next episode i have lily ray with me and uh what are we gonna discuss lily we're gonna talk about is too much content a good thing for seo alright so stay tuned

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