How a Sloppy Website Transfer Can Hurt Your SEO

There are a few reasons to transfer a website and these can include:

  • Domain change
  • Content Management System upgrade
  • Site redesign

Whatever the reason for transferring your site, it is an intricate business that requires a functional knowledge of the way SEO works and its implications on URLs in order to do it without losing everything you’ve gained in terms of ranking on the search engines.

Transferring Optimized Content Correctly

Make a checklist. Knowing what goes on this checklist requires SEO experience even to understand the terms. But the purpose is to avoid such issues as broken redirects, duplicate content, and other infractions that Google will penalize you for. Your goal is to accomplish the move while informing the search engines of the move using Google’s 301 redirects. This will ensure that the link-weight and value given to your old URLs gets transferred over to the new URLs.

Log into Webmaster Tools for instructions on how to appropriately change your domain address while adhering to Google’s algorithm rules.

This checklist should include all the behind-the-scene site elements that need to make it over to the new site location, including:

  • URL structure
  • Titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • H1
  • H2
  • REL canonical
  • Robots.txt
  • Sitemap XML, HTML, images, video, blogs
  • Viewport meta tags

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it includes a few of the main important elements that must be considered when attempting a smooth transfer. Here are a few other tips:

  1. Keep your transfer in scope. It will be tempting to address other site issues as you’re making the move, but don’t let this distract you from the task at hand. Make note of issues that you notice and then tackle them as a second project once the move is completed.
  2. Consider mobile optimization. Any site updates you are making this year should include mobile-friendly features. Google is giving mobile serious weight in its recent algorithm changes.
  3. Protect and improve your traffic. Obviously, your goal in transferring your site is to improve it. Making a smooth transfer will preserve the traffic flow you’ve already gained and are used to as well as improve your visibility with Google as your newly transferred site is reindexed.
  4. Do NOT neglect 301 redirects. While redirects should generally be avoided if you can help it, if you can’t help it, you CANNOT let it slip under the radar. A redirect will preserve the current link juice that specific URL had held before the move.
  5. Pay special attention to images and videos. When transferring media, it is important not only to make sure that the appropriate sizes and resolution are maintained, but that it is correctly optimized. Alt tags, file names, captions, directions, tiles, image site maps, etc. should all be addressed at the time of transfer.


To protect the SEO value and status of your site during a website transfer, you will need to be familiar with SEO best practices and techniques. If you’re not, it may be necessary to hire an SEO consultant or firm to assist you in executing a flawless website transfer. If you’re an established, well-ranking site, it is definitely not worth the risk of damaging your status by attempting to make the transfer on your own.

What have been some of the pitfalls or assets that you’ve encountered while transferring your website?


Lincoln, John. “Why You Should Hire a SEO Company to Handle Your Website Transfer.” (January 16, 2015.)