With the way search engine algorithms are set up, even the slightest changes can affect your rankings. Often times, your search engine rankings will fluctuate from one spot to another, but you may still want to track the trend. A very common issue some people come across is when they are switching to another domain. You may have your current site at an old domain, but wish to move everything to another domain. Obviously, the biggest issue you may have is the site’s rankings. The rankings for a new site will very much differ from an established old site. So, what is the proper way to get this done?
When you purchase your domain name, avoid parking it. The best thing to do would be to have a hosting account ready to host the new domain name. Even if you are not ready for the move, try to put up a page with some content about the site. Search engines like Google have automated classifiers that will crawl through domains to see which ones are parked. Millions of domains are currently parked and you don’t want yours to be classified as such.
Whether you are moving one single site or a few sites to one domain, it is best to start off small. Begin by moving one sub directory of your site, and not the whole site itself. By moving only a small directory of the site, you can test out the rankings for that particular portion of the site. You never know if the domain you just purchased is in need of a reconsideration request. So, when you make the first move, use a permanent 301 redirect. If the rankings do not follow through, you know that something just went wrong.
If you have multiple sites that you would like to consolidate into one, it is wise to start with the site that has the lowest traffic and rankings. As far as the transition goes, you need to make sure that everything goes as smoothly as you want it to. Examine the rankings for this particular site and its content and see if the new domain has been indexed. Lastly, you want to move the site with the most amount of traffic.
If you own all the sites and have control over all of them, you could register at Google Webmaster portal and add the verification code into the head section of each domain name in the move. This will allow you to get statistics for all the sites that are part of the consolidated move. The one thing you want to consider is the sites that are linking to your old domain name. Pick out the biggest referrers in the list and contact them letting them know that you have moved your site to a new domain. This will be great in terms of SEO, as the crawlers will follow through on this link structure change.
It would be helpful if you can leave the old site up and running but with a permanent redirect to your new domain. This will tell both users and search engines that your site has been moved. This is completely normal and many people have done it like this and it has been proven to work just fine.