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I developed a new site for one of my clients and used a new domain name. His old site (made in 1998) is still the #1 hit for our key search term, so we'd like to have that hit point to the new site. Will pointing the old domain to our new nameservers keep it at the top of the Google search results, or is it the actual site files that give it good SEO? Should I just set up a redirect on the site itself?

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4 Answers 4

Changing nameservers will not have an effect on SEO i.e. SERPs.

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I agree, but would love fact, not opinion. Are you aware of any supporting research? –  Mike Hudson Apr 28 '11 at 0:29

Definitely do a 301 redirect from the old domain to the new domain. Don't forget to do the same thing for inner pages, too. That will help the search engines identify which pages on the new sites are from the old site and things like incoming links will be associated to the new pages (with a slight dampening factor applied). It will also speed up the search engines indexing your site at the new URL.

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Setting up a redirect is a good idea, but ultimately it's the content at a particular URL that determines the page rank. Google may take a bit to catch up to the change, but if the content of the new site is different, expect that the page rank will be different too. It still might be the top one, but if the content is different, it will have a different rank.

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PageRank does not equal ranking in SERPs. –  gesher Apr 29 '11 at 2:22
    
@Gesher - It does in the sense that it is a relative ranking against all other pages for a particular search term. If the PageRank of a site goes down for a particular query, then it is highly possible that another site will have a higher rank and therefor be placed higher in the results than the page in question. –  cdeszaq Apr 29 '11 at 13:51

You will need to 301 redirect the old domain to the new domain to keep the status quo. However.... @cdeszaq is correct... google will slowly realise that the content is different and begin to re-optimise the website accordingly...

using a 301 redirect from old-domain to new-domain will ensure you stay where you are the the rankings... You will need to optimise the new site to stay there though...

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