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I have a blog (which serves as a commercial site) hosted on free wordpress.com.

Since I now want to customise and get ownership of the whole thing I am thinking of either self hosting or upgrading through (the quite expensive) wordpress.com upgrade.

My question is: what is the best way/procedure not to lose SEO? The site ranks very high on a very specific query, and it's been sitting there for many years. (I only recently checked it out and want to revamp it.) I am afraid I would disappear from search results when changing the server to a self-hosted solution (by far the cheapest.) I'm not sure if I would keep the same SEO by internally upgrading to premium wordpress.com hosting.

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Depends how you are using the hosting, are you using a subdomain.wordpress.com domain or your own domain at present? –  bybe Mar 12 '13 at 12:42
    
subdomain.wordpress.com, i'm on free hosting. Basically I would need to choose between: - buy internally own domain (no possibility of editing html and css though) - buy internally domain and customisation package (quite expensive) - redirect (at a price, 30 bucks) to a new self-hosted site in a purchased domain (wondering about the SEO impact) (basically 301 reds for all pages) - just leave it alive and link to the new site, which having identical content may or may not end up with the same seo. –  Luca Mar 12 '13 at 12:58
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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Your need to keep active the sub domain on WordPress otherwise you will lose any backlinks you have gained. I've made a few steps that you can follow but its important to note when you 301 redirect there is always a lose in some juice as Google makes it this way to dis-en-coverage people to use 301's as well as ruling out abuse (It's very little juice that is lost but of course this can mean that your rankings shift, it'd be bad advice if anyone told you otherwise). Most important thing is to redirect to the relevant pages.. for example cats > cats, dogs to dogs. If your doing a cleanup and deleting page about cows, don't assume that a 301 to Cows > Root is a good thing to do since sometimes a 404 is a good thing to do as Google dislikes people trying to retain 100% juice on deleted pages by people going to pages that has nothing to do about Cows - If that makes sense. Many people assume that 404's are bad when in fact they are completely normal and not a bad thing at all, as Matt Cutts has said many times.

Steps to Follow

  • Register a new domain and new hosting account somewhere
  • Verify your WordPress sub domain with Google Webmaster Tools
  • Make the new site on the new domain but temporary block robots.txt so its not indexed on any search engine.
  • Once site is ready to go live you need to ensure on the old site that you have continue to have active 301's redirects to the new site, again you need to keep this sub domain active otherwise you may lose backlinks. Use the code found at the bottom.
  • Remove the block from robots.txt so Google can index your site.
  • Now tell Google your site has moved to the new URL.

PHP Code you should use on your old site since .htaccess is not possible on WordPress Free Hosting

<?php
// Permanent redirection
header("HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently");
header("Location: http://www.yournewdomain.com/");
exit();
?>

This should be setup on every single page and match the new page on the new domain... And again for best 301 results ensure that the pages that you are redirecting are relevant. 404 any that is no longer valid.

Root yournewdomain.com/ = header("Location: http://www.yournewdomain.com/"); yournewdomain.com/cats/ = header("Location: http://www.yournewdomain.com/cats/"); yournewdomain.com/dogs/ = header("Location: http://www.yournewdomain.com/dogs/");

Other things to consider

Another thing to consider is that most often when people make a migration of this kind they tend to add/change/delete things on the site. This can have its own effect, my personal advice is to use the same theme, same content... and then change things over time, not only does this help retain your rankings as Google will believe the page is the same and relevant it will help Google reward you for keeping your pages fresh. So OLD to OLD > Then freshen after the move if required.

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Before implementation of above step, I suggest to record Page Rank of each pages of your wordpress site. Then implementabove mentioned things by @bybe, Keep watch on index pages by google of your old subdomain.wordpress site. Google will remove all your wordpress site pages one by one. Once google crawle all the pages of your new site, again wait for next PR updates, and after updates check PR of your new webiste pages, and compare it with old recorded PR, until all new pages got PR as per old site. Then after you can remove the old wordpress site. Till that time keep old wordpress subdomain.

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