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We are currently in the process of launching a new website in my non-profit organisation; our old web site that has been around since the end of the 90's will be replaced by a Squarespace site.

Now, our current site ranks pretty high on Google when searching for terms that we would like to be associated with. When we make the change, we will keep the same domain name but the pages will be hosted with Squarespace instead of our old web host.

After the transfer, what will most likely happen to our Google ranking? Are we going to have to start from the bottom again or will some reputation carry over to our new site because the domain name still is the same?

  • You make it sound like you are changing just the home page. Wouldn't the hosting of the entire site be changing too including all the deep pages? – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 8 '14 at 17:14
  • @StephenOstermiller I might be using the words incorrectly. Home page for me is the whole shabang but I realise that the correct usage might only refer to the landing page. But yeah, all the old pages will be thrown away and a completely new set of pages will be hosted with Squarespace. Only the URL (www.sometingsomething.com) to get to the landing page will be the same as before. – Speldosa Sep 9 '14 at 11:49
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After the transfer, what will most likely happen to our Google ranking?

Nobody knows. You will be changing core elements of your website which are known to affect SEO (your HTML markup, site structure, URL structure) so your rankings will be influenced by this change. But there's no way to tell if this is for the better or not. If your rankings are very good then changes like this are risky. But we can't tell what will happen since not only do we not have access to Google's ranking algorithm, we don't know about all of the other factors that determine where those pages rank.

Are we going to have to start from the bottom again or will some reputation carry over to our new site because the domain name still is the same?

Keeping the domain name the same is good but if you do not do 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new URLs you will be starting from scratch. Search engines rank pages not websites. So if your content moves to a new URL and you do not do a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new URL you are essentially starting from scratch and your rankings will almost certainly drop.

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The change you are making is a "site redesign" or "content management system" switch. There are big search engine ranking risks with such a change, but those can be mitigated with the proper use of redirects. You should follow these guidelines:

  • No content should be deleted during the process.
  • Every page on the old site should have the same URL as that page on the new site, or should redirect to the new URL (not to the home page).
  • Redirects should be the SEO friendly 301 permanent type.

Here is a good article: How To Avoid SEO Disaster During a Website Redesign. It recommends the following quality assurance steps:

  • Crawl your website to check for broken links.
  • Take an inventory of inbound links to your site. Check them all once the new site is in place.
  • Have a 301 redirect plan.
  • Perform an SEO audit.
  • Pay attention to your analytics.
  • Don't rollback any search engine optimizations that you have done during the change.
  • Set up webmaster accounts.
  • Vet your new content management system for good SEO.
  • Make sure you understand each change before it goes live.
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Just use a 301 redirect from your old webhost. Doing this will enable you to continue with the same rankings. Matt Cutts himself says so in some of his videos(though he says this for pages within the same host, but it should also apply on whole websites).

  • So, we should let the old site running for quite some time then and just create 301 redirects from every available page? – Speldosa Sep 8 '14 at 14:54
  • Actually in a normal case this would work quite well, but since you will be using the same domain name, I'm not too sure, so you will be much better off if you asked this question on some google forum or to google support. – user44576 Sep 8 '14 at 14:57
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    301 redirect does not seem to fit this situation unless you are breaking inbound (backlinks) to your site. They are not needed otherwise to move your domain to another host. – closetnoc Sep 8 '14 at 15:05
  • @closetnoc the question has been clarified -- all the internal URLs are changing. – Stephen Ostermiller Sep 9 '14 at 12:03

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