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I run a web site that offers a service that receives over 1 million page views a day and I have completely rebuilt the whole script from the ground up.

Before switching from my current script to my new one i wanted to run a public beta of the new script on a different domain. For example my main site is domain.com and my test site is domain.me. This is primarily to find and iron out any major issues before using the new script on the main site.

My question is what is the SEO safest way to do this to ensure that my test site does not harm my main sites SEO as the content would be almost identical.

It is my understand that if i just set my robots.txt file to deny all bots to my test site as well as make sure to have a canonical link in the head of the test site i should be safe. Am i correct in this assumption or could this harm my main sites SEO ?

  • Do you run split test A/B also for usability and conversions? – lucgenti Jun 8 '15 at 8:46
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You're correct. Putting your test domain noindex and canonicalizing to old one is enough.

Just remember to look for backlinks after testing. If you get something valuable, do redirect 301 from test domain to established one.

But I would choose a subdomain or subfolder instead of a new domain. A new domain can be good if you have the same name with another TLD, like example.us and example.com if your audience is from US. Just for branding reasons.

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  • I run web based proxies and one of the new options is allowing the user to choose which location of web server they would like to use, depending on what the user selects we direct them to a different subdomain such as phoenix.domain.com or france.domain.com. This makes it hard to test on the main domain without setting up the the DNS records which could conflict with the old/current script. Thanks for confirming my questions, ill make sure to check for any backlinks after testing too. – Analog Jun 9 '15 at 1:18
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Being honest I'm not sure you'd cause any impact of your ranking on search engines by doing that, but you need to provide a bit more information for me to be sure. If you are running the new script on another domain (domain.com being different to domain.me) then there wouldn't be any impact alone from running on another server.

When you say script, can you be a bit more clear. Is this a server side script? (asp, php etc...) is is JavaScript? or is it an entire new web page layout? (has the html structure of the paged changed enough to effect how it is read).

If the actual structure of the page has changed moving content that would usually be used to assess the relevancy of a page for search engine rankings, then a re-rank may be unavoidable.

Steve

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