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I'm involved in a discussion with a client that has an old website and a new one. The old site is actually something they inherited as part of the purchase of another company.

The old site has a fairly good SEO ranking although its branding and content is not at all what they want. The new website that has been built which now uses the totally different new company name and branding is the target of their planned 301 redirects. This site has a much lower SEO rank than the older site they want to remove.

They are determined to redirect pretty much the entire old site to the new site, where possible redirecitng pages "like for like".

I've tried to explain that all the rules of cross domain redirects are going to be broken with their plan (see this great info graphic) and that this will have dire consequences for SEO but they don't seem to understand the difference between a 301 redirect from one page to another in the same site to redirecting to a totally different website.

If you look at that infographic you will see that such an idea breaks ALL the rules of a domain redirect - In other words, they are changing the website platform, its structure (urls), the site design and the general content of each page all at once.

So my understanding is that under such a situation, they will loose most of the worth of the old site ranking because as a result of a domain change the new domain and its value is going to be assessed for each page instead. On top of this, as the new site is clearly less well respected in SEO terms a large drop in SEO hits is almost guaranteed.

Am I correct on this thinking?

I understand that with the replacement of one brand and site to another you are going to never have an easy redirection process. In fact I've suggested that they keep their old site live and just alter it to add banners and warnings that its now defunct and change certain call to action buttons to redirect to relevent pages on the new site. In otherwords, give users subtle pushes to go to the new site all the time but not force them with 301 redirects. Does this sound like a good idea or would anyone go ahead with the 301 redirects?

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The info-graphic you linked to is misleading.

The apparent premise is that you should not redirect to a site if the platform is different, structure changes, design changes, or the content changes. This is about as far from the truth as it can be. Of course there are considerations, but none of these items are game changers.

For example, given a structure change, a blanket redirect from the old site to the new site with redirects on the new site to the appropriate URL or page is perfectly reasonable and acceptable. Yes there are two redirects, but this is completely normal these days. For pages that no longer exists, it is perfectly acceptable that they 404 or 410 on the new domain.

The platform has no baring on the matter. Neither does the design. As well, it is perfectly normal that content will change as a company re-brands their site or anywhere thereafter.

Language and content can be an issue only in respect that for a period the site must be re-indexed and the sites semantic metrics reassigned. This is an expense of course, but not a game changer in the least.

If I were building this info-graphic, I would not have made those squares red. It gives the wrong impression. For me, they would have been yellow or some other cautionary color, but not red. As well, I would have broken these squares into something more explanatory so that it is clearer where any caution exists.

There is no linkage or correlation between a redirect and how the site is presented. Period. Removing the redirect for the sake of argument means only that the site has changed just like any other site does from time to time. This is perfectly normal and reasonable.

<update>

Doing a blanket redirect, whole site and not just pages, will preserve much of the value of the original site and project it onto the new site. This is a common tactic.

I often offer this bit of advice however.

For any new site, it is inevitable that the old site will want to be deleted. It is far better to assess the link profile of the old site and modify the links you can, and replace the links you cannot modify so that the link profile of the new site exceeds the link profile of the old site. The reason for this is to allow freedom for the time when the old domain is deleted. If the old domain is never deleted, you will not suffer from the additional work. You will gain from it.

It is very common to do a blanket redirect from an old site to a new site and everything has changed. Think of the effect without the redirect. The same effect applies as if you simply changed the site. The search engines will have to assess the changes and update the index accordingly. As well, all the metrics within the index will be recalculated. This is completely normal. The degree of disruption is dependent upon the degree of change.

Assuming you are redirecting the old site to the new, you have the added benefit of some of the site metrics remaining as they are. This includes important metrics such as trust metrics. This would of course changes when the redirect is removed. For this reason, you have two choices. One, keep the redirect for a period or forever. Or two, just pull the band-aid quickly and get it over with. It really has everything to do with the metrics of the old site. The SEO effectiveness of the old site would need to be assessed. If the old site enjoys a reasonably decent link profile and trust metrics and all that remains is on-site SEO (good or bad), then you are in good shape. Just changing the site will fix this (redirecting to the new site). However, if the old site is poor in it's link profile and there is not much value in the trust metrics, then it might be better to simply drop the old domain altogether. There are points in between where it is ideal to at least think about it for a while. I am a firm believer that only redirects from reasonably strong sites should exist. Sometimes the cost of dropping the old site is the same as just plain starting over.

</update>

You have to take SEOs with a lot of salt sometimes. Often, they are not technical people and can get a bit wild with their assumptions. MOZ is no exception and in fact, is a site that I find contradicting from time to time. While MOZ enjoys a good reputation, it is not one I advise putting too much stock into. It is not on my short list of sites that I trust.

  • Thanks @closetnoc for your answer. One important point though; in this example with my client the old site they want to remove has a significantly better ranking than the new site which hardly anyone visits right now. They haven't done any SEO on the new site so its no surprise. So I've said to them that they should expect a significant drop in traffic as the new site just won't rank as well right now. They have an image that the redirects will not really influence ranking and don't realise the importance that the new domain will be seen on its own merits. I'm right in this aren't I ? – AdamJones Feb 8 '16 at 18:44
  • @AdamJones I updated the answer for you. This should help. Cheers! – closetnoc Feb 8 '16 at 19:06
  • Long story short... whilst "this is a common tactic", doing a blanket (like for like) redirect to a new domain/URL structure as described in the question, it is inevitable that there will be a drop in search ranking (at least initially). This could perhaps be alleviated by doing a more gradual migration. – MrWhite Feb 15 '16 at 10:57
  • @w3dk I agree there is always a cost to changing domain names and moving content around. It should generally be avoided as much as possible though I realize that sometimes conducting business requires taking one on the chin from time to time. The problem is, people do not realize that there will be a cost and cannot imagine it. Even simple redirects of a single page have a cost. Redirecting an entire sites will too, though it is generally accepted as ordinary business as in www to non-www. Yes. You are right. There is always a cost somewhere. Cheers!! – closetnoc Feb 15 '16 at 16:07

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