Changing and Consolidating Domains with 301 Redirects

If you didn’t already know, COCG recently underwent a rebranding. We found ourselves with a massively built-out website on our old domain, clickoptimize.com, so it seemed that some 301 redirects were in order. Now that we’ve been live for a while, we can say for certain that the swap was a success. Here’s what we did.

How to Move Domains with 301 Redirects

There are several different ways to set up 301 redirects, and many people will recommend different methods. At the end of the day, though, a 301 redirect is a direct signal to search engines that a URL is now living in a new permanent location, straight from the server itself. It’s important to note that 301s and 302s, while accomplishing the same thing from the user side of things, are seen differently by search engines. A 301 is a permanent move… a 302 is a temporary location for new content. Here’s what Google sees when trying to access a page that has been redirected:

301 Redirect

Here are the steps we took to set them up for a variety of clients as well as ourselves, each time seeing great results:

1) Setting up a 301 Redirect using htaccess

First, set up a 301 redirect in the htaccess file of the domain you want to redirect. This single 301 will redirect the root folder of the old domain to the root folder of the new domain. In the htaccess file, your redirect should look like this:

Redirect 301 / http://www.newdomain.com/

What this does is redirect traffic aimed at your old domain while preserving any trailing URLs that get redirected. So, if a user navigates to this url:

http://www.olddomain.com/abc123

They will be redirected to this url:

http://www.newdomain.com/abc123

Now, depending on the specifics of your new site, the trailing URL “/abc123” may or may not exist. If you are simply migrating domains and keeping everything the same, then you’re probably good to go! If, like us, you’re implementing a major overhaul of your site, you probably should continue to the next step.

2) Redirecting Trailing URLs in your CMS

Once your domain is forwarding, it’s time to resolve the individual pages. If you’re using a common CMS like WordPress or Drupal, there are a variety of plugins you can download to help handle 301 redirects. You can also set up htaccess redirects in the htaccess file of your new domain, if you prefer.

Regardless of how you choose to handle it, all you need to do is redirect each old trailing URL to its corresponding new version. So, say your old URL looks like this:

http://www.olddomain.com/raleigh-services-company

And we need that to redirect to something like this:

http://www.newdomain.com/services

All you have to do is use your redirection method of choice on the new domain to redirect “/raleigh-services-company” to “/services.” If you use a plugin, it’s usually pretty easy. If you’re using htaccess on the new domain, your redirect will look like this:

Redirect 301 /raleigh-services-company http://www.newdomain.com/services

So, that’s how we set up our redirects. It might be slightly roundabout at points, but the end result is a clean change that allows any of our site’s content creators to easily manage the new site’s 301 redirects through a simple plugin.

Want more proof that this method works? Check this out…

Using 301 Redirects to Consolidate Domain Names: A Case Study

A long time ago, exact match domain names were pretty valuable. So, when Progressive came to us with a business that offered plumbing, HVAC, and electrician services, it made sense that we built out websites for each subset:

  • ppp-rtp.com (Progressive Plumbing and Piping, their original site)
  • progressiveheatingandair.com
  • progressiveelectricalservice.com
  • callprogressive.com (PPC Landing Page)

For a long time, each domain ranked well for its targeted terms. However, things eventually started slipping… ranks were falling, Progressive’s citation profile was completely out of order, and on-site conversions were dropping. Something needed to change.

We made the call to consolidate our domains, and chose “callprogressive.com” to be the new face of the business, since it didn’t favor any one service. One by one, we rolled the other domains into callprogressive.com, creating new pages so no content was lost and methodically setting up 301s as described above.

With diligent monitoring and rank tracking, we found out just how fast Google responds to 301 redirects. Within days of each rollover, callprogressive.com had swapped out with the old domains position in the SERPS, and often saw a rank increase.

After giving things some time to settle, we have looked back and seen that overall traffic is higher on callprogressive.com than the total of all the subdomains had been. We also have one consistent website to point to for all citation and link building efforts, as well as any print materials Progressive puts out. The change was a success.

Anything Else?

We hope this was helpful and informative! As was mentioned, 301 redirects can be a quite tricky, and there are a variety of approaches that are all valid. But at least we can say for certain that this one worked for us. If it seems like a lot of work, it’s worth remembering that without correct redirection, users are liable to see 404 errors scattered across your site. This can lead to a poor user experience and a loss of business, so be diligent about your redirects!

Have a redirection problem of your own? Give COCG a shout and explain the problem… we are here to help!