Moving to a New Web Host without Losing Your Search Engine Rankings

Due to many reasons and with different intentions, web masters tend to change their existing web host. This change could result costing dearly the website owner, as hard earned rankings for the site can drop drastically overnight. It is evident that the web hosting server and its physical location has an impact on the SEO rankings of a certain website. Thus, even though shifting to a new web host may seem less hazardous compared to changing the domain name; it too should be done with total consideration.

Before we precede let us give you the assurance that changing from one web host to another is NOT insecure, provided you stick exactly to the guide lines mentioned below. You can obtain the success you had with your previous host or more importantly, IMPROVE YOUR SUCCESS LEADING TO HIGHER RANKINGS.

This article talks about the points you should pay attention to when changing from one host to another and about ways to securely change your website’s host without impairing the SEO rankings.

Search for a hosting company that best suit your needs :

First and fore most you must find a web hosting company who will provide you with all essential features for you to display your website accordingly. This might sound impossible as it is difficult to find one who addresses your needs precisely. But finding such a company is vital.

  • Be sure to know about the operating system of the server (Windows or Linux) and about the web technologies used (PHP, JSP, ASP or ASP.Net). Also, what database systems you need. See whether solutions of your new host are compatible with the technical specification of your website.
  • Check the version and the configuration settings of the server, time limits and installed libraries.
  • Find out how file uploading on the new host happens. Make the method available for you to upload your site easily.
  • Have the DNS information ready for your new host. Also, make sure you have your domain account information at hand so you can quickly modify the settings when needed.
  • Mind the available bandwidth of the hosting package, physical characteristics of the server and other service limitations.
  • Be sure to select a company who provides you with excellent technical support.
  • Choose a company that has a good reputation for offering quality services to their customers. Bypass any shabby hosting packages as they draw attention of spammers. Excess spamming can negatively affect your SEO statuses.

Location of the server :

Most search engines use the physical location of the server, i.e. the country as a Geo location signal. Hence, if the location of the new host is different to the old, it could be a problem to your rankings. It is best if you could host your website on a server that is located in the same country as the crowd you are aiming for. As an example, if your site audience is from Europe or UK then it’s better to host it in a server located in UK. On the other hand if your site visitors are from US and word wide then you are better off hosting your site in a US based server.

Test after uploading your website on the new host :

Compatibility issues could be easily identified if you test your website with the new host. Make sure that your website works fine before you test it on the new host. Be sure to back up your entire site prior transferring. It is better if you manually backup all you files in case of any compatibility problems between the two hosts and if something goes wrong, you can always come back and restore.

Inform your users beforehand :

Whatever the website category maybe, informing your users prior to the transition is good etiquette. By doing so they will not be confused in case your website undergoes some problem. Your users are your best asset; their constant feedback will help you identify overlooked problematic areas. Inform when the transition will take place and when it will end.

Amend the Time-To-Live (TTL) of your DNS records (Optional but highly recommended) :

Domain Name System or more commonly referred to as “DNS” is a service which maps the domain names to their relevant IP addresses. These IP addresses are the network addresses of the hosting servers. The DNS helps to find the server where a website is hosted. When we change from one hosting company to another, both the DNS and the IP address change. Therefore a compulsory update in the DNS records is needed for the transfer to be complete and successful.

There can be instances where there is a delay of more than 24hours for the DNS records to become globally visible . To avoid generating excess load on the system the DNS records are cached for a certain time period (also known as TTL). This is the reason for the delay. Let’s say you changed your DNS records today, 23hours later you will notice that many of your users are still accessing your site through the old server. If your website is static this delay would not be a problem. But what if it’s dynamic; changes done in the databases will not be reflected.

By changing the value of the TTL from 24 hours (i.e. 86400 seconds) to 5 minutes (i.e. 30 seconds) you could increase the speed of the DNS update process. Change the TTL one day prior to the actual transfer. Once you update the DNS records rest assured your visitors will access your website via the new hosting server. Note sometimes this TTL modification cannot be done as some domain registrars do not offer this option. But hey don’t fret, there are other ways.

If you cannot update your TTL, try editing the configuration of the old site and replace the address of the database server with the new. This method is best suited when you want to avoid losing content during the shifting period. Unfortunately if none of the above seems possible, your only hope is to wait for the DNS records to be fully updated.

Update the DNS records :

Update the DNS records so it points to the new site. There can be a need to update the Name Server records or the A Records depending on how the new host works. Furthermore make sure you change the TTL time back to 24 hours.

On Transition :

It is best if u could do the transition where a very few number of people are disturbed. List all steps need to be followed when transferring. List details of file structures to ensure all files are copied correctly. Use the temporary URL to test whether your site is working properly. Once all of this is done, you are ready to change your DNS. Get your visitors involved to provide feedback, let them know of what’s happening.

After moving keep both servers for at least 2 days :

It is advised to keep the old server live for a couple of days even after the transition is complete. This is because some browsers and applications store the DNS records for more than the specified TTL value. By keeping the old server running for a little longer the emails and traffic to your website will not be lost. Every 24 hours or less search engines update the DNS records. This assures we could easily rely on the search engines, but it is best to be on the safe side and have the old system running for a little while. After a few days if see the website is running smoothly without any problems, you can abort the old account and continue using the new.

There you go! Make sure to test everything before you transfer. If you follow the guidelines properly, possibility of getting something wrong is minimal!.