Changing hosting providers can do wonders for your site’s traffic and performance, but the switch itself can sometimes cost you traffic. Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take when switching hosting providers to ensure that your site’s traffic is not seriously affected by the move.
The biggest problems when moving a website to a new host are data loss and downtime. Both of these can cause your site to be temporarily inaccessible to both search engines and users, which in turn can have a big impact on your site’s traffic. If your site is a WordPress site, many WordPress hosting providers, including Green Geeks, Bluehost, and Dreamhost, offer a free migration service. This isn’t always advertised on the provider’s website, so it never hurts to ask. This is by far the smoothest way to migrate a site, as a lot of the technical problems and SEO checks will be done for you by the provider.
The best time to change hosting providers is early in your site’s life. A small site with just a few pages is pretty easy to switch without having an impact on your traffic. Moving a big site, however, will require some prep work. First, you want to make sure that your SEO is not affected by the move. Search engine involvement is important to ensure that the move does not negatively impact your SEO or show your site’s visitors with the dreaded 404 error. Putting the 301 direct on your old pages is what signals to Google that a move is being made. If you’re unsure, do a quick test by putting the 301 direct on a subdomain or directory first to see how it works. It may also be worth it to do a quick Google search to see how the new pages are showing up in the search engine. Once the redirect is working seamlessly, you can begin the process of moving the entire site. Avoid the temptation to put a blanket redirect on the entire site. This will be a lot simpler for you, but it could negatively impact your customer’s experience, which in turn will cause a hit to your site’s traffic. A page-to-page direct is going to be a much better experience on the viewer’s end.
It’s also recommended to move the site before you do any rebranding or redesigning. This will minimize the amount of change your viewers actually see from visit-to-visit, which will make the change much easier for them to manage. You should also check all of your site’s internal and external links. Make sure that all of the links direct customers to the new site. Once the site has been transferred to the new web host, run it through a link checker to make sure you don’t have any broken links.
It is much, much easier to migrate to a new web host without changing your domain name. A change of domain is not necessary for web host migration, and if you can avoid it, it will save you a lot of runaround in terms of redirects and how the site appears on search engines. The fewer changes you can make to your site’s URL structure, the better. If you are changing your domain name, remember that DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to fully take effect once a site has been migrated. During that time, your site may continue to load from your old host. For this reason, it’s typically recommended that you maintain control of the old site’s domain for at least 180 days after you’ve switched to a new provider. This will help you to both notices and correct any problems caused by the switch without having to rely on your old web host for help. If you are deleting your account with the old host provider, they will delete all of your data once your account expires, so you won’t need to worry about deleting files from your old web host once your new website is fully operational.