All you ever wanted to know about 301 redirects & content transfers
So, you’ve just purchased your first Real Estate Webmasters website. First of all, congratulations – you’re well on your way to increased organic traffic and more leads.
Secondly, you should consider how to handle your existing website.
Depending on your situation, your website may have been a part of your life and your business for years. You’ve diligently created content across many of the different community pages, as well as a number of helpful guides, FAQs and checklists to help out the clients in your market.
You’ve also consistently contributed to your blog – creating a variety of useful and timely posts about your local community and the state of the real estate market.
It would be a shame for all that fantastic content and your time (not to mention great domain authority) to go to waste. That’s where the content transfer comes in, a crucial first step in your journey towards success with Real Estate Webmasters.
What is a content transfer?
When REW transfers your website content, we make sure to move all your on-page content (formatted as closely to the original as we can), as well as any meta information, photos, and videos.
We also implement 301 redirects where necessary at the domain level or page level. More in 301 redirects below.
Why is it so important to transfer my content?
You may ask yourself, "Why couldn’t I start with a clean slate?" Or, maybe you aren’t happy with the content that currently takes up residence on your website.
The simple answer is that a content transfer, paired with 301 redirects, pointing users to your website’s new home, are the best ways to maintain any website domain authority your old site has accumulated. A large proportion of the signals that search engines, like Google, use when deciding who should rank highest in search results are tied to:
- The age of your domain.
- The number of high-quality links directed to your URL.
- The quality, quantity, and relevance of your content to users' searches.
All three of these important ranking signals would be lost if you were to start fresh with a new site.
Can I just start fresh with content?
The short answer is that it’s not recommended.
When setting up a new website, it’s an SEO best practice to implement changes slowly, so as not to overwhelm the search engine crawlers.
If they detect too much change all at once, it can act as a shock to Google—who may treat the website as an entirely new entity and not the site it’s come to trust over time. Your website may be deemed less relevant and ranked lower, negatively impacting the level of organic traffic coming to your site.
Instead, we recommend transferring your content to the new website template in as much the same form as possible.
When can I add new content?
Once your site has gone live, wait a few weeks to allow your website traffic to settle and search engine crawlers to re-index the new template. This is when you can start to alter, improve or replace the existing content from your former website.
Of course, if you have to add a small amount of content to fit in with the new site template, this won’t make or break your success. But it’s recommend to add only what’s necessary.
What is a 301 redirect?
The most important step in the content transfer process, once all content has been transferred, but before your new REW site has gone live, is the 301 redirect.
The 301 redirect is an internet directive that tells internet browsers and search engines that the page they’ve asked for has permanently moved. The user/search engine crawler will then be automatically redirected to the new page that you’ve designated.
301 redirects happen at two levels.
What is a domain-level redirect?
The first class of 301 redirect is a domain-level redirect.
If you’re changing your root domain's URL (a.k.a. your main website URL), you should implement a redirect so that the old URL points to the new URL.
For example, if your previous URL was exampleagent.com and your new site will be launched on betterexampleagent.com, you'll want to implement a 301 redirect at the domain level, so that any users trying to visit your old site will be pointed to your new site.
How do I implement a domain-level redirect?
A domain-level redirect must be set up through your domain registrar (e.g. GoDaddy).
It's also recommended that you implement a change of address in Google Search Console.
Should I shut down or sell my old domain once my new site is live?
No. You should keep your old domain up and running so that the redirect stays in place and users can continue to find your site.
What is a page-level redirect?
The second type of 301 redirect is a page-level redirect. This redirect tells your browser and search engines that a page has moved to a new URL.
For example, if you had a Nanaimo community page on your old site ending in /nanaimo.html and a corresponding area page on the new site ending in /nanaimo-real-estate.php, we would recommend putting a 301 redirect in place so that users visiting the old URL would be forwarded to the correct page.
With a properly implemented redirect, 100% of that page’s accumulated page authority will be transferred to the new page. This will help to ensure that you don’t lose any SEO momentum you’ve built up from your past website.
How do I implement a page-level 301 redirect?
On the REW backend, there is a Redirect Tool that allows you to create page-level 301 redirects. For more help on this topic, check out the REW Support documentation.
What other steps should I take?
Once you've transferred your content and set up 301 redirects, you're not quite done yet.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console can help to diagnose potential issues that arise as part of a content transfer. You should also submit your new sitemap to gain insight as to whether your new site has been successfully indexed.
Update your backlinks
If you've changed your domain name, it's important to scour the web for every reference to your website. Update each of your online profiles with your new website URL and reach out to other webmasters to update any backlinks you've earned to your old URL.
Starting off with a solid foundation
While we've provided a lot of detail on content transfers, the truth is that it's very easy to make a slight misstep that can result in a major loss in traffic.
When we get you set up with a brand new REW website, we want to ensure you get started on as solid a foundation as possible. There’s no reason for you have to start from square one in terms of your SEO. We highly recommend engaging our SEO Specialists to help you with your content transfer in lieu of trying to take care of every last detail yourself.
The REW platform is already highly optimized SEO, so this combined with your current website’s years of accumulated domain authority place you well for continued success and growth. By tactfully transferring your existing content, and ensuring that any domain authority flows from your old site to the new one, you can rest assured that you’ll be starting out on the right foot.