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“We’re Doing a Site Move. Can We Lose Rankings We Might Never Recover?” Google Responds

Doing a well-planned site move isn’t as scary as one might think…if you consider what Google has to say.

As you know, in real life, moving from one apartment to another, or from an old home to another, can require a lot of intricate planning. 

Likewise with a website–particularly one with a lot of images, categories, products, content, and, in short, URLs/pages. 

From a search perspective, whether you’re moving content and/or changing brands, you’ll have to consider how you’ll redirect traffic from your old domain to your new one. 

This is because after you move, Google, for a while, may still have a lot of your old domain’s pages/URLs indexed. So, on those old URLs, you may want to redirect traffic to your new URLs. 

Usually, a redirect–specifically, in this case, a 301 (permanent redirect)–would be a viable option. 

At around the 44-minute, 33-second mark of the English Google SEO Office-Hours from October 8, 2021, John Mueller (Search Advocate for Google) addressed a question about this subject. 

The video below is queued to the point where the situation was presented and a few questions were asked. 

The scenario, which basically involved a site move, was presented in the form of questions that any site owner would consider when moving a site: 

“What is the best course of action to take when you have to 301 redirect all of the URLs to a new set of URLs? The number of pages will be over one million, and you want to minimize the sandbox effect?

“If there is a sandbox effect, how long could it last? Would we lose rankings that we might never recover? 

“We plan on doing a one-to-one redirect, and had requested batch redirects, but that’s not a possibility, so pages, images, URLs, etc. would have to flip at the same time.

John responded by offering a number of things to consider:

“To me, this sounds like a traditional site move situation. You move from one domain to another, and you redirect all of the URLs from your old site to a new one, and we have to deal with that.”

No Sandbox Effect

Sandboxing, from an SEO perspective, was something that SEOs claimed to have seen: new sites were, allegedly, put in a ‘sandbox’ before they showed up significantly in Google’s search results. 

I myself thought I had seen something like this, but I didn’t see it 100% of the time. In fact, I remember creating a new site, submitting it, and seeing it in Google’s search within minutes. (Granted, my domain was brand new and didn’t have any incoming redirects, and I did a site: search operant, but still…my new site was indexed.)

Anyway, from John’s continued response (below), it’s apparently not something you have to worry about.

“And there is, at least from my point of view, nothing like a sandbox effect. There is definitely nothing defined as a sandbox effect on our side when it comes to site move. 

“So if you have to do a site move, then do a site move, and redirect all of your pages. It’s often the easiest approach is just to redirect all pages at once. Our systems are also tuned to that a little bit to try to recognize that.

Smaller Chance of Delay (On Google’s Part)

“So when we see that a website starts redirecting all pages to a different website, then we’ll try to reprocess that a little bit faster so that we can process that site move as quickly as possible.

“And it’s definitely not the case that we would say, ‘Oh, they’re doing a site move, therefore, we will slow things down.’ But rather, we try to process things actually a little bit faster when we recognize there is a site.”

You Can Be (A Little) Relieved

So, according to John Mueller, Google does what it can to process your move as quickly as possible, and there’s no sandboxing effect (at least, not for new domains that are hosting content from old domains). 

Source: Google Search Central YouTube channel