How to Change Your Web Host Without Negatively Affecting SEO
Migrating your website from one host to another is no easy undertaking. Whether you’re relocating your site because you want to save money with a new shared host, or you need the space and control that a virtual private server or a dedicated server has to offer, you need to be careful every step of the way. One misstep during the execution, and you could not only lose essential files; you could lose your current search engine ranking.
SEO Inc can help with any migration issues, and complete the migration process seamlessly. Check out our SEO Services as once the site migration is completed, we will make sure you do not lose any of your hard-earned rankings and visibility. We’ll go into more detail, but here are the necessary steps you need to take when migrating your website:
- Create a Full Backup of Your Site
- Move the Website
- Test the New Website
- Update DNS Records TTL
- Update Your DNS Records
If you don’t currently have a high ranking, this may not seem like a big deal – so let me explain how it could impact your bottom line if you’re in the number one position for one or more keywords that generate the majority of your website traffic and sales.
Though it’s not entirely sure and does vary depending on the keyword phrase, many studies have concluded that a website in position one (1) gets about ⅓ of the total search engine traffic. Based on this information, if you get 10,000 visits a month, that means roughly 30,000 searches a month go to that query. If you have a conversion rate of 1%, that means 100 consumers purchase from you. Let’s say that purchase is $100 – to keep the math nice and straightforward. That earns you $10,000 a month.
Dropping down to the 3rd search result brings you to only 9% of that traffic, so you’d only be getting roughly 2700 visits per month. At that same conversion rate, you’re earning just $2,700 a month, for a loss of 83% of your income! And if you fall off the first page, it gets even more dismal, since an estimated 75% of clicks go to the first page of search results.
Now that you have a better understanding of why you must take steps to preserve your search ranking during a server migration, let’s discuss how to get it done the right way. This assumes you’ve already chosen the new host, and don’t need guidance in making a choice.
Create a Full Backup of Your Site
In WordPress, you can do this by downloading your site files and exporting your MySQL database in phpMyAdmin.
Follow these steps:
- Log in to your web hosting account’s cPanel. Click File Manager.
- Click public_html to access your sites files or the directory for your website if you host multiple domains.
- Compress all the files and folders.
- Download the compressed file to your computer.
- Download wp-config.php to your computer.
Now that you have the files, it’s time to export your database.
- In your cPanel, click phpMyAdmin.
- Select the database associated with the WordPress installation you’re moving. Click Export.
- Select SQL format. Click the Go Button.
- This will download the file to your computer.
If you’re unsure about doing this yourself, use a plugin such as BackupBuddy, BackWPup, or a premium backup service like VaultPress.
Move the Website
In the case of WordPress, this involves importing your MySQL database into one on your new web host, updating the wp-config.php file, and replacing the default wp-content folder with your old one.
Follow these steps:
- Create a new WordPress database on your new host.
- In your cPanel, click MySQL database
- Create a new database with a name that’s easy for you to associate with your site.
- Create a new username and secure password.
- Add the user to your new database. Give the user all privileges.
- Keep the database name, username, and password, as you’ll need to update the information in your wp-config file in a bit.
Now, it’s time to edit your wp-config file. Open the wp-config.php file from the backup you downloaded.
- Look for the define(‘DB_NAME,’ ‘db_name’); line, and edit the name to match the name of the database at your new host.
- Look for the define(‘DB_USER,’ ‘db_user’); line, and edit the username to match the username associated with the database at the new host.
- Look for the define(‘DB_PASSWORD,’ ‘db_pass’); line, and edit the password to match the password associated with the database at the new host.
Save the changes to your wp-config.php file.
Now, it’s time to import the database from your old host to the new database you created.
- Open cPanel and launch phpMyAdmin.
- Click Import.
- Navigate to the file on your hard drive, and uncheck “Partial Import.”
- Click Go.
This imports your database from your old host to your new one.
Next, we upload the files to your new host.
- Connect to your new host via FTP.
- Choose the directory where you want to upload the files. If you’re only hosting a single site, upload them to the public_html directory.
- Unzip the compressed file backup from your hard drive and upload the files via FTP.
- Replace the wp-config.php file from the compressed file upload with the new version you edited in the previous steps.
If you don’t feel confident enough to handle this, you can use the Duplicator plugin, or see if your new host is willing to transfer everything over for you. Many hosts will do it for free.
Test the New Website
After everything is moved over, check all the files and pages to make sure nothing’s missing.
Update DNS Records TTL
One day before you migrate, update the time to live (TTL) on your DNS records from 24 hours (86400 seconds) to five minutes, or 300 seconds. If you have issues, check to make sure your web host supports this feature.
Update Your DNS Records
Change your domain records to point to the new host servers. Changing your DNS records can take up to 48 hours to ultimately reflect the change, make sure the website stays active at the old host for two days. After those two days have passed, the site should be sending traffic to the new host so that you can close the old account.
If you have any questions or concerns about migrating your WordPress site from one host to another, please contact us for help.