How to Move a Web Page
(and stay indexed by the search engines)
Copyright ©1998 by Walt Howe
If you are moving an existing web page or pages from one location to another, and your pages have already been indexed by search engines, there are some things you can and should do to get your new location into the search engines and remove the old location as quickly as possible.
(last revised November 8, 1998)
- Prepare Your New Pages. Before you post your pages in their new location, be sure your meta tags, particularly the description and keywords tags are up to date for each page. See our article Promoting Your Web Pages for help with this.
- Revise Your Old Pages. Instead of keeping your old pages in place for a while, replace each with a simple message that gives a live link to the new URL. But to make this effective, there are two meta tags you need to insert in the header of the old pages. The first is a refresh tag, which will automatically transfer browsers to the new location. It can look like this:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="15; URL=http://your.new.address">
The above tag will pause for 15 seconds and then automatically relay the browser to the new location.
The second meta tag to insert is a robots tag, which will stop search engines from indexing the old location, but make sure they find the new location. It looks like this:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex,follow">
The "noindex" command instructs search engines not to index this page any more. The "follow" command makes sure it will still follow to the new location and index it instead.
Be sure you do this for every page on your old site that is indexed by search engines or pointed to by other sites. Don't just revise the top page. Keep the revised pages in place for at least a month if you possibly can before taking them down for good.
- Inform those who link to your pages. This step can be a lot of work, but it can be very useful and revealing. Use AltaVista to find those who link to your site and inform them that it has moved. You can do this with a search for your old URL in this form:
This search will find all those who link to your site except those from your own site. Visit each one of them and try to find a webmaster or author's e-mail address. Send a message to each one to inform them of the URL changes. Most will be very grateful that you are helping them avoid dead links on their site.
- Register both sites with the search engines. When both the new and the revised old site web pages are posted, register both the new and the old with each major search engine. See our article on Registering with Major Search Engines for help with this step. Registering the old site again has the effect of removing it from indexing. And although the "follow" command in the robots meta tag should get the new site indexed, register it anyway to be sure.
If you follow these steps, you will be able to move your web page's location without losing many hits.