Q: If our IT department wants to change the server that our website resides on, will this affect our search engine rankings?
A: A change in your server (which will be a change in your website’s IP address) or website hosting service does not need to affect your search engine placement. Just be sure of a few things:
- Make sure the website doesn’t go “down” for any period. Have all the site files tested and ready on the new server before making the switch.
- Do not change any URLs.
- Watch out for capitalization issues. Some servers are case-sensitive while others are not. If this is the case with your switch, then you should run a site-wide link check after the switchover to be sure that all links are working (here’s a free online link checker), and spend some time checking for inlinks from other sites and making sure that they are still functioning. If necessary, you may need to set up 301 redirects (your IT department will know what this is) from caps/noncaps URLs to lowercase URLs.
- Keep the old site files accessible on the old server for a period of time (some experts recommend a day, some a month) after the switchover. This will allow websites and search engines to update their caches.
- Test, test, test! After site launch, run a “site:www.mysite.com” search on Google and click on the links to be sure that everything is behaving just the way you – and your potential customers – expect. (see our Handy Search Shortcuts for other cool ways to search for your site)
- Consider possible issues with international SEO targeting. Your server’s geographical location can be a factor; see Will an International Server Location affect My Google Ranks? for more info.
Here are a few other helpful articles on changing servers, hosting service, or domains:
- A 2003 article by Taming the Beast offers lots of great general tips on changing servers and addresses some specifics of moving hosts from one country to another.
- A very helpful and detailed posting from Google’s well known engineer, Matt Cutt’s, spells out the best practices for moving to a new web host.
We wish your site the best of luck at its new home, and don’t forget to invite us to the housewarming party!