Technical | Tools

301 Redirect or a GSC Change of Address?

by on 3rd September 2013

Or both?

It is both, obviously. When you carry out an effective domain migration, there are a lot of changes at stake. If you follow a clear process for your site, things usually go according to plan.

Have you heard the adage about car mechanics always have the worst cars? Or decorators have the least well maintained homes?

When we migrated from to I forgot something – the Google Search Console change of Address. Actually, “forgot” isn’t quite accurate. I couldn’t be bothered because I had lots of other things to do at the time, and, because there was a redirect already in place, and no “www” a record was set up – something required to get the process started in our case.

I decided that because we had a 301 redirect strategy in place, all would be fine.  Anyway, I forgot about it until Dave this response about UK SEO agency visibility originally started by Patrick (having fun with SEO industry linkbait) at Branded3, and I sat and thought it’s probably time to do some SEO on my actual website instead of real work:


 We’ve moved!

It’s worth just taking into account there have been a few things happening to the site (that I can think of), here they are:

–          Techcrunch mentioned John-Henry’s post about the FullContact API on the 22nd August

–          I disavowed a list of crappy inbound links to the domain on the 15th August 2013

But that’s it. So obviously I can’t tell anyone that it’s definitely that one thing that’s had an impact but sometimes you have a gut feel for these things – we’ve not seen a disavow (on a site with no current manual or algorithmic spam action) have such an impact and as exciting as link from TC can be for a guy, I don’t think it could be that either.

Take a look at these charts:

Google Analytics – visits from Google Organic Search


Here’s Google Webmaster Tool’s Search Queries Report data:


And our historically crappy Searchmetrics visibility seems to be on the up (Searchmetrics covers a *tiny* cross section of our actual referring terms). We looked at it on one of the main retail sites we’re working with – comparing the top 5,000 keywords in the Searchmetrics data to what was actually going on in Organic referrers, the total coverage was around 38%.)


Any real conclusion?

Well, yes – you should do a change of address in Google Search Console! Obviously, that’s the commonly accepted best practice, but I do think it’s more “powerful” (for want of a better term) than doing a 301 redirect alone. I accept there are a few other things happening on this domain around the same time, but I wouldn’t argue that it’s a bad idea.

My advice to you: I would always do an audit of any domain migration history on a new client site and set up proper verification for any domains you find kicking around, (which you can do via DNS TXT records or by creating a new WWW CNAME temporarily). Then, see what happens!


  1. Hi Richard, just wondering if its just as effective when consolidating domains into one domain as part of an international strategy e.g

    If a company owned –

    The company decided to consolidate the UK and Ireland sites into

    Would a change of address in WMT for the UK and Ireland sites still be beneficial along with the 301’s? I imagine it would be just as beneficial.

  2. Interesting. I’ve never thought about doing an address change for changes in the past.

    I have a client that has acquired several competitors over the years and it might be interesting to see if a WMT change of address provides any lift.

    • Thanks Matt – you can see my thinking. 301’s just haven’t been as effective lately – we proved that by *not* using change of address for so long with SEOgadget. So yep, let me know how that goes for you!

  3. Exhaustive 301 map / GWT change of address request / GWT fetch on the new homepage with ‘all linked pages’ ticked / share it on G+ = done


  4. Hi Richard,

    I come to know about SEO gadget via recent blog post on Moz blog! And, I am really happy to see great source of SEO content… I am working with big Ecommerce websites and hands on with Magento technology. Recently, I have moved one website from osCommerce to Magento with different URL structure and get similar impact on organic visits.. My client is happy at all… I really enjoy your change of address story from to .com ! I have subscribed blog and try my best to be here on next blog post… :)

  5. Should this also be done if you’ve moved your root folder from to ? Or only when moving to a completely different TLD?

  6. How interesting! I will be sure to keep this in mind if I need to rename my website for any reason. Isn’t Google Webmaster Tools great?Thanks for the insightful post.

  7. Hey Richard, hoping you can help.

    Last year one of our sites got hit with Google penalty. I did a change of address in WMT but didnt do a 301 redirect, their is just holding page with text link to new website. I have now just found out through the WMT of the new domain name which we have tried to be very careful with, has hundreds of the bad links from the showing and they still linking to the The reason for me not doing the 301 was to stop these links being moved over? Now im worried next big update the site will get hit again.

  8. @Robert – what I think you’re saying is there’s a bunch of bad links on an old domain you own (and that you’ve moved your site and gone through the change of address process).

    I’m not sure how effective the change of address actually is without ever setting up the 301 – I’ve never left out the 301.

    In any case, if there’s a manual action on the old domain (and a bunch of bad links) then you’ve got to get that cleaned up before you 301 or you’ll pass the penalty over.

  9. Hi Richard

    Thanks for reply- appreciate it. I don’t want to do a 301 redirect what I’m confused about is. This is what happened.

    1. 17th Jan 2013 (no major updates announced on that day) our client had been sitting top for over 2 years. Tanked in rankings.
    2. We dug deep into the links and found thousands of spam comments on site-wide spam sites, all with keyword rich anchors. We didn’t build them and had no control over them.
    3. We did a disavow of them and submitted a re-inclusion request.
    4. We got automated response saying that the website didn’t have a manual penalty. We waited for few more months, the website didn’t come back at all.
    5. We setup a brand new website, with new content, on the .com
    6. We put holding page up on the with 1 text link to the .com, did not want to do 301 redirect, as didn’t want all those spam links being moved over.
    7. We did a change of address in WMT which went through.
    8. We now got the .com ranking top again, doing more natural organic link building but my concern is after looking in WMT yesterday many of the spam links are now showing in WMT for the .com, so after doing no 301 and doing a disavow why are these showing for the .com? I’m worried on next big update site will get hit again.

Comments are closed.

We're hiring – check out our careers page Careers

Get insights straight to your inbox

Stay one step ahead of the competition with our monthly Inner Circle email full of resources, industry developments and opinions from around the web.