During a website’s lifespan, we may need to change the web host, which will inevitably lead to a change in IP address too. Many webmasters think that by changing the IP address they could possibly lose Google rankings, however if a proper procedure is followed, this is definitely not the case.
Here I will be explaining all the issues one should be aware of, related to changing IP address without losing Google ranking. This procedure is initiated by simply changing the DNS to point to the new web host.
- DNS Propagation
During the propagation process, you should keep the website live on both old and new IP address. Although propagation is usually very fast in most locations, it can take even up to a week in third-world countries. You simply need to be sure that all web pages are reachable during the whole process by Googlebot and users of course. Checking the logs of the old server will give you a clear indication when this process is terminated.
- Content Updates
A change of IP address can be associated by Google with a change in a website’s ownership, especially when combined with other factors such as radical content changes. Thus I recommend you to keep content updates to a minimum during this whole process. By not updating content at all, you will also be making sure that you’re supplying same content on the old and new IP, during the propagation process discussed in point one too.
- Capitalization Issues
Some servers are case-sensitive. I suggest you to check all internal linking at the new location to make sure you don’t have any broken links. You can use a free software like Xenu’s Link Sleuth to crawl your website and make sure everything is in order. If necessary, you will need to setup 301 redirects to fix capitalization issues.
- Indexed Web Pages
It’s imperative to verify that all web pages on the old server are present at the new location too. Most of the websites I investigate usually have several orphan pages online that might be old and not even linked internally, but are still in Google’s index for various reasons and might be attracting traffic too. I recommend you to either replicate all exactly or clean the website properly before copying it to the new server.
- Blocked IP Address
You should verify whether the new IP address is not blocked in any country or whether it will be neighbor to black listed websites. Google does indirectly associate websites which reside on same class C IP address. Also, you will need to check whether you own any other websites on the same C block too, cause this might dilute any incoming link value originating from your other sites.
- IP Geolocation
Physical location of a website’s IP address does influence Google localized search results. If the new IP address is located in a different area or country, you will potentially rank better at this new location, but worst in the previous area.
I tried to cover the most important factors related to changing IP address without losing Google ranking, but feel free to add your own suggestions or comment on any of my points.