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What is the benefit of using the change of address tool in Google Webmaster Tools?

What is the benefit of using the change of address tool in Google Webmaster Tools? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

Matt Cutts: We have a question from Giacomo in Parma, Italy, who asks, ‘What is the benefit of using the Change of Address tool in the Google Webmaster Tool, console, compared to just setting up the required 301 re-directions to the new site? And why should I renew the change of address notification every 180 days? Can’t I just leave the 301s in place?’ Really good question. Certainly, you can leave the 301s in place, but there are a couple differences between the Change of Address form and 301 redirects. The first one and the biggest one, is that the Change of Address form is at the site level. Whereas, 301 redirects are at the page level. So, for example, what if you move one directory to another directory? You could do a 301 on every page in that directory and we’d eventually learn to go to the pages in the new directory. But, it can be hard to interpret whether that applies to the entire site or just to that specific directory. The Change of Address form very unambiguously says, “This site, right here, is moving to this site, right here.” The other thing is 301 redirects can take a little bit of time to into effect. Change of Address form, whenever you fill that out and submit that to us, gets that information to us immediately. So, we don’t have to try and interpret, ‘Ok, are we seeing a lot of the 301 redirects?’ No, we have the intent of the Webmaster right there and they’re saying, ‘You know what? I am moving from site A to site B. Please transfer over any reputation and whatever stuff you can over to the new site.’ Now, the Change of Address form is not perfect, but it is very useful and I think it’s much better than what we had before, which was just 301 redirects. So, I would use both. It certainly doesn’t hurt to use both and not every web-, search engine has a Change of Address form. In fact, I think Google is the only one that has a Change of Address form. So what I would do is if you’re moving from site A to site B, I would fill out a Change of Address form and then I would also do 301 redirects that point from the certain pages on site A to the corresponding pages on site B. And then that will help the transition go as smoothly as possible. If everything is going well, for example, when I did 301s from dullus.com to mattcutts.com because I’d moved there and then I moved back, it didn’t take very long for those 301s to go into effect where the entire site was moved over within Google’s index. So, if 301s are working fine for you and 180 days has passed, maybe you don’t need to worry about filling out the Change of Address form again. But if you want to be safe and you still control both sites, it certainly doesn’t hurt to say, “You know what? Yes, this site has still moved to this site over here.” So, the main difference is that it’s a site wide tool as opposed to a page tool, but it’s also very helpful for you to tell us explicitly, “Yes, I am moving my site,” as opposed to us trying to guess because search engines can sometimes get that wrong. Thanks.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: