I have some questions about how to proceed on my website. I am a beginner to intermediate level user of Drupal and web development/marketing in general. I do not know coding. The website is a simple brochure style website for a medical practice with about 80 pages.

I want to move the site to a new domain that may have SEO benefits. My current site runs on Drupal 6.13. I have to decide whether I want to upgrade Drupal to 6.28 and update the modules and just do a 301 redirect to the new domain, or build a new site from scratch on Drupal 7 on the new domain. I want to keep the time and cost to a minimum.

Some things to consider are:

I really like the theme I am running on my current site (it has been tweaked and customized) so if I upgrade to Drupal 7 I would have to change themes and may have to get someone to customize it for me.

I am told that my current file system in my hosting account for my current site is really messed up, such that it would take some work and knowledge just to do an update to 6.28.

I am not sure if I will get SEO benefits from the domain name (it is an exact match domain name) if I simply do a 301 redirect, versus build the new site on the domain with a new hosting account (within my same host but a new account and IP address).

I have to forward traffic from my old domain to my new domain somehow, so if I did the Drupal 7 rebuild I guess I would just use the old domain as an alias domain name. I am not concerned about keeping backlink juice from my old domain as its SEO is really bad, but I am just concerned about people being able to find the site from the link.

I am wondering if it is just worth testing the domain for a month or two with a 301 redirect to see if it rises in the search rankings based on the domain name switch, as this would be the simplest and cheapest way to proceed.

Is it okay to keep my old site just running the way it is on older versions of Drupal? I haven’t seemed to have any problems with it.

So these are the factors. I am wondering about the pros and cons of each approach and am hoping if someone could give me some guidance. The only real reason I have decided to do anything at all is for SEO, and to capitalize on a really good exact match domain name that I have done some testing for in the market and think I could get some benefits.



John_B’s picture


1. Updating to latest version of D6 cannot be that hard, unless core has be heavily hacked. Staying up to date does greatly reduce chances of getting hacked, which does happen to even the smallest sites.

2. If you are happy with the site do not bother with D7. It is good in its way, but soon we will have D8 and you can migrate your content to a new D8 site if you see good cause.

3. the issue of domain change is totally unrelated to upgrade issue. Domain change is very easy with Drupal.

4. Being there for the duration counts with Google so think twice about a domain change. However, a domain containing keywords does also help.

5. A 301 redirect from your new, so-far unused domain will have no effect whatsoever on SEO. A redirect from your old domain to the new is obviously what you will do if you wish to move domains.

6. Testing a new domain short-term then changing back could harm your SEO. Google likes site which are there long-term.

7. If you care about SEO focus on other things. Note that Drupal spits out horribly messy markup (which some Drupal people, notable Mortendk, are hoping to fix in Drupal 8). So a well-made custom theme will improve markup and may help SEO (migrating to Wordpress would also give you cleaner markup). Many Drupal sites load slowly because people do not spend enough on hosting, and that really does hit SEO. Best just concentrate on doing the basics right (fast page load, right keywords, only one h1 tag pre page if you are on HTML4 (does not apply to HTML5), frequently updated good content, good Youtube, Google Places, Twitter and Facebook presence, good page titles, good meta descriptions. All the usual stuff.

John Callaghan’s picture

Some great advice from John_B there.

The value of exact match domains is continually in decline. Focus on building a strong online brand around the medical practice in question.

A slight caveat..is the exact match domain you have new to you or newly registered? If it has been newly registered I'd recommend following John_B's advice, if it has been used previously and rankings and a strong link profile etc it might be a more complicated decision to make.

For a "simple brochure style website for a medical practice with about 80 pages," Wordpress is the better option. From an SEO perspective, it takes a lot of work to get Drupal to the level that Wordpress is out-of-the-box.

famasholi’s picture

Thanks to both of you for some excellent advice. I have some follow up questions.

To John_B's numbered questions:

1. My site has not been heavily hacked, but here are the issues with the disorganization: For example, I have nothing in my /sites or sites/all folder. All my modules are in a folder called modules, and my theme is in a folder called themes. All my folder are in the root folder which is hosted on the particular domain I am using, but they are all mixed up with folders for other domain names I am using with other websites. Maybe this is the way it should be? If I put them in a folder it would be much easier to see what is going on, because I don't even know which folders are part of the drupal site I am running. But don't they have to be there in the root folder of the domain name though? Is there a way to reorganize it first before doing the update, or is it risky to do this because the site is working fine as it is and since I'm not really confident in my ability to manage the files manager in the hosting account and how a drupal install should look in the first place?

3. As far as domain name change, do you even have to do that with drupal. I am just thinking about doing a domain name alias. Or will that not solve the problem of putting the proper urls with the right folders? Would that only change the domain name and not the drupal folder urls? I am not worried about deep backled folders because only 3 out of 130 backlinks go to a folder other than my home page domain.

4. I think I can afford to do a domain name change because although my site has been there for a while, it is on like page 25 of google. So I don't have much to lose by trying it.

5. When you say a 301 redirect has no effect on SEO, do you mean that as far as the exact match domain boost it would treat it as though it is simply a site built from scratch on that domain?

7. I do plan to focus on all those basics you mention for seo, but the problem is that the site is a psychological practice, so any really aggressive marketing would be inappropriate.

To John Callahan's Advice

The domain is newly registered. But I still see some sites that are newly registered doing good with and EMD.

I don't really want to move to wordpress, because I have a lot of time invested in knowing how to use drupal (at least intermediate level), so I don't want to have to learn a new system. Even though I hear wordpress is very easy to learn. Plus then isn't it hard to move all the content or is there some simpler module that can migrate it?

Again, thanks a lot for your help.

John_B’s picture

If it was my site I would sort out the directory structure. Also if it was my site, it would not be on shared hosting (partly because shared hosting is rarely reliably fast, so tends to hurt SEO and user experience).

Some of the other stuff in your post about domain change is confusing. Having visitors to the new domain automatically taken to the site at the old domain will do nothing. Moving to a new domain and having visitors to the old domain automatically redirected to the new domain may help SEO because of your better name but will probably damage SEO and branding short term because Google likes established sites.

I do not understand point 3 because I assume that if you move, you will move the entire site including all links. It should not be necessary to rewrite links individually, just rewrite the entire domain.

John Callaghan’s picture

There is still some value in having an EMD but it's decreasing. As search engines start to better distinguish search intent, i.e. is this person searching for www.bluewidgets.com or for the most relevant website related to the blue widgets, EMD's will suffer.

Brand signals are becoming more influential, i.e. searches for bluewidgets.com, the business address and telephone number etc.

There will be a point where the role brand signals play becomes even more influential and when that happens companies with EMD's will suffer.

For example, ebay, ebay.com, www.ebay.com. ebay website, are all clearly brand searches. For a website with an EMD, i.e. www.bluewidgets.com, only bluewidgets.com and www.bluewidgets.com can be confidently defined as brand signals. Blue widgets and blue widgets website could equally be made by someone looking for the best website for blue widgets and the website having an EMD is a poor way of identifying the best result.

If you place a lot of value in growing your knowledge of Drupal stick with it. And treat this as a good opportunity to get the best out of Drupal from an SEO perspective. There are a lot of companies using Drupal that need that kind of expertise so it's valuable knowledge to have.

John_B’s picture

The implication seems to be that for a small business with little branding (that is, the vast majority of website owners) EMD is still the best way to go, because sending out brand signals is pointless if you have no real brand awareness?

John Callaghan’s picture

Brand is perhaps a poor word to use because of it's association with corporations.

Here's a local business example:

If a development agency based in London used the domain www.webdevelopmentlondon.com a couple of years ago they could be fairly confident of ranking on the first page for "web development london" without much trouble.

London is a big place, let's say there are 100 web development agencies and 10 results on the first page of the search results. Using an EMD domain and getting a front page listing ahead of at least 90 other companies was an opportunity to be missed. But as mentioned in my previous comment, an exact match domain is a poor way to identify a domain as one of the best results for a search query. So search engines have been working to improve how they handle EMD's.

In a local business context, the strength of a brand is based on citations in local and regional newspapers, reviews, local business listings, relationships with other local businesses (links or citations), social media presence and authority etc.

Website's with an EMD and without any of the above won't look like an authoritative resource for a local services based search query.

It's difficult for search engine's to determine whether the phrase "Web Development London" is as a brand citation or not. Which will eventually make it harder to build a brand around an EMD.

So if it was my company, I'd want to invest long term in building authority around a brand (in the above context), not building authority around an EMD.

John_B’s picture

Thanks. Interesting reading.