What happens when you change Internet Service Providers?

When you move to a new URL, how do you ensure that your users are still able to find you?

These tips will help you make the transition painlessly.

There are several things that you can do to make moving a relatively easy task. Changing over websites takes a certain amount of planning and a lot of time contacting people. It is also a good time to consider the structure and content of your site. Following these guidelines will ensure that your new site, and all your extra effort, doesn't disappear, never to be seen again.

Obtain your own domain name.

If you have to move servers anyway, now is a good time to consider using your own domain name. This can cost as little as AU$20 per year and ensures that your website is totally portable. If you decide to move web hosts, your domain name moves with you, and your clients/audience doesn't even need to know that you have moved hosts.

Can't or don't want to use a domain name? Consider a PURL.

A PURL, or Persistent URL, is a service offered by http://www.purl.og.au, and by http://purl.nla.org.au. It is essentially a pointer to a resource that exists elsewhere on the web. Filling in a form allows users to set up a link to the current URL of a page or website. Later, the creator of the PURL may come back and edit the details if the real address has changed. This may be necessary if you have changed jobs, moved ISPs, or have just found somewhere else to host your pages. As long as you advertise the PURL rather than the actual current address, you should not need to let anyone know that the site has moved. An example of a PURL is http://purl.nla.gov.au/NET/peterbat. Over the last 5 or 6 years this has pointed to pages at RMIT, JCSAV, Netspace, Bigpond, and now batchelors.net. Anyone who was given the PURL hasn't needed to know about any of the changes of webserver.

Advertise your new address on your old site.

Make sure that your old site includes a link to your new one. This could be something as simple as
"We have moved to http://www.batchelors.net. This site is no longer being updated. Please update your link."

You can also add a META tag inside the <HEAD></HEAD> tags which will automatically redirect users to the new address. This will work on most browsers now (Netspace 2 and Explorer 2 and above) but some browsers still don't support this META tag so I recommend that a message about the move should be placed prominently on the old home page.

The META Refresh tag is quite simple and will automatically redirect people to your new site.

<HEAD><META HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="5; URL=http://users.bigpond.net.au/aka/index.html"></HEAD>

The Refresh tag sends a message to the browser to reload, after the time specified (in this case 5 seconds) using the URL specified in the tag.

Take your time

Arrange for a long change over period. This gives you the ability to catch users who only visit your site infrequently. Your service provider can arrange for your site to stay online for a while after your account actually lapses, though they might ask for a small payment for this. Don't leave it until the day before your account lapses to arrange this.

Deal with the Search Engines and Directories

Visit the main Search Engines and update your information. Most have pages which can be used to alter the details of entries in their lists. Alternatively, resubmit your site to the Search Engines. This will cause them to list the new site as well as the old site, so it isn't necessarily the best option, though as the Search Engines sift through their lists the old sites which no longer exist will be automatically removed.

Visit Directories, such as EdNA (http://www.edna.edu.au/) and the Open Directory Project (http://dmoz.org/) and update your details here as well.

Notify Other Websites

If you know of other websites which point to your site, contact them with your new URL, after the new site is active. Search for your website name or the old URL in the main search engines to find other sites which point to you as well. Notify them of your change as well.

Forward your Email

Most service providers can arrange for email addressed to your old address to be forwarded to your new address. There will be information available on the help pages of your service provider. You might be able to arrange to extend this beyond the actual expiry date of the account. This is another good reason for registering and using your own domain name - your email will also follow you around without the need to let everyone know that your email address has changed.

Where to start

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