How Not to Lose (Too Many) Visitors When You Move Your Site – Part 1

One of the biggest problems about using free webhosts is that in case you decide to move to a paid one, you may lose some visitors in the process. Don’t despair though. There are several things you can do about this.

Redirect your visitors

1. When a webmaster or blogger reveals their plans to move from a free site to a self-hosted, paid one, they’re often told to use 301 redirects. You may click here to learn more about this method. As you’ll see, the main problem about it is that most free webhosts won’t grant you access to your .htaccess (infamous pun intended). And if you’re a non-technical type, the whole 301 redirection thing will look like a nightmare to you.

2. You might go for a meta-refresh HTML tag instead. This one is much easier to do and I’ve used it myself several years ago. The problem is that several years ago I didn’t know this practice might get me into trouble with search engines. At that time I didn’t care anyway, because my site’s traffic was almost exclusively generated by my networking efforts. If that’s your case as well, or if for any other reason you feel that search engine traffic isn’t so important to you, here’s the code you must place on your homepage, inside the HEAD tags:

<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5;url=">

Replace 5 by the amount of seconds a visitor should wait before being actually redirected to the desired address (represented above by “”). Also make sure to include on your homepage a brief message telling your visitors that your website has been moved and that they’ll be automatically redirected within so many seconds. Include a clickable link right below this message, so people can use it if they don’t want to wait and/or if the redirection fails for any reason.

3. Short URL services are yet another option. You could promote the short URL instead of the actual site address, so that your visitors would always be able to find your site, no matter where it’s hosted. The main issue about such services is the fact that by masking your pages’ addresses, they may hinder search engines from indexing your site. Besides, many spammers make use of URL redirection services, giving them a bad reputation that could hurt you in the end. For instance, when leaving a comment on a blog, you might have it marked as spam if you include a link generated by a short URL service.

If you still want to try an URL redirection service, at least make sure to always use your site’s real address when promoting it or building links for it. Display the short URL somewhere on your site (preferably on the main page) and explain to your visitors that it’s an alternative address that they should save for emergencies, i. e., in case a sudden move is needed, they won’t lose sight of your site (another infamous pun intended).

Would you like to suggest any other ways to redirect visitors to other URLs? Do you want to share any tips or links to helpful services and tutorials? Leave a comment, please.

Redirection isn’t the only way to avoid the loss of visitors when you change your site’s host. I’ll show you other alternatives in my next post. You won’t miss it if you subscribe to The WebMaster Blog now.

Karen Zara has been involved in Internet-based projects since 2002. One of them is Abaminds, a blog for content producers that you can visit by clicking here.

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