Google’s John Mueller revealed that splitting a website into two or more sites, or merging multiple sites together, could cause months of instability in search results.
This topic came up in a recent Google Webmaster Central hangout, where a site owner was asked about the best way to split a website while moving content from the old site to the new site.
“I want to move some content of a French website to a new one. I’d also like to make a new website multilingual; manually translating the content into multiple languages. What’s your advice to do this as clean as possible?”
Before getting into the technical details of splitting a website, Mueller advised the site owner about the difficulties Google will have with processing the changes.
It’s unrealistic, Mueller says, to expect content from the existing site to maintain its current search rankings when being moved to a new site.
A site owner may have to wait months before search rankings begin to settle down after a change like that, and even then it’s not certain what the final result will be.
Mueller did not necessarily advise against splitting a site. It can be a good move, in some cases, but patience is required when monitoring search rankings.
You can see the Mueller’s full response in the video below, starting at the 44:07 mark.
“I think what you’re doing is splitting an existing website and kind of taking part of that content and putting it on a different website.
I think the main thing that you need to be aware of is that when you split a website, or when you merge a website, it’s a lot harder for us to process that compared to a normal site. So that’s something where I would go with the expectation that it’s going to take a bit of time for everything to settle down, and it’s not absolutely clear what the final state will be.
If you split out some content from one website and put it on a new website, does that mean the new website will be getting just as many clicks and impressions as the old website got? Probably not, there will probably be a difference. If you’re also adding new content to the new website then you will see differences anyway. I think just from an expectations point of view it’s worth keeping in mind that this is not a trivial change, for a larger website at least. So you need to be a bit patient.
With regards to what you need to do there is, primarily, to make sure you have redirects set up for the individual pages from the old one to the new one. With regards to internal linking on the old website and the new website you can kind of have that covered as well. So, for example, if someone linked to one of those pages internally within the website then make sure that internal link points to the new website instead. So then we really have all of the signals that tell us “this content piece here moved to this website and we should index it as this website.”
So I think that’s the primary thing from a technical point of view. To make the new website multilingual I think that’s a great thing to do in any case, and I would just make sure that you have hreflang set up properly for those pages. Usually that’s less complicated if you don’t have a lot of different language versions, but in general that’s something that’s kind of standard nowadays. A lot of people have those kind of things set up.
I think this is a good move, you just have to be patient.”