Bill Hartzer

Google’s Change of Address Tool is Broken

Google’s Change of Address tool, accessed by website owners in the Google Search Console, is broken. It generally works for most website owners as it should. However, in my professional opinion it’s broken because it’s missing certain functionality that should be included. This missing functionality causes certain websites to not be able to use the tool. Therefore, in certain circumstances, Google’s Change of Address tool doesn’t work. It’s completely useless in it’s present state.

The Google Change of Address tool is very helpful for 99 percent of website owners. If you’re changing your web address from http to https, from www.domain.com to domain.com, or even from domain.com to domain2.com, the tool is very helpful. Set up the proper 301 Permanent Redirects, verify all the versions of your site’s web address, and then use the Change of Address tool to tell Google you’ve moved. No big deal, right?

I’ve used Google’s Change of Address tool plenty of times, and I can honestly tell you that I’m considered one of SEO’s premier experts on site migrations (from one URL to another). In fact, I’ve even used to migrate this website from HTTP to HTTPs with no real problems. I’ve helped plenty of businesses moved from a .COM domain to a New gTLD domain name with no issues.

But here’s how Google’s Change of Address tool is broken. There are several web CMS (Content Management Systems) whose URL structures are inherently broken and not set up properly. One example of this is MediaWiki. All of the sites built in MediaWiki have 301 redirects from what I call the “real home page” (http://domain.com) to an internal page like http://domain.com/whatever. That’s just the way MediaWiki is set up.

If you have a website that absolutely must redirect (with a 301 redirect) the site’s home page to an internal page on the site, the Google Change of Address tool does not work. So, when your try to use the Google Change of Address tool, even though the 301 redrirects ARE set up, the tool fails every time.

I suspect that this failure is due the fact that the domain’s home page doesn’t redirect directly to the new domain’s home page. For example, here is an example of how I recently used the Google Change of Address tool and when it failed:

1. Set up 301 Permanent Redirect from http://www.domain.com to http://domain.wiki/page (this is a MediaWiki site).

2. Verified http://www.domain.com and http://domain.wiki in Google Search Console.

3. When you attempt to set the Change of Address from http://www.domain.com to http://domain.wiki the Change of Address fails.

Here’s a screen shot showing the fact that Google’s Change of Address will only work on a home-page to home-page Change of Address. It apparently doesn’t matter that the Change of Address is going to an interior page on the new domain, even though the new domain is verified with Google Search Console.

While in 99 percent of cases the Change of Address tool works just fine, there are some cases, like with MediaWiki websites, that must redirect their home pages to an interior page. That’s just how the CMS works, and is really no fault of the site owner.

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