Websites grow, business plans change and over time you may find that the domain name you registered to launch your site is no longer relevant. Domain name change reason may be due to a rebrand or a better URL becoming available and this change needs better planning.
Changing domain name sounds simple, it can have a negative effect on your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) if you’re not careful.
Why Strong SEO Is Important
In today’s competitive market, SEO marketing is more important than ever.
Search engines serve millions of users per day looking for answers to their questions or for solutions to their problems.
If you have a web site, blog or online store, SEO can help your business grow and meet the business objectives. Whenever you use a search engine, it will quickly rank the available content based on how relevant each page is to your query.
In simpler terms, Search Engine Optimization is a way to improve your website so that it will appear closer to the top positions in the search results of Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines.
When you perform a search on Google the order by which the returning results are displayed, is based on complex algorithms.
These algorithms (also known as search engine ranking factors) take a number of factors into account before they decide which web page will be shown in the first place, second place, etc.
How a Domain Change Can Affect SEO
There are tons of moving parts to think about, with potentially the most important being the effect it will have on search engine optimization (SEO). One of the most common concerns I hear from clients is that their traffic will take a nosedive after a redesign. There are usually very strong reservations about redirecting any URLs.
Consider that you are combining two domains into one, merging two business or shifting from one domain to another or a more user-friendly or relevant domain has become available. Multiply all those fears times 1,000!
Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand that even the smallest of changes can affect your rankings. One of the main reasons for this is that any links on your site to content under the previous domain will no longer work. Search engines are unable to categorize ‘dead’ links, meaning that the content cannot be ranked.
How to Switch Your Domain Name Without Damaging Your Site’s SEO
1. Do An Audit
Calculate statistics before you transfer domain names. This will help you get a better understanding of everything going on associated with your domain and give you a good benchmark to see progress after the switch.
The most important factor in audit is the list of the inbound links coming to your site. While changing domain names you want to minimize losing any good links.
2. Back Up Your Site
Create a full backup of your website. There are many tools available for doing this or you may take help from your hosting provider.
3. 301 Redirect Everything!
Setting up a 301 redirect will not only send the user to the correct page, but it will also tell search engines that the page has permanently been moved and transfer the link credit to the new page.
4. Keep The Same URL Structure
Try to keep the exact same URL structure while switching domains.
If you want to make changes to the URL structure, it’s best to wait a few months after the domain transfer. Once things have settled, then make your changes.
5.Inform Google About the Change
Once you changed the new domain, you’ll need to notify Google of the change. This will help Google find your site’s new location quickly, and continue to display it within search results.
After Your Domain Name Change…
1. Check Everything!
2. Reach Out To Friends
3. Monitor 404 Errors
4. Plan A Big Marketing Post-Launch
A domain name change is a big decision that in many cases is under-budgeted in terms of the time needed to fully execute and recover. Hopefully, this guide will help you determine if a domain change is a right move for your business — and if it is, the appropriate steps required to make it a seamless success.