Changing a Domain Name? Here’s How to Do it Like a Pro and Not Lose SEO

Sometimes in website’s life, the owner might decide to change the domain name. This could be for several reasons such as for rebranding purposes or because a more compelling and profitable URL address has become available.

Whatever the reason that prompts the change of a domain name, it must be valid both from a business and branding perspective. So, this is a decision that must not be taken lightly or handled carelessly.

While the prospect of a domain name change can be scary, it may be the best decision to take in the long run for your overall branding vision and business objectives.

What is key is maintaining consistent branding and market relevance, such as in the case of changing your domain name to match the new brand name of a company, product or service.

Generally, the fear about changing a domain name is whether the business or blog would lose SEO ranking and consequently, web traffic in the process.

The express answer is that it’s possible to change a domain name without damaging its current ranking on Google and other top search engines. If you got your domain names through Freeparking, your work load could reduce a great deal as the company is one of the few that are very supportive during the domain names change situation. Otherwise, you just have to make sure to tick all the boxes as will be outlined in this article.

However, note that in the short-term of a successful change of domain name, your website might drop in search engines rankings. But don’t worry; it will bounce back soon enough to previous ranking before the online address move.

Is it worth all the trouble?

While the prospect could be intimidating and appear like an exciting adventure at the same time, domain name change should not be taken on a whim. You must be through, consistent and detailed, so you don’t lose ground in the end.

So is it worth all the trouble? Yes, if you’re rebranding your online address for a genuine business and branding reason. Here are some of the bases for a domain name change by some of the world’s biggest brands who have made the move.

  • There’s a better web user and search engine-friendly domain now available: Perhaps you have the perfect domain name, but which wasn’t available with the more popular and widely accepted “.com” TLD, forcing you to settle for alternatives like “.org” or “.com.” But “.com” is suddenly available with your domain title; you certainly may want to grab the opportunity.
  • Your business now has a new brand name and you want that reelected in your web address: Well, it’s just the logical thing to do, both from a business and branding perspective.
  • You want to pull together sister domains into one: You could have several websites that belong to the same family brand or that share similar contents and audiences and may decide to consolidate all of them into one domain name.
  • You simply feel like using a new domain: It’s natural to want to shed an old skin after a long while for that springy feeling of newness, freshness and vigour.

The Important Steps to Follow…

Now that you’ve run the checks and decided that moving your old website to a new address will bode well for your personal or business branding and profit-making potentials, let’s do a follow a step by step guide for a thorough, safe and secure domain name change.

  • Audit your current stats

The first thing to do is to audit your current statistics before you move web address. This will give you a clear picture of everything related with your domain and give you a good yardstick to gauge your progress after you’ve completed the domain change.

The most important element to audit is the inbound links to your website, as they constitute the biggest SEO rating factors. So when doing the switch, you want to ensure that you retain as many existing links as you can.

How do you audit your current contents? You could use the “Search Traffic” menu on the Google Webmaster Tool and click “Links to Your Site.” The result will show you all the links that come into your website that Google recognizes. Export the list to your records.

You can also choose to audit contents with useful online tools such as Moz’s On-Page Grader Tool, Bing Webmaster Tools, and SEMrush’s Site Audit to review your link profile.

  • Set Up a 301 redirect of traffic from your old site domain

It is very vital to set up a 301 redirect to avoid losing all the gains you’ve made with your search engine presence from your old URLs.

Be thorough. Remember all the routes people use to locate your web pages, including links and shares from other websites, bookmarks and results from search engines. One of the tools to use for an effective redirect is the 301 checker.

  • It’s better to maintain your URL structure

It’s always recommended to keep the same URL structure when moving web address. But if you must change it, it’s best to wait a few months after things must have settled after the domain transfer.

  • Let the search engines know you’ve moved

Google Webmaster Tools simplify this process. Just click on the small gear icon and you’ll see a link to a “Change of Address” page. This tool helps you notify Google of your domain name change. Google will them automatically update its record with regard to your domain so your listings are up to date.

So what next…?

Now, that you’ve successfully transferred to a new, catchy and business appealing domain name with a higher brand value, make sure to follow up by:

  • Check and recheck!

Go through the entire transfer guidelines and make sure everything is linked properly and 301 redirecting well. Then check again.

  • Broadcast to your friends, clients and business associates

Search through your original inbound link audit to see any website of significant business interest that you’ve been in constant communication with, and request that they update the link to your new URL.

  • Monitor the 404 errors

A 404 page shows if a page is not redirecting properly. Get a tool to monitor and update any 404 errors that might occur.

  • Launch a marketing campaign of the new domain launch

After the domain name transfer, it’s absolutely normal for your ranking to dip slightly. That’s why a post-launch marketing campaign of your new domain name is necessary to reboot your rankings and return you to your high pedestal or even higher.