Moving Your Website to a New Domain: Best Practices

Your domain name: It’s how people know how to find you and what you’re about. It’s the name of your website.


There may come a time when you decide to take the plunge of moving your website to a new domain. The reasons for changing your domain name vary. Maybe you are establishing a career as an entrepreneur, you want a different extension, the name of your business has changed, or you’re rebranding.


Simply changing domain names seems like it could be pretty straightforward, but a lot of things can go wrong. If not done properly, you can lose rankings, search equity and traffic.


“When you establish a new domain, you are essentially establishing a brand new website,” explains search marketers RivalMind. “Even if the content is the same, the links are the same, and the site construction is the same, Google sees your new domain as an entirely new entity. And while the age of a domain no longer matters as a primary ranking factor as confirmed by Google’s John Mueller on Twitter, starting from scratch is still an uphill battle.”


There’s a long list of website migration considerations, but let’s take a look at a few of the basics of switching domains:


Use Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console) for Change of Address

If you have moved your site to a new domain, you need to tell Google by using the change of address tool in Search Console. Doing this will lessen the impact to your ranking in Google Search results. According to Google, a change of address “notifies Google about the new URLs for your existing content, so that we can update our index to reflect the new domain for your pages,” which will be in effect for 180 days, giving Googlebot enough time to crawl and index pages for the new address.


Use 301 Redirects

When moving a website from one URL to a new one, you want to be sure site visitors are coming to the correct place while preserving your search rankings and domain authority in the process. You achieve this with a 301 permanent redirect. If a visitor types the old URL, they will automatically be directed to the new one. It maintains a connection between your old site and the new one.  A 301 redirect also tells search engines that the page has moved permanently. Make sure that everything you want redirected is transferred properly. A lot of little things can go wrong, so use some type of redirect checker to be sure.


Hire Professionals for the Job

A website migration is not something to cut corners on or try to piecemeal yourself. It’s too important if you want to keep your SEO value. Consider hiring an SEO company for your website transfer as they are up to date on the technical requirements needed to keep site traffic intact. They would work closely with you and the people on your team, including web developers and more strategic planners such as information systems managers.


Don’t Go Big at First

Even if you do have a team of pros working on the domain change, you should consider transitioning slowly to make sure everyone is on the same page. You should run batches of small tests on specific parts of your website to look for potential problems. If you do find issues, the whole site isn’t ruined and you don’t have to explain to the powers that be why site traffic took a nosedive.   


Don’t Make Your Site Go Dark

We’ve all seen those “coming soon” or “under construction” pages when we click on what we think is an active page. What a bummer. When you switch over to the new site, the old site shouldn’t be offline, advises Rianne Olde Keizer of Media Cause. You lose credibility with visitors, and search engines won’t recognize your pages and will stop ranking them.


Changing domain names will require a large checklist and steps to be taken in order to make it happen. You will run into bumps along the way, but a smooth transition can happen with vigilance. Don’t let your search traffic go down in the switch. For some website performance tips, check out our blog post on search marketing tools.


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