Whether you're a small business owner, a freelancer, or a web developer, your business probably evolved over time. Rebranding, scaling up, or aiming to improve SEO are only some of the reasons that can fuel transformation.
That often requires changing the domain name. However, doing so can be surprisingly complex.
The effect of changing the domain name on SEO is complex nonetheless. You need a certain level of technical and SEO skills and knowledge. But this change also takes time, patience, and thorough planning. Otherwise, you might encounter unwanted issues and rank lower in the SERPS.
Start by understanding the effects of this transition and what to do to avoid losing organic traffic. This article explores the connection between changing the domain name and SEO efforts and how to do it effectively.
Does Changing Domain Name Affect SEO?
The short answer is yes. Changing the domain name has an SEO impact and will affect your performance.
Search engines index every page on your original domain. This alteration can disrupt their indexing process. Moreover, your existing domain includes an established track record, history, and backlinks.
Once you change it, you’re likely starting from zero. As a new kid on Google’s block, your domain will no longer have its old authority, requiring you to establish a reputation.
You will need to invest time in content that will help you reach the front pages in search results. That will typically take at least three months.
Yet, you will likely need six to twelve months to reach the same rankings. However, you can maintain traffic by taking the right steps and handling the domain name change effectively.
In a nutshell, the following are the most common risks of changing a domain name:
- Temporarily losing Google rankings.
- Encountering a temporary decrease or loss of organic traffic.
- Losing leads and revenue organic traffic brought.
- Losing backlinks and valuable referral sources.
- Increased SEO investments and costs for the new domain due to having to build authority again.
How Important Is Domain Name for SEO?
The domain name and website SEO are closely connected. The former is like a digital address, enabling search engines to detect and index your website content. Hence, whether you’re a website owner, digital entrepreneur, or freelancer, you must understand the domain’s role.
It should embody your brand and content, establishing identity and relevance within your industry and niche. This alignment helps foster trust and engagement among your target audience.
The domain name can also influence SEO rankings, but adding relevant keywords can offer a slight advantage. However, you must understand that search engines prioritize content quality and user experience over exact-match domains. It’s just as vital to maintain consistency with your domain name.
Frequent changes can confuse search engines, potentially hindering your SEO efforts. When you must change the domain name, it’s imperative to implement proper redirects to ensure a seamless SEO strategy.
The Most Common Reasons for Changing the Domain Name and Its Impact on SEO
Changing a domain name is a strategic move that may impact a website’s SEO performance. Understanding the motivations behind that decision helps navigate this migration with more ease.
- Rebranding: Companies often opt for a domain name change when revamping their brand. This strategic shift requires meticulous planning to ensure minimal disruption to SEO rankings. Implementing 301 redirects, optimizing existing content, and notifying search engines are essential to maintain SEO equity during the transition.
- Legal and Trademark Challenges: Legal disputes or trademark conflicts can force a domain name change. Successfully managing this change without compromising SEO requires seamless redirection and continued SEO efforts on the new domain.
- Enhancing Keyword Relevance: Changing a domain name to align with target keywords can significantly boost SEO. However, it requires a well-thought-out approach to prevent a dip in SEO authority.
- Mitigating Penalties: Websites facing SEO penalties may consider a domain name change as a fresh start. To reduce the aftermath, addressing underlying issues and maintaining a clean SEO profile is crucial after the transition.
- Website Consolidation: Businesses often merge or restructure, leading to domain name changes. Effective SEO migration strategies are crucial for maintaining existing SEO equity.
- Globalization and Localization: Expanding into global or local markets might nudge domain name changes.
- Change of Ownership and SEO Strategy: Transfers of ownership often require domain name changes.
Understanding motivations and the effect of changing the domain name on SEO empowers businesses, web devs, and freelancers to navigate the transition smoothly. Sticking with SEO best practices, employing redirects, and monitoring SEO metrics are essential elements in safeguarding SEO rankings during this process.
SEO Domain Name Tips
If you’re about to change your domain name, take a few steps to ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible.
You must invest time carefully planning to change a domain name without losing your SEO ranking. Identify why you’re doing so and create a practical roadmap to guide you.
Define your goals and what this alteration should help you accomplish. To achieve that, pinpoint your website’s most common issues and understand how to fix them before the migration.
Ensure to back up your data, as you might have to restore it after changing the domain. You should also avoid the peak seasons, as you risk losing sales and traffic if something goes wrong.
Scan all your web pages and store essential data, pages, and posts to capture your current performance. As a result, you’ll be able to compare and restore it after migrating.
For instance, you can turn to Google Analytics and Google Search Console to create a list of your best-performing keywords, pages, titles, and performances. However, you must also define your crucial SEO aspects, such as:
- Meta tags
- Social media Open Graph tags
- URL structure
- Rich snippets
- Meta robot and canonical tags
- HTML headings
- Internal links
- Text content
- Videos, images, and other media files
Unless you want a completely different website, these specifications should be the same after the domain change.
There are two ways for a website migration – using plugins and manually. You’ll likely opt for the latter if you’re confident in your skills.
However, this approach requires backing up and migrating your existing files to the new domain. Remember that these steps only apply to a name change, not another hosting.
Establishing permanent 301 redirects is crucial for SEO optimization and a smooth user experience. These redirects help search engines find your new site and ensure seamless user transitions.
To set up a 301 redirect, edit your former domain’s .htaccess file and insert the necessary code. While some may consider using a redirection plugin, it’s not advisable, especially for those without technical expertise, as it can lead to unintended issues.
To manage this effectively, compile a list of old and corresponding new URLs. This list simplifies the creation of redirects when needed.
Follow best practices by redirecting old URLs to their exact new counterparts or closely related pages. For instance, if you had a “Services” page, redirect users to the new “Services” page for a logical and user-friendly experience.
Ensuring Google Knows
After completing the website migration, informing Google about the transition is essential. This step is necessary to enable Google to crawl and index your new website while removing all previously indexed pages from the old one.
Google Search Console provides a convenient “Change of Address” tool. To access this feature, choose a verified property within your Search Console account and proceed according to the instructions.
However, updating Google’s index with the new pages may take several weeks, and in some cases, even months, to fully complete.
Start by setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console for your new domain. You’ll need to add new Analytics and Search Console properties to achieve this.
Following this, reference the previously saved list of your top-performing pages and manually check the redirects. Verifying that your popular pages and posts are redirecting correctly without any broken links is crucial.
Continuously monitor your Search Console account, paying attention to the following key aspects:
- Track the count of indexed pages.
- Scrutinize for potential errors, including 404 errors, duplicate pages, and redirect errors.
- Keep an eye on mobile usability errors.
- Track the Core Web Vitals report for any site speed-related issues.
- Submit your newly generated sitemap within the Search Console.
- Utilize the URL Inspection tool to confirm the indexing status of specific pages.
Simultaneously, check your Google Analytics account to ensure that your statistics remain favorable without any significant drops. Monitor various metrics, such as traffic, engagement, goals, and behavior reports, to gauge your website’s overall performance.
Best SEO Practices When Changing Domain Names
When changing the domain name, SEO efforts are vital. To ensure a seamless shift without compromising your ranking, consider the following strategies:
1. Meticulous Keyword Exploration
Run a comprehensive keyword analysis before initiating the change. Incorporate relevant keywords into the new domain name, ensuring it resonates with your SEO strategy.
2. Prioritize Mobile Friendliness
A mobile-responsive design is among the essential elements for effective SEO, given Google’s emphasis on mobile usability.
3. Secure Your Domain with SSL
Reinforce the security of your new domain by acquiring an SSL certificate (HTTPS). Google’s preference for secure sites can positively affect your SEO performance.
4. 404 Error Handling
Be wary of 404 errors that may arise during or after the migration. Address these issues by creating custom 404 error pages to provide users with helpful guidance.
5. Content Optimization
Optimize your content as part of the migration process by verifying that meta tags, headers, alt text for images, and other on-page SEO elements are working effectively and without issues.
6. Uphold High-Quality Backlinks
Get or re-establish valuable backlinks to build new domain authority. Inform authoritative websites of your domain change and request updated backlinks.
7. GMB Alignment
Align your Google My Business (GMB) listing with the new domain name, ensuring all business information remains accurate.
8. Social Media Consistency
Maintain consistency across social media profiles and bios by updating them with the new domain name, reinforcing brand identity.
9. Uniform URL Structure
Promote a consistent URL structure between the old and new domains, enabling search engines to understand your website’s organization.
10. Content Assessment
After the migration, closely monitor your existing content’s performance. Identify any pages or posts that may require updates or enhancements for SEO purposes.
Regardless of why you’re changing your domain name, SEO will take a hit. The best approach is thorough planning and preparation to mitigate the impact on your ranking and establish authority.
After the migration, you must monitor your website’s performance and conduct an SEO audit to identify potential issues. Implement effective SEO practices, as that is imperative to ensure your website’s presence on the front pages of Google search results. Consider collaborating with a digital agency to guide you as you change the domain name.