If you don’t implement the correct approach to changing your domain name, it may have a negative impact on your search engine rankings. A poorly executed domain name change can lower your ranking and have a devastating effect on your online presence. Fortunately, you don’t have to risk losing your ranking when changing domain names if you follow the right procedure.
Before the Domain Name Change
An efficient domain name change should result in minimal fluctuation in search rankings, no long-term loss of traffic, and little to no site downtime. However, this cannot be achieved without thorough planning and careful attention to details. There are a few tasks that need to be performed before the name change takes place if you want to maintain (and improve) your current position.
Contact Your Hosting Provider
Contacting your hosting provider is a must, and the sooner you can do this, the better. Your hosting provider can help you navigate any settings that might hamper your efforts and provide you with some advice for making the domain name change process as easy as possible. This will save you downtime and headaches down the line.
Perform an Audit of Your Current Domain
It’s important to record the stats currently associated with your domain, including key metrics (e.g., top landing page information, search analytics, inbound link data, and current rankings). These key metrics will serve as a baseline for performance after the domain name change is completed.
Pay Attention to 301 Redirects
Another key step before you start the domain name change is to build and update your 301 redirects. The job of a 301 redirect is to indicate that a page has been permanently redirected and, in the context of domain changes, will accomplish two things: alert search engines to the fact that the old URL has moved so that information can be indexed, and make sure visitors to your site arrive at the correct page.
Backup Your Webpage
Don’t skip making a backup copy of your website! Schedule backups to take place before, during, and after the domain name is completed to allow you to easily return to a previous stage as needed. These backups should include the entire website, including databases, files, and images.
Plan a Launch Event
Changing your domain name actually provides you with a great marketing opportunity! You can create buzz around the change through social media announcements, develop new content (e.g., blog posts, infographics), and create an email campaign announcing that a major change is coming and provide recipients with an opportunity to receive updates.
After Changing Your Domain Name
After the domain name change has been accomplished, there are some key tasks to work through in order to maintain your current search engine rankings.
Submit a Change of Address and Change Internal Links
After performing an audit and backups on your current domain, as well as setting up the 301 redirects, your next task is to submit a change of address to the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster tools. You also need to update all internal links which, depending on what type of platform you are using, can be accomplished using a special tool or via a manual search and replace.
Update Your URL in Google Analytics
In order for your reports to reflect the correct data, make sure to change the default URL in Google Analytics and add an annotation to indicate when the domain change took place. And don’t forget to connect your Analytics account, which is now newly named, with your newly verified Search Console account.
Update Backup Settings
Once the change has occurred, make sure that you update your backup settings to the new domain name; otherwise, you risk not being able to roll your new site back if something goes wrong.
Check for 404 Errors
Review crawl errors in your Search Console at least once a week, and update any 301 redirects as you run across broken links. This is the best way to make sure that all the 301 redirects are working correctly.
Determine which backlinks have the highest authority and conduct an email outreach campaign to have those backlinks updated to your new domain name. You can also take this as an opportunity to build up fresh backlinks.
Key tasks such as contacting your hosting provider, running a detailed site audit, carefully performing backups, and setting up 301 redirects should all take place before the domain change. After the change, there are critical steps you cannot afford to forget, including actions such as updating your URL in Google Analytics and reviewing 404 errors to check for broken links. Changing your domain name can be very risky when it comes to your online presence and search engine rankings, but paying careful attention to details both before and after the change can minimize its impact on your search engine rankings.
If the process of changing your domain name without compromising your SEO ranking sounds overwhelming, then Media Proper can help. We have a team that is experienced and focused on helping you achieve your SEO goals. Since 2001 we have amassed a proven track record through successful projects and satisfied clients. Let us help align an SEO strategy with your business goals – contact us today.