There are risks and concerns that go along with changing your website’s domain name. But is it possible to change your domain and not lose your SEO ranking? That is a great question. In this blog, we will explore the risks, concerns and the reasons why you should do your research on the new URL before seriously considering changing your domain. We will also explore different methods of changing your domain and if it is necessary for your brand.
Why Would Someone Need or Want to Change Their Domain?
A company may want or need to change their domain due to a shift in branding or a company merger. A domain may come available that exactly matches your company name or your current domain has negative ties associated with it. In some cases, you may not have a choice whether or not to change your domain. But all of these reasons shouldn’t be taken lightly and still need to be carefully researched and planned out before actually making the big change to your website.
What are the Risks of Changing Your Domain?
Changing your domain comes with its share of risks. The biggest risk is losing traffic to your site. There is no guarantee that you will lose traffic after changing your domain but it is highly likely. After a domain change, Google needs to relearn and reindex your site all over again. There’s no telling how much time it will take for your search traffic to bounce back to where it was or if it will even come back completely. It becomes a patient waiting game after your site has been changed over.
Before changing your domain, keep in mind your domain age. Domain age is the amount of time your website has been active, and it is an SEO ranking factor. A website with a domain age of 5 years would have an edge over a site with an age of 1 and Google would give the “older” domain the advantage. It is beneficial to own the new domain for some time before moving your old site over. Although this isn’t a perfect solution, it is just one way to ensure you aren’t switching your site to a brand new, unrecognized domain. On the other hand, when purchasing a domain that has been around for some time and used previously, you will need to research the history of the URL. Check if the URL has ever had spam traffic or black hat practices associated with the domain, such as purchased backlinks pointing to the URL. This can be done by entering your domain into free or paid domain history tools found online.
Loss of brand awareness is another risk when changing your domain. If not implemented properly, users who frequently go to your site won’t know your new domain. You could potentially lose customers. To mitigate this, put a redirect in place from the old to the new domain for at least 90-120 days, but it doesn’t hurt to keep your old domain for an extended period.
If you have done your due diligence in earning credible backlinks to your site, changing your domain will make those efforts less worthwhile and affect your SEO negatively. It could be tough to track down all contacts to change backlinks to your site and let them know your domain has changed. Although you should have a redirect in place from your old domain to your new, backlinks that hit redirects carry far less value and credibility for your site.
Even though there are a lot of risks to be aware of when moving your site to a new domain, take the below steps to make the transition a bit smoother.
What are the Steps to Take When Changing Your Domain?
If your company decides to change your domain, it is important to follow the steps to prepare your site for a potential loss in traffic. There are a few ways to go about this change:
- Change your domain and all corresponding links in one sweep.
- Move one section of your site at a time.
Both methods will generally cause your site to drop in traffic. Therefore, if this change is necessary for your company’s website, we would recommend the method of changing your domain all in one sweep. Whether you or your digital marketing specialist will be making your domain change, it is important to note the tasks that go along with the process. Below are steps you need to take in order for the change to run as smoothly as possible:
- Redirects need to be put in place to your new domain
- Links within the content need to be changed and re-linked to the new domain
- Backlinks need to be notified and changed
- Update Google search console
- Update Google Analytics
- Keep 301 redirects in place for 90-120 days. This allows old users to find you and get used to your new URL
- Create a custom 404 page on your old domain to tell users to view your site at your new URL
- Change your company email addresses to match the new URL and signatures to link to the new site and send out an email informing your customers and clients of your new domain.
- Before making the domain change, create a banner on your site that tells your users of the upcoming change.
If changing your domain name isn’t completely necessary, given the risks involved, an SEO specialist may steer you away from this idea. If your company is considering changing your domain, get in touch with an SEO specialist at Ecreativeworks today to find out how this will affect your website’s SEO.