Domain Changes & SEO — How To Preserve Your Traffic when Changing Domains

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.

As your business evolves, you might want to change your domain name. Such change typically fits into one of the following scenarios:

  • You have a new brand. It’s time to update your website to reflect the new brand name. That includes changing your domain.
  • You’d like a shorter, simpler domain name. A better domain name is now available and you’d like to utilize it.

While changing domains is easy, it is an important time to pause and plan to preserve your organic search traffic.

In this post, we’ll share with you the necessary steps to take to make a smooth transition in the search results as you change domains.

Does Changing a Domain Name Affect SEO?

Yes, changing a domain name can impact SEO. The search engines have indexed the pages on your existing domain. The change throws the search engines for a loop.

Moreover, your current domain has an established track record. This track record is in the form of authority. It is your current domain’s authority that helps propel your content to the top of the search results.

The good news is that you can safely change your domain name and preserve traffic by following a series of steps that communicate the change to the search engines and your website visitors.

How to Change Domains without Losing SEO

1. Make sure the new URL is sound. If you are going to make this move, you want to fully understand the history of your new domain. If you purchased an entirely new domain, then there is no history. You can move to step 2. But, if you are purchasing a domain from a third party, then you want to understand its history.

A big part of a domain’s history is its backlink network. Other websites might link to this domain. You want to make sure that the domain has a solid backlink network and hasn’t been red-flagged for suspicious activity such as low-value link building.

To do so, go to the aHrefs Backlink Checker. Explore the list of backlinks along with the authority of the domain. Make sure that this new domain is a good one.

 

2. Migrate the site to the new domain. When you are ready, you can migrate your site to this new domain. You’ll want to coordinate this change with your hosting provider and web developer. Be ready immediately after this change to delve into the SEO-specific tasks highlighted in the steps that follow.

3. Redirect your old domain to your new domain. This can be coordinated via your domain registrar and/or your hosting provider. Your goal is to make sure that each old URL such as www.myoldsite.com/cats redirects to a matching new URL such as www.mynewdomain.com/cats.

In this example, the redirect passes along the path information so that each page on your old site matches the same page on your new site. If your old domain was secured via HTTPS, you also want to make sure that the HTTPS version of the links redirect properly. This step is domain change SEO 101. It’s essential.

4. Verify your new website with the Google Search Console. The Google Search Console (or GSC) is your communication channel with Google. By verifying your new website with the GSC, you can be both webmaster and marketing director. The GSC platform includes information about the keyword performance of each page on your website and a myriad of technical SEO feedback around the crawling and indexation of the site. Start here to verify your new domain.

5. Update all mentions of the old URL. Start with those entities you control such as Google My Business and your business profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Then, reach out to partners and other site owners who might link to your website. Ask that they update the domain in any links pointing to your site.

6. Update Google Analytics. Your existing Google Analytics property has settings within the admin portion that are matched to your domain. Log into Google Analytics, go to Admin and update all mentions of the old URL.

7. Monitor the results. Anytime we make a sizable SEO change like a new domain, we want to keep a closer eye on the results. You can do this in both Google Analytics and the Google Search Console.

Next Steps

Congratulations! You’ve migrated your website to a new domain and communicated this change effectively to the search engines.

Be sure to maintain ownership of your old domain for the years to come. And be sure to keep forwarding it to maintain the authority signals via the redirect that is in place.

The timing is good to invest in evolving your site’s SEO foundation. Our guided approach to SEO shares a step-by-step process that you can easily follow. It also includes built-in SEO tools and one-on-one coaching. Schedule a demo to learn more.

STILL HAVE A QUESTION?

If you have more questions about this, feel free to reach out.

Lindsay Halsey

Lindsay Halsey is a co-founder of Pathfinder SEO. She has over 10 years of experience working in SEO with small to large businesses. Lindsay focuses on teaching site owners, freelancers, and agencies how to get found on Google via a guided approach to SEO. Stay in touch on Twitter - @linds_halsey.
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