Domain name change could be one of the biggest decisions for any webmaster to take. After all, a small mistake, when changing your domain name, can affect the SEO of your site to a large extent. And all your efforts that you had put earlier, to enhance the SEO of your website, may go waste.
For that reason, it is something that needs a great deal of advanced planning. In this post, we will talk about some ways in which domain name changing can affect SEO. But before that, let’s take a look at the reasons you may consider going for a domain name change.
Should I Go for a Domain Name Change?
Well, it depends upon various factors: Maybe when you launched your website, things were not the same and have turned out differently than your expectations. Maybe your audience is not the same as it was back then. Maybe your current domain registrar is not supportive.
There are many situations in which you may consider going for a domain migration. Let’s talk about some major ones.
1. You Have Changed Your Business
It is always advisable to choose a domain that characterizes your business, products, and services perfectly. So, if you have changed your business or its name, your existing domain will not coordinate with it. In this situation, you need to register a new domain name.
2. You Need to Improve Site Traffic
Most of the startups think that higher rankings equal to more customers, which is not always the case. Sometimes even higher rankings do not help in attracting customers. You may like to change your domain if it is not driving enough traffic for you.
3. You Want to Create a More User-Friendly Domain
If your current domain name is too long and people often find it difficult to remember, you need to shorten it. According to research conducted by Gaebler.com, some of the renowned websites have approximately 6 to 7 characters in their domain name. Today, the pool of domain name extensions has broadened. You can choose from a wide range of top-level domains that best matches your requirements.
These are the few circumstances in which changing a domain may help your business. We recommend you to be extra careful when changing a domain and immediately start implementing the new domain SEO strategies so that you don’t lose SEO. We will talk about these strategies later on. Before that let’s find out does changing a domain name really affect search engine optimization?
Effects of Domain Name Change On Search Engine Optimization
We would like to clear it up in the beginning that there are more than 200 factors that Google take into consideration when producing search results.
However, it is also true that changing the domain name will impact your long-term SEO strategy, especially if you are not prepared enough for this migration. Some of these impacts could be:
1. Drop in Organic Traffic
After domain name change you may experience a significant drop in organic traffic at least for a few days. It usually happens because it will take some time for Google and other search engines to understand the switch you made -Crawling and indexing of the site may take a few days.
Therefore, it is important that you perform an audit of your website’s statistics before transferring your domain name. It will help you in getting a better understanding of everything happening associated with your domain.
Make sure this audit list also includes the list of all inbound links coming to your site. After all, it is the biggest SEO ranking factors when changing the domain name.
One of the best ways to perform link audit is via the Google Webmaster Tool. You simply need to go into your Google Webmaster Tool where you will find “Search Traffic” menu on the left side. Click on it and then click on “Links to Your Site”. It will show you all the links coming to your site.
Export this list of records for your own record.
2. SEO Ranking Loss
Making changes in domain name not only causes the loss in organic traffic but also in SERP rankings. If your domain migration process is not backed with the right domain migration SEO strategy, it may have serious implications on your SEO.
No matter what your reason is to change your domain name, it will result in a temporary drop in traffic for sure while Google indexes the changes.
3. Loss of Referring Website Traffic
Most probably you have created a huge link portfolio to help boost your SEO and receive referring website traffic. Unfortunately, if you’re planning to move your site to a new domain name, you may end losing the referring traffic that you have worked so hard to generate.
Migrating to new domain name may cause these links to lead website users to error pages. And these broken links may further damage your website’s credibility.
Here it is important to understand that backlinks or referring website links play an important role in the search engine ranking of a website. Because search engines not only crawl your site’s URLs and content but also its backlinks. In case, if they are dead, search engine spiders may stop crawling your site and indexing it, resulting in negatively affecting your SEO.
4. Negative Impact on Your Marketing Campaign
If you were running any sort of marketing campaign that had involved your old domain, it will turn useless. For instance, if you are running an email marketing campaign in which you are promoting your old domain name address that has changed now, people will see dead URL. To avoid this situation, it is necessary that you take the redirection job seriously otherwise your subscribers will click on a link that will send them to a dead URL and eventually you’ll lose your audience’s trust.
5. Sudden Surprise for Your Audience
Though this point has no direct association with SEO, we thought we should mention it.
If you’re a popular blogger who has a large readership, suddenly changing your domain name can be a bit shocking for your fans/readers. Sometimes we see readers feel bad about the sudden change. Even if you are running a website that is visited by hundreds of people every day, you shouldn’t change your domain like a surprise party. It should be something that your visitors are expecting.
There are plenty of ways you can avoid this situation. For example, you may create a pre-launch event that explains this new launch. You may also choose to give special offers and gifts to your users who sign up to receive updates about this new launch. In case if you have an email newsletter you can mention it there.
Though it is a scary prospect, it is necessary to move your site to a new domain address sometimes as we said in the beginning.
If you’re planning to do so, we have shared a domain name SEO checklist with you below that will help you change your domain name without any permanent damage to your search rankings.
So, let’s get started without any further delay!
1. 301 Redirect
This solution alone can help you avoid most of the issues that may come when migrating to a new domain name. For those who don’t know, 301 redirect is a service that gives you permanent redirect from one URL to another.
When you set up a 301 redirect, it not only sends your users to the accurate page but also informs the search engines that you have permanently been transferring to a new page.
You can create what is known as “Wild Card” redirect in your .htaccess file. It will transfer everything on a domain name level. It will add a 301 redirect to all your old domain URLs and push them to the new domain with the same URL. It simply means you won’t lose ranking and traffic.
2. Tell Google You Have Moved
For domain migration SEO improvement, it is necessary that you pay attention to each and everything that can do harm to the search engine rankings of your site.
So that Google can index your website properly, it is important that you register and verify your new domain with Google Webmaster tool. Let’s find out how you can do that.
* Access the Google webmaster tool.
* Click on the little gear icon
* Find a link to “Change of Address’ Click on it and follow the instructions.
* Move a site with URL changes. Now Google will add it in its system.
To know more about this tool, click here.
At least one month before you should tell your audience that a new name is coming soon on your website’s homepage.
3. Monitor 404 Errors
This error occurs when a web page does not get redirected accurately. As after domain name changes, your users are going to get this error more frequently at least for the few days you can use a tool to monitor these 404 errors.
You should check them at least for the first few weeks. Broken Link Checker is considered a good tool to find dead links.
4. Create a New Sitemap on Google
For those who don’t know, a sitemap is a simple directory that holds the information and other important details on web pages available on a website. When you create a sitemap of your site and submit it on Google and other search engines, it helps them in crawling and indexing your website better.
Since you have changed your domain name you need to re-submit it to earn the visibility and rankings again.
Migrating to a new domain name is one of those big life decisions for a webmaster that could break the spell if they get it wrong. If you want to keep the same SEO value for your site even after changing the domain name don’t forget to create a domain name SEO checklist that has all the important SEO tips that you should follow immediately after the domain name change.
In this post, we talked about some ways in which domain name changing affects SEO. If you have any query feel free to ask us in the following comment section.