Changing a domain name without losing SEO ranking
Changing your website’s domain name may bring a mixed basket of selected positive and negative effects to your business. Although there can be multiple reasons behind the decision of domain change, it is common when a company changes its name. Since the company name relates to everything carrying the brand, the website also follows suit.
Besides your company name influencing the final domain name, you might want to improve your marketing efforts by shaping a meaningful name that matches web traffic tendencies.
Your domain is better off when it includes an SEO-friendly and human readable URL.
Whatever the reason behind changing the name, the biggest issue is doing it without losing SEO ranking. A botched attempt to transfer your website without taking care of all the side factors, you risk losing months or even years of arduous work and a severe downgrade to your business. To prevent this from ever happening, here are some of the best practices to follow!
Let Google know!
Most of us are familiar with SEO and how crucial content optimization and ranking are to your business. The domain name change is not something done often, but you must let Google know if you plan to do it for your website.
If you follow the proper protocols, Google will index your website correctly. The easiest way to do this is through their specialized tool called Google Search Console. Start using this tool by adding your website’s URL and declaring that you are the business owner.
Keep the same host
When changing your primary URL, it is crucial to stick to the host. As soon as you register a domain, you must enter information revealing personal information about the domain owner. All this data resides in a query and response protocol called WhoIs, including crucial data bits like IP and physical addresses, contact info, and more.
The process of transferring WhoIs data takes time. However, if you keep the same host, your data is already in the system. Since Google treats websites as long-term investments, they will not treat this domain as a new one because you already exist in the database. This way, your SEO ranking should not be affected by this change.
In the outcome where your new domain also comes with a new host, some additional factors may damage your website standings. Before you publish your new website, keep the old one and make a side-by-side comparison of all significant pages. Every migration has risks for hampering your long-term optimization strategies. Manual checks are necessary and can save you a lot of trouble later if taken care of early on.
Choose the right domain name
There might be a few reasons behind an idea for a domain change. However, you must understand that the same way you can change it for the better, you may also change it for the worse without even realizing it. Sometimes core company strategies are not in tune with the best possible content optimization approach. You are better off avoiding such discrepancies at all costs. The decision for the domain name must arrive as a shared effort, including best practices and the informed opinions of SEO experts.
Carefully think when choosing the new domain name. You need to make the right choice if you wish to keep your favourable SEO ranking. Remember that all your clients know your website under a particular name. The new URL must be more meaningful, and it must reflect the need to change the name.
Check the past of your new domain
If you have just bought a fresh new domain name that has never been used before, you do not have to worry about this step. However, it often happens that the name you always wanted but never could is now available for registration. The owner has just decided to sell it, or its ownership expired. Whatever the reason for the release, you can now have it. Does that mean an easy win? I say, far from it.
Every aged domain carries the consequences of all the actions exerted upon it throughout its lifetime. Before you connect your website to your domain, you need to ensure it has a clean past. Try to uncover the precise reason the previous owner decided to sell it. If they did happen to generate a lot of negative SEO influence, you would inherit all that baggage too.
The bottom line is - If your new domain name has a bad reputation, it is better to look for a different one.
Inform all your clients, partners, and suppliers
You changed your domain name successfully. Now that the technical part is past, you need to consider all the possible consequences of that change. Depending on your business niche and size, you might have to inform many people about this change.
It is crucial to be proactive about informing your visitors just because of the sheer list of avoided problems. Let everyone know at least a month or two months in advance, including the new URL, and reassure them that this change will not have any adverse effect on the relationship you have with them.
It is also a promising idea to explain why the change is happening. Not everyone likes changes, and most people do not like things they do not understand. With that in mind, it is best to be safe when being informative early on.
If you fail to do this step, you might lose a lot of organic traffic.
Create 301 redirections
Another way to battle the loss of organic traffic and SEO rating is to create 301 redirections for every page. Search engine bots need to track your content from the old URL and connect it to the new domain name when you change the URL. The way to accomplish this is through permanent web forwarding, also known as 301 redirections.
This step links old pages with new ones and preserves the popularity the pages acquired over the years.
Purchase of the SSL certificate
If you are changing your URL but did not previously own an SSL certificate, now is the right moment to purchase it. It will increase the security of your website, prevent hacker attacks, and improve your SEO.
If you are afraid that your rating might drop after the change, you can counter it by implementing more SEO-friendly changes, like adding HTTPS to your website.
Update your site map and make it available to search engines
Your website’s ranking heavily depends on Google’s ranking criteria. Some algorithms define your position when compared to other websites. The tricky part is that these algorithms constantly change. Staying up to date with the latest changes is not the easiest thing to do.
One of the most critical elements of the algorithm is the site map. It creates a hierarchy of all the content and elements on your website and links it to the pages. Search engines use this document to index your website.
When you change your domain name, it is crucial to update this map with the latest information. If you did not have a site map before, you need to create one now. Go to Google Search Console to make one.
Update all your backlinks
If your website has quality content with regular readers, chances are you have a lot of links pointing to your knowledge pieces. With the new domain, fixing all these links seems like a massive task, and it is.
Let us take, for example, a blog that has been running for a year or two already. You have hundreds if not thousands of backlinks. Changing all of them will take nothing less than forever.
Nevertheless, it is a necessity to get those links back immediately. Otherwise, they will have the wrong domain and become broken – the more of them, the worse! If you do not fix this on time, website owners might replace them with other links, and you will lose your SEO juice.
To maximize the effect of your business website after changing the domain, updating your backlinks is necessary!
Update citations and public directories
Citations are mentions of your business’s name in other locations on the internet. They usually link to the home page, and they play a massive role in increasing your SEO rating. After changing your domain name, it is crucial to update citations as well.
The same applies to public directories. Whatever database you used, it has your old business name and old URL. It is one of the difficulties with using multiple public directories. They require constant updating whenever you change a piece of crucial contact information.
Do not skip any account, even if you never received traffic from them. Anything with your business name on it, plus the URL, needs an immediate change. This change comes as a professional necessity, and it makes changing a domain name without losing SEO ranking easier.
Update any social media accounts you manage
Social media platforms should be integrated with your website. When you change your domain and business name, do not forget to synchronize your social media accounts. They generate valuable traffic, and you do not want to confuse your clients by having a different name on social media.
Change everything related to your old business name
E-mail signatures, business cards, other online accounts all require a name change. This is how you communicate the change with the clients and partners. You do not want to broadcast both your new and old versions.
If your name change is profound, like LG’s, who successfully combined Lucky with GoldStar, you need to reflect on every little detail. It is a tough deal; imagine the struggle of LG to remain relevant in the TV market after merging their name with the name of a cosmetics company they also owned.
Be graceful in transition because, without consistency, you may appear unprofessional.
Do SEO testing
After the change is complete, you need to test your website. Again, it is best for the initial testing to keep both your old and the new domains. Do all the reporting and analytics to verify positive results.
Any change in the SEO rating will be reflected in the testing. The process is challenging but a necessity. Once you receive satisfying results from the comprehensive testing, you can say that the migration to the new domain name was successful.
Changing domain name without losing SEO ranking explained!
Let us do a quick summary of all the required steps when changing your URL:
- let Google know
- keep the same host
- pick a meaningful name
- check the past of your new domain name
- inform clients, partners, and vendors
- create 301 redirections
- purchase SSL certificate
- update your site map
- update backlinks, citations, and public directories
- change information on social media profiles
- update signatures, business cards, and other online accounts
- test and monitor SEO after the migration
Changing a domain name without losing SEO ranking should not be that difficult if you follow this guide from start to finish. It is a process that requires time, effort, and a lot of energy, but it is worth it in the end.
Your new domain is like a fresh start, a change for the better. Use this opportunity to announce potential improvements in how you do business and launch a new marketing campaign to capitalize on the positive side of that change.