If you feel you’ve outgrown your current domain, it’s probably time to change domain names. But will transitioning to a new one cause your SEO to suffer? The answer is not very much – if you follow a few basic steps.
There are many reasons why you may want to change domain names. Perhaps you’re changing your website’s theme or you’re rebranding. Maybe you’ve just thought of a more catchy and memorable name. Whatever the reason may be, stick to some basic guidelines to ensure your SEO (search engine optimization) doesn’t suffer too much.
In this post, we’ll cover the four essential steps to change your domain name without losing SEO.
The importance of SEO
Before we dive into the process of safely changing your domain, it’s important to highlight the importance of SEO. These days, people around the world turn to Google to search for anything they’re looking for. Because of this, showing up high in search results should be a top priority to get your website found.
These tell Google (and other search engines) that your website has what people are searching for. Failing to put effort into SEO can result in your website not showing up at all. This can result in lower traffic. And for a business, this can mean missed conversions and revenue. For an in-depth guide to SEO for your website, check out this article.
How to safely change domain names without losing SEO
Changing domain names will most likely cause a temporary negative effect on your search rankings. But by following the steps in this guide, you can limit the harm done. You’ll also give your new website the best chance of ranking highly as you move forward.
Step #1 – Audit your site
Before you change domain names, it’s a good idea to do an SEO site audit first. Site audit tools by Semrush and Ahref will analyze your website’s current SEO performance. This can help you understand what’s working and what needs improving. Importantly, it will also give you something to compare later on.
Some of the factors included in an audit:
- Website performance and loading speed
- Issues with HTML and other code
- Content quality
- Incoming links
- Outgoing links
#2 – Migrate your website to the new domain
Next, you’ll want to go through the process of migrating your entire site to your new domain. If you’re using WordPress, the process is easy. Migration plugins like The Duplicator WordPress Migration Plugin allow you to quickly backup your website then migrate it. A good web host should also offer automatic WordPress migration. Alternatively, head here for step-by-step instructions on how to download, export, and upload your site files manually.
By the way, if you’re in need of a new website hosting plan, consider what GoDaddy has to offer. They have everything from shared hosting, VPS hosting, and much more. If you’re specifically looking for WordPress hosting, head to their hosting page and select the WordPress dropdown menu. Once you’ve chosen a hosting plan, click the buy button, and the order page opens. Complete your purchase and your hosting will be all set up within just moments.
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#3 – Apply 301 redirects to your site
Once you’ve migrated your entire website to your new domain, it’s time to permanently redirect traffic from your old website. To do this, you’ll need to set up what’s called a 301 redirect.
To set up 301 redirects, head to your hosting provider’s domain control center. Once inside, enter your current primary domain name and the new primary domain that traffic should be routed to.
Keep in mind you’ll need to set up a redirect for each page of your website. This includes your about page, contact page, and any blog posts, etc.
#4 – Let Google know you’ve changed domains
Once you’ve migrated your website to its new domain and set your 301 redirects, it’s time to let Google know. Head over to Google’s Search Console to start the process of having your website with the new domain crawled. Inside the search console settings, you’ll also be able to inform Google of your new domain name. To do this, navigate to your old domain and find the change of address function. Submit your request for a new domain and Google will begin the process of indexing your new domain.
If you have a large website with many pages, Google also recommends submitting an XML sitemap. This can be done within the Search Console by clicking on Sitemaps on the left menu area. If you’re using WordPress, plugins like Yoast can quickly create this sitemap for you.
In that case, you can get away with simply submitting your homepage for indexing.
Aside from updating Google, inform any websites currently linking to you about your recent move to change domain names. This is where that SEO audit will come in handy. Reach out to any websites providing inbound links and ask them to update the URL they’re linking to.
Bonus steps to ensure your new domain’s success
What we’ve covered so far are the essential steps to change domain names. But, there are a couple more things you can do to help maintain and grow your website’s SEO. To begin, let your audience know about your transition to a new domain. Spread the word via your website, social media, and your email list. Be sure everyone knows about the upcoming change so they’re not caught off guard or confused.
Also, consider having plenty of fresh content available, such as blog posts. This will help spread the word and generate fresh link-building opportunities for your new domain right away. Offer valuable content that other websites will want to link to. This will send strong signals to Google and your website’s SEO should see a reward.
The decision to change domain names is something you may be currently facing with your website. And although doing so will likely cause a temporary dip in search ranking, you can reduce the harmful effects. Just follow the basic steps outlined in this article:
- Perform a site audit.
- Migrate your website.
- Apply 301 redirects to your site.
- Let Google know of the change in domain.
- Take extra steps like sharing with your audience and publishing link-worthy content.