How to Change Domains and Keep Your Rankings?



While it might be complex, sometimes it is necessary to move your site to a new domain. There can be many reasons why you need to change domains and few have been enlisted underneath.

1. ReBranding:

Sometimes businesses go through brand changes and hence it becomes important to change the domain name to maintain consistent branding. Rebranding is often the most common reason why businesses change domain names.

2. Poor SEO:

Poor SEO is another common reason why business owners change domain names. It can be because the old domain had bad links due to poor SEO. If the damage is substantial enough, there can be no way of fixing the site other than starting over.

3. Merger or Buyout:

When business owners merge or buy out other businesses, they feel the need to consolidate the websites and domains back down into one. This is also rebranding in some way as websites are shifted and domain names are changed.

4. Legal Reasons:

Often site owners have to change domain names due to legal reasons. It can be so that their domain is in violation of a copyright. This issue can be avoided if business and website owners exercise due diligence and caution while choosing domain names.

5. A User-Friendly Domain Name Has Become Available:

If you have been stuck with a .net or .biz domain and a .com domain, becomes available, you may want to consider grabbing it and moving your site to the new domain. Though it is not necessary to do so, there is an advantage of moving to .com domains. Such domains are easier for customers to remember. Such domains are also considered more credible then .net or .biz domains.

6. Feel Like Changing:

Sometimes website owners just want a change because they feel that their current domain name isn’t good enough. It is also one of the most common reasons why domain names are changed. 

If you feel that your current domain name doesn’t accurately reflect your brand, you can change to a new one. But before that, you should judge for yourself if the change is worth the risk of temporarily losing your rankings. Since domain change shouldn’t be done more than one, you need to be absolutely sure before making the change.

What Can Go Wrong While Changing Domain Names

One is advised to be very careful while changing domain names because if things don’t go according to plan, there can be detrimental effects for the business.

1. Traffic and Sales Might Fall:

If the domain change goes wrong it might adversely affect your traffic and sales. The situation can be even grimmer if the site is very crucial for your business.

2. Losing Momentum:

Getting domain name change wrong can undo the momentum you may have built through years of ongoing content and promotion. Therefore, it is very important for you to ensure a smooth transition and not lose any momentum in the changing process.

Transferring to a new domain shouldn’t ever be done in the heat of the moment. It is because if things go wrong, your business might have to suffer permanent damage to its search rankings. You need to know that you are surely going to see a short-term drop in your rankings following your move. 

However, there is no need to panic, because there is a way in which you can change domains without suffering permanent damage to your rankings. You can implement these tips on your own or hire a digital marketing service provider for the same purpose.

Here is how you can change domain names and don’t lose rankings

1. Back-Up Your Site:

A lot of times it happens that during migration to a new domain, people find that their backup is corrupted or incomplete. Therefore, to avoid this you need to back up your site totally and completely. Before you try making any chances, make sure that you have a complete and working backup of your files and database. Use the Backup WordPress plugin to back up your site if you have a WordPress site.

2. Clear Up the New Domain:

If your new domain has been previously registered, make sure it is not carrying any of the old penalties. Claim your new domain through the Google Webmaster Tools and then check the manual actions page. If then are no outstanding issues, confidently go ahead with your move. 

If there is a manual action, submit a reconsideration request to make necessary changes. Once your request is approved, you should move your content over to your new domain.

3. Move Content to The New Domain:

It is often recommended by many experts to only move a portion of a site to see how the change will impact your rankings. It is another thing that this process is very time-consuming and owners want to make the move as quickly as they can. 

In your case, if you have the time to move a portion of your site, then it is highly recommended that you do so. This allows you the avenue to test the process without impact your rankings adversely.

4. 301 Redirecting:

One you are done moving the content to the new domain, you need to 301 redirect those pages from the old domain to the new domain, to ensure that Google finds it. If you are opting for manual transfer, then make sure you have your CMS in place.

5. Permanently Redirect Old Pages:

Set up server-side 301 redirects in your .htaccess file to ensure that visitors are sent to the new domain. If and when you do so, all traffic will be forward to the new URLs. You need to be careful about 301 redirects because they are the key to maintaining search rankings. If you intend to change content on the new domain, you need to create 404 pages for content that has no equivalent on the new domain.

6. Tell Google You Move:

Your 301 redirects will notify the search engines that your content has moved. It is still very prudent that you submit an official change of address notification. For doing so, you will need to add and verify your new domain in Google Webmaster Tools.  Make sure to have all your 301’s place before Google accepts your change of address request.

What to Do After Your Domain Name Changes

1. Check Everything:

Before you migrate check that everything is linked and 301 redirected properly. Do a keyword audit and go through all the keywords that were driving people to your site? Check if such keywords are still 301 redirecting properly. Do the same with your top inbound links and check if they are properly redirecting or not.

2. Monitor 404 Errors:

This error shows up when pages don’t redirect properly. You should use a tool that monitors and updates all the 404 errors that occur. Check for 404 errors on a weekly basis and update any pages which may have some errors. Do your best to keep track of the 404 errors that might happen after the launch as sometimes it takes a few weeks for the errors to pop up.

3. Marketing Push to Kick-Start Rankings:

After transferring your domain, you will definitely see a slip in your rankings. Thus, you need to figure out certain ways to kick-start the rankings and get back to where you used to be. One way of doing so can be through link-building. Try to make the most of all the guest-blogging opportunities that come your way. 

You can also choose to create infographics and indulge in marketing to get them shared. Push new content on your site to drive traffic and get linked to it. If all of this is getting too overwhelming for you to just do by yourself, you can hire the services of a digital marketing service provider for the marketing push to kick-start your rankings.

4. Short-Term PPC Campaigns:

Knowing that your organic traffic will surely sip after migration, you can choose to have run short-term PPC campaigns to get the desired traffic. You can target the same keywords that were driving traffic to your site or target some other keywords. 

It is imperative to do so if you don’t want to wait for the traffic to get back to the normal that it used to be. If you are a small business and your business is heavily dependent on your traffic, then you can hire a white label digital marketing agency to run PPC campaigns for you.

The Bottom Line

Planning should be the key to changing your domain name. Take the time to think things through before you make your final decision. A lot is on the stake if things go wrong, so you are advised to put your best foot forward at all times. Be patient and wait 3-6 months for your rankings to reach pre-move levels. It is for these reasons that one shouldn’t make the move during a busy time of the year.