Whether you’ve come to realise that your current domain name does not represent your brand anymore, are looking for a better domain authority, or are in for an exciting new merger that also implies changing your name, the first concern that comes to people’s minds when a domain name change is coming is this: how badly will the website’s SEO be affected?
We’ve been through it with a lot of our clients, and some were so worried about the implications of changing the domain name, that they even considered not doing it. But that can get complicated. Just picture making a name for yourself, then asking people to visit your website… which has a completely different name. It’s not the best strategy.
But worry not, there are some ways to successfully change your domain name without kissing all those years of SEO building goodbye.
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How Your SEO Efforts Will Be Affected
So let’s say you’ve worked long and hard to incorporate smart SEO strategies, and got your website to a respectable rank. Maybe you’ve dabbled in Google Ads, maybe you’ve mostly done organic methods. Either way, you’ve been at it a long time, and don’t want to flush all that hard work and money down the drain.
And many website owners fear that changing their domain name will effectively kick off their hard-earned rank. The problem is, that fear is more or less justified.
Search engine ranking is incredibly volatile, and one mostly has to stay on top of SEO constantly to make sure the website stays on the top of the results page. When you change your domain name, other things may change as well, and, as a result, your rank could be affected.
One common example in this scenario has to do with the links on your site content, which most likely won’t work under the new domain name. Links that do not work mean broken links, and Google really hates those, so these broken links could affect your SEO. What’s more, your customers hate broken links as well, which makes those 404 pages appear in their browser.
And low ranking can then create a domino effect, leading to other issues such as lower traffic on your website, and even lower sales or conversions.
So what does this mean? Do you have to just power through with your old domain name?
How to NOT Let the New Domain Name Affect Your SEO
It would be great if we could all find the perfect domain with an address tool, select it, and make the transition seamless – but that’s far from the case.
Before you move to a new domain name, you first have to carefully plan this action to cover all your grounds, specifically all your URL addresses that need to work for your website to continue to bloom.
This is why you should start with a website audit to identify all the important internal links and pages in your current website that absolutely need to work under your new domain name. To do just that, you’ll need to combine data from your Google Analytics and Google Search Console to see how much traffic is coming to specific pages of your websites, as well as what keywords are performing best. You can use additional Google Webmaster tools (or Bing Webmasters, if that’s what you use) to get extra data on your website and pages.
The better-performing ones will become priorities to move your current domain to the new domain. The ones that aren’t, will either be improved or let go of entirely.
Then, using a 301 redirect, you can permanently redirect search engines and site visitors from your previous URL to your new one, without any issues. That means that all that effort of boosting SEO won’t be damaged because even if people access older links, they’ll still get to where they need to be.
Improving Your New Domain
Since you’re already making a big change in your website, it’s important to make sure your new domain name and website work in your favour, which can only be done by integrating new keywords.
Plus, consider the possibility of needing new pages under the new domain name. These can be different depending on the reason behind the change in name, but in any case, you’ll most likely need some fresh content, even if it just comes as new blog posts. And fresh content is nearly impossible to create without a keyword strategy. This will give you the opportunity to see which new, valuable keywords can improve your SEO efforts even more, and make sure your new website continues to grow.
You’ll then start targeting a combination of former valuable keywords, and new ones you want to be ranking for in the future. After you’ve planned out your keywords, other things can fall into place as well, such as your content or even the URL structure for your new website.
Tweaks and Monitoring
Before you launch the website under the new domain name, it’s important to take a close look at it and see if it is performing the way you want to.
In this context, it mostly means looking at the links to make sure they work, and your potential visitors can access the page they want to, especially when it comes to the redirects. This is a less exciting process, and you should know it can take a long time, but it’s essential and should not be skipped.
Broken Links Will Hurt Your Website Traffic and Lower Your Rank Considerably
Even when the website is up and running, it doesn’t always mean the job’s done. It’s important to continue to monitor the site under its new domain closely, at least for the next few weeks. No matter how much you test before the launch, some things can still slip through the cracks.
So while you continue your search engine optimisation efforts, take a closer look at the important pages of your website to see if they drive traffic. If they don’t, there is a slight possibility that these links may not be redirecting properly, in which case you are effectively losing customers.
Changing your domain name is sometimes an unavoidable move, but no matter how pressed for time you feel to do it, it’s important not to think in the short term.
The act of changing the name is the least complicated part of the entire process, but if you do it without planning ahead you can genuinely hurt your business growth, and completely annul all the SEO efforts you’ve made so far.
Another thing to consider here is that you will need a dedicated team to handle all the moving parts of the process, which can be a problem for smaller businesses that do not have an in-house SEO team to work round the clock.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about doing it all yourself. At Australian Internet Advertising, we can help make sure your new domain name doesn’t affect your SEO. In fact, we can guarantee your new site will prosper and allow your business to grow even more! Get in touch with our team today, and we’ll help you create your new website.