8 Steps to Changing Your Domain Name Without Losing Your Digital Footprint

Many domain owners at some point in their internet life cycle decide it is time to change or upgrade their domain names.  It could be for a number of reasons that one decides to make the move, but some of the more common ones are outlined below:

  • A better domain became available and you decided to update your image/brand.  Sometimes when you first create your brand your preferred domain is not available, so you settle for something else.  Overtime you may decide to invest in a better version of your domain or you may wait for the registration to lapse and the domain becomes available.
  • Another common scenario is having multiple domains and you decide to consolidate down to one domain.
  • Your business name has changed and it’s time to change your internet branding to suit your new name.  Perhaps your company was bought out by another brand or you have decided to change your image and update your company name. To keep a presence on the internet you need to keep your domain name aligned with your new brand so you are easily recognizable.
  • Last, maybe you are just tired of your old domain and want to liven up your digital footprint on the web and have decided to recreate your image with a whole new domain name.

First things first, one must not do this at the flip of a hat.  Carefully plan your move to a new domain and put in the time and effort before pulling the plug on a previously well-developed domain.

There are 8 steps you should take to ensure a smooth transition.

1)      Back Up Your Site

  • You will want to back up your entire existing site before deciding to make any changes or migrations to a new site.  Often times glitches happen during a transition and you will want to make sure you have a secure back up of your original site that can get you back online immediately if you hit a roadblock during the migration.

2)      Clean Up Your New Domain

  • One will want to make sure the new domain you are planning to move to is free of any penalties and you can do so within the Google Webmaster Tools.  If no issues arise, you can move forward with the migration, however if there are some penalties, you will need to amend them and then submit a request through Google to reconsider your domain before you move forward.

3)      Move Your Content to Your New Domain

  • To complete this process there are two approaches one can take:  You can move your content a portion at a time allowing you to test content piece with minimal impact on your overall search rankings, however it is a bit time consuming.  After moving the content to the new domain a piece at a time you will need to make sure you do a 301 redirect of the pages, so Google knows where the new content resides.
  • Another way to move the content to your new domain would be to make the giant leap all at once, which is what most people do in order to get everything over to the new domain as fast as possible.  You can complete this task either by using a plugin to assist in transferring the content or by manually transferring it to the new domain.  If taking the manual approach you will want to make sure you have a content management system in place prior to the move to assist in making sure the basic framework is intact.

4)      Permanently Redirect Old Pages to Your New Domain

  • This is one of the most crucial steps of completing the change from an old domain to a new one.  You will need to set up a 301 redirect in order to maintain your search rankings.  This can be completed by a small piece of code in your .htaccess file, but it is one of the most important and vital steps to this whole process.  There are free tools to assist you with this process and can be found within Google Webmaster Tool’s help section.
  • If you are changing content between the old site and the new site you will need to create 404 pages for content that is not equivalent to anything on the new domain.

5)      Inform Google That You Have Moved to a New Domain

  • Use Google’s change of address tool to officially inform them that you are moving your domain; this can be found within the Google Webmaster Tools.

6)      Create a Sitemap

  • There are tools that can assist you with the creation of an XML sitemap that will automate this process for you, including Google’s Sitemap Generator.
  • You will want to create a sitemap of your old domain and one of your new domain through Google’s tool, which in time will index your new domain pages and began decreasing your previous indexed pages from the old domain.

7)      Check and Update Internal and Inbound Links

  • While initially you will be using redirects to link over to your new domain, eventually you will want to update the links internally because over time you will probably want to shut down the old domain, and then the redirects will no longer function.

8)      Watch Your Analytics, Especially After the Move

  • Monitoring your new site is crucial to ensuring everything is functioning as expected.
  • You will want to use the Search Analytics in Google Webmaster Tools to keep a close eye on your site’s performance.  Here is where you will be notified of any warnings, manual actions, index status, crawl errors, and search queries


And finally make sure to inform your customer base that you are moving, let your followers (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) know that you are moving, as well as your email subscribers.  This is something that you will want to inform them of in advance, not the day of the move, but weeks or months in advance, so nothing comes as a surprise when your customers go to find you on the web.

While initially your SEO rankings may dip versus your previous stats, overtime, if you follow the steps outlined above you should be able to regain your rankings and traffic over a short lapse of time.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnrampton/2015/06/24/it-is-possible-to-change-your-domain-without-losing-your-seo-juice-heres-how/

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