You have a great website. One that you created and nurtured for a long time. However, with the Internet constantly evolving, it’s only right to embrace the changes for the bright future of your business. One of these changes could be choosing a new domain name and moving your website. And that’s great!
Businesses change their web address for multiple reasons. Some of them include:
- Changing the domain extension because the one you originally had isn’t branding your business as well as new extensions potentially could. For example, moving from co.uk to .tech, .store, .press, .fun, etc
- Changing the business name, in which case you don’t really have a choice but to get a new domain name.
- Changing the domain name if people get your name confused with that of a competitor’s as this can impact your website traffic.
- Changing the website address because your customers can’t remember, can’t spell, or can’t pronounce your company’s name. This may be because of odd, creative spellings; foreign last names, unfamiliar word usage, etc.
It is important to note that moving your website to a new domain can be a slightly confusing process and can pose a few challenges along the way:
- You might suffer from a temporary loss of traffic
- You might have an impact on your search rankings
- You’ll have to establish your new identity to your audience
Fret not. If you follow the recommended process and ensure the domain name migration is executed with optimum care, your chances of combating these challenges increase significantly. Which is why being well acquainted with the steps involved in the process can help.
How to move your website to a new domain
Once you’re absolutely positive about changing your domain name, then follow these simple steps to minimize any potential risks during and after the transfer.
Before your domain name change
1. Backup your site
Backing up your current website can avert any potential pitfalls up the road. So, before you make any serious changes make sure you have secured a working backup, and ensure all your content and files are intact and nothing is corrupted.
2. Do an audit of your site
A good practice is to audit all your statistics before you go forward with the transfer. This will help you get a clear sense of everything that’s going on with your domain name. It’ll also give you a decent benchmark to track progress after the shift.
Herein, the most important thing to audit is the list of inbound links coming to your site. This is crucial because it is a vital SEO ranking factor and you want to minimize losing any good links when changing the domain name.
An audit can be done in two ways:
- Simply go into your Google Webmaster Tool and export a list of all the links coming into your site that Google recognizes.
- Another way to do this is through a tool called Open Site Explorer. It reviews your profile and gives additional insights into the quality of the links coming to your domain.
In an ideal scenario, you would want to use both the tools to get the best of both worlds. After you’ve done this, review all the links and highlight the ones that are of top-quality. Once the transfer is done, you will have to revisit this list and check that the 301 redirects are working fine.
3. Apply 301 redirects to everything
301 redirect not only sends the user to the correct page, but it also informs the search engines that the page has been permanently moved and would transfer the link credit to the new page. You can create a “wild card” redirect in your .htaccess file that will transfer everything on a domain-name level. Basically, what wild card does is that it automatically adds a 301 redirect to all your old domain URLs and moves them to the new domain.
It is critical that you take your time to ensure everything is getting 301 redirected as it is imperative for both; your traffic and search. You can use on 301 redirect checker tools available online (free tools available) to make sure everything is in order.
Aaron Agius, Co-Founder and Managing Director at www.louder.online, moved their website from www[dot]louderonline[dot]com and www[dot]louderonline[dot]com[dot]au to www.louder.online. When asked about how they managed the switch, Aaron said, “We are an SEO company so we made all correct redirects. A slight hit (in website traffic) may have occurred but we were ready to take that hit for our branding and marketing benefits. Being a global company, it has definitely made sense to move to a .ONLINE (domain) especially in terms of branding for an online marketing company.”
4. Maintain the same URL structure
Try to maintain the same URL structure when switching domains. If you want to make changes to the structure, it’s best to wait for a few months after the domain transfer is done. Once things have settled down and you’re back in business, then make your changes.
For example, the original URL structure is:
The new URL structure then would be:
5. Inform Google about your new domain move
Google Webmaster Tools has a link to “Change of Address”. Use this to tell Google that you have changed your domain name so that the search engine can update the same in its systems. This will ensure your listings are up to date. Know more about this tool here.
After your domain name change
6. Check everything after the domain transfer
The day you migrate, do a thorough check and ensure that everything is linked properly and all the 301 redirects are working fine (especially for your top inbound links). Additionally, use a keyword audit to list down all the keywords that were driving people to your website and search them on Google to check if your new domain name is showing up.
7. Monitor all 404 errors
A 404 error happens when a page isn’t redirected properly. The best thing to do here is to habitually check and update any pages that might be showing 404 errors. Do this exercise at least once a week for the first two months after the transfer. Sometimes it takes a few days for some 404s to pop up.
8. Plan a launch for the new domain name
A slight dip in the search rankings is common after a domain name transfer. That’s why it is important to plan a marketing push to kick-start the rankings. Some of the things you can do include:
- Reaching out to your business contacts for guest-blogging opportunities
- Creating easy to consume content such as infographics, small videos, etc and promoting them so that they get shared
- Planning a huge push of new content on the website including premium downloads such as eBooks, white papers, templates, and more
- Investing in short-term PPC campaign to make up for the lost traffic
9. Give yourself enough time to get back up
Changing domain names is a big decision–one that takes a great deal of time and planning. Often businesses try to do it in a rush. However, it helps to spend some time and do a good job to reduce the risks of any damage.
So, there you have it. Migrating your website to a new domain name isn’t rocket science but it does demand care and dedication. One of the best ways to go ahead with it is to create a checklist and keep ticking off tasks as and when you accomplish them during the entire process.
If you have yet to sign up that new, ideal domain of yours, wait no more. Search for its availability here because we all know that great things tend to finish within seconds!
Written by: Alisha Shibli