When it comes to SEO, your website URL and domain name carry a lot of value. Changing a domain name should not be done lightly. If you do decide to change your domain name, there are some important steps to consider.
Domain History (Clean Past)
Before purchasing a new domain name, do some research on its history. Some websites abandon their domain because of black hat SEO that may have worked in the past, but Google has become wise to. If the domain name has been manually penalized by Google in the past, you might want to reconsider the options. Check the history of your domain with https://archive.org/. You may also want to investigate the quality of existing links pointed towards with the Ahref Backlink Checker. If both of those queries come back with a clean profile, you are ready to proceed with purchasing the new domain and migrating existing content to it.
One of the main reasons to be cautious about a domain name change is the lost domain authority. When you change your domain, all the existing links will be pointing to a now 404’d page. In a best-case scenario, you can reach out to the websites that have links pointing to your old domain and get them to update the link to your new domain. If you have many links already though, this would be an arduous task and likely unsuccessful. In most cases, the best you can do is set up 301 redirects from your old domain to your new one. This does not carry the same value as direct links as they get diluted through the old website, but it does share some of the authority. This is a very important step when changing your domain name. Don’t forget to set up redirects before you abandon the old domain.
Alert Google to the Domain Change
After setting up 301 redirects to the new domain, you’ll want to alert Google to your “Change of Address”. By using this tool, you can help Google migrate your Google Search results from your old site to your new site.
Update Local Business Listings
If you’ve added 301 redirects to the old website, visitors should have no issue finding the new site from a business listing site although they may be a little confused clicking on one URL and ending up at another. Google, however, uses these websites to verify your business information. Any discrepancies can affect how much Google’s search algorithm trusts your website. This makes it very important to search through these business listings to verify your information gets updated.
Create a custom 404 page for the old domain which suggests visiting the new domain. The old domain should ideally be automatically redirecting to the new domain. Just in case, create a custom 404-page redirect to ensure anyone who does manage to get to the old site doesn’t hit a dead end. Google recommends that you maintain the old domain, and thus its redirects, for up to 1 year for best results. That’s it! As previously mentioned, it is not recommended to change your domain name unless there will be other major benefits to your business.
If you would like help managing your SEO through a domain name change, please contact us here!