In this article, I’ll explain how changing domains can affect your SEO, as well as detailed steps to change it without compromising your hard-earned link juice.
Let’s get started.
How Far Can Domain Changes Affect SEO?
When you change your domain, your SEO will suffer to a certain extent. Some pages are likely to drop in rankings right after moving to a new domain, but the effect should be temporary if done correctly.
That’s why changing domains shouldn’t be done on a whim. It takes careful planning and time. If you change your already high-ranking domain to a new one, you will have a significant drop in SEO and overall organic traffic volumes. This means that all the links on your site under the old domain will no longer work. Thus the content cannot be ranked.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take when changing domains without affecting your SEO.
How to Change Domains Without Affecting SEO
Let’s break down some actions you should take when moving from one domain to another:
1. Check the New Domain’s History
You could skip this step if you purchased a new domain name. This step applied when you bought an existing domain either from a domain auction or someone else.
You’ll want to go to archive.org to receive the web pages’ history report on the domain name. Here, make sure that there wasn’t any spam or low-quality content.
To get an entire in-depth history, you can use Ahrefs’ Backlink Checker tool. You should also use the Google Search Console to see how well Google ranked the previous web pages or whether they had any penalties before.
2. Back-Up Your Website
The next step is to back up all the files on your site. This is to avoid any data loss as you migrate your site’s content from one domain to another.
You can also do a website audit where you list all your inbound links to minimise the loss of those good links. This can be done by going to your Google Search Console and clicking on the Search Traffic section on the left side menu. You can then export the links you want to keep as your records.
3. Implement a 301 Redirect
You should create a 301 Redirect. This is necessary to drive traffic from your old domain to your new one. It’s a crucial step in maintaining your search engine rankings and for Google to understand that your site’s content was permanently moved to a new address and name.
To do this, you should have access to your server’s .htaccess file and use the wildcard process. Once you’re in, simply replace the old domain with the new one. You can find more specific information depending on your hosting provider.
The transfer process will take up to a few weeks, but you can accelerate the process by doing the next step.
4. Inform Google About the Changes
Using the Google Search Console, head to the Change of Address tool and add your new domain to inform Google that your domain name has changed. Google will then update your domain in their system and migrate everything to your old domain name.
Ensure that everything has appropriately moved. All your links should be resolved and have a 200 OK status code written next to them. Make sure that all the redirects are 301 and not 307 or 302.
5. Submit Your New Sitemap
Your new site will need a sitemap to represent all the pages on your site. Once you’ve identified the importance of all your pages, you should code your URLs. You can use tools like Sublime Text to help.
Once you’re done, head over to your Google Search Console and click on your website on the sidebar. Then head to the Sitemaps section and remove your old sitemaps. Then on the Add, a new sitemap, and hit input. Finally, click Submit once you’re done.
6. Test Your Website
Once the domain change is complete, you’ll want to double and triple-check everything to make sure it’s working correctly. You can manually do this by typing in both the old and new domain names in your browser.
You can also use Google Analytics to see if it’s appropriately tracking your website under the new domain. Head to the Site Content section and search for any pages with “Page Not Found.” If there are any, that means something went wrong with your redirects.
Using the Google Search Console, head to the Coverage report to see any errors on your website. It will also automatically inform you via email if there are any significant issues with your new domain.
Why Is Strong SEO Crucial?
SEO is crucial because it helps your website become more visible on search engine result pages. SEO and domain names complement each other, as you’ll see in the three reasons below:
- Branding – Because your domain name is unique, it can be used to build your brand. Your domain name will then help your SEO because of its unusual name.
- Business or location-related TLDs – Having specific TLDs that focus on what you do or where you’re located makes it easier for your SEO to rank your website higher in the particular location or business extension.
Now you know how changing a domain name affects your SEO and its benefits when done correctly. I’ve also explained the steps to change your domain name without affecting your SEO. So if you ever decide to change your domain name, you know what to do.
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