Maybe you’ve decided your site needs a major revamp. You’ve got a shiny, new site, all ready to launch on an unsuspecting world. But in your case, you have also decided that your old domain name just won’t cut it, and you’re launching your new website with a new domain name.
Have you considered how all this will affect your appearance in search engine results? Has your old domain built up trust with search engines? What will be the impact of the move upon site traffic? What will happen to the inbound links you have gained?
Moving to a new domain will always have its risks, but how do you minimize these risks? Here are some suggestions:
1. When choosing a new domain name, do consider domains that have previously been registered for some time, but are not currently being used.
Search engines get to trust domains that have been around for some time more that brand new domain names. Of course, you’ll need to check that you’re not buying a domain name that has been involved in negative practices in the past, so check this out first. Caveat Emptor.
2. Be prepared for some short term reduction in traffic. While the site should recover fairly soon, try to time it when any such reduction in visitors will have the least effect. If you’re selling Santa outfits, don’t move to a new domain in the weeks before Christmas.
3. If you have your new domain, but you’re not ready to move yet, write some relevant content and load it up into the new site. Get an inbound link to this site and get it indexed by the search engines.
4. If the new site will contain some new content/pages, load these up before moving the rest of the site. Provide links to them via social media posts. Create a viral buzz around your new content. Tease your audience (then make sure you deliver!).
5. Make sure the search engines know about your new domain. Register it with Google and Bing Webmaster Tools.
6. When you’re ready to move, copy the site across to the new domain. Where possible, contact webmasters that have implemented links to your site and ask them to change the links to the new URLs.
7. Now make sure you have permanent 301 redirects for all pages, now pointing to URLs on the new site domain. Apache server users who are familiar with it may be able to use mod_rewrite to make this process less onerous.
8. Add a XML sitemap to your new site and make sure you verify these through the Webmaster tools interfaces. Check these tools for any 404 (not found) and 500 (internal server) errors and remedy if necessary.
9. Check Webmaster tools regularly to make sure the search engine spiders are regularly indexing your site. If not, check you have inbound links and that all 301 permanent redirects are working properly.
10. Matt Cutts at Google has suggested that it may be a prudent idea to move your site to the new domain, section by section. So move one section – blog, about us, one product range maybe – implement the 301 redirects. Wait awhile to make sure this gets indexed. Once it does, you can feel more confident about moving other sections over, then monitoring these, until eventually your whole site is at the new domain. While this piecemeal approach is time consuming, it may reduce the risk.
Follow these essential tips and you should have few worries about losing too much traffic when you change your domain name. As usual, there’s always the need to back-up everything regularly, so that if it all goes pear-shaped, you can get back to where you started from. Be careful, be thorough, and you should have no major problems shifting those Santa costumes.