Your domain name is easily the most important purchase you’ll ever make online. It is your virtual address and choosing a domain is comparable to buying a house or office – it will be where your business hangs it hat for the considerable future, will be the most easily accessed example of your brand and will be a virtual storefront open to shoppers around the globe. Not to mention, your choice of domain is critical for online marketing. Your online address can really make or break your online presence – it must be easy to remember in order to rack up high visitor numbers, easy to spell to prevent lost traffic, and contain a keyword or two so that it is as search engine friendly as possible.
But, what if after a few happy years together you decide that it may be time for a change of scene, domain-wise? Even though you put a lot of thought and pre-planning in to your domain purchase, it can sometimes be necessary to diversify and consider a name change. A new domain name may be the next logical step after a corporate re-brand or, it may be that you choose incorrectly the first time and a more suitable domicile has now become available. Or, more commonly your business has simply outgrown its original residence.
Imagine that you run a store selling carpets, you have a shop that has a good footfall and you showcase your more unusual and sought-after designs at your website, www.mycarpetwebsite.com. As the years have passed, you’ve started to stock some wooden flooring for your modern minded clientele and floor protection products for your increasing number of industrial flooring clients. This area is a much more lucrative revenue stream for you and so, business plan in hand you decide you want a new domain that doesn’t include the word ‘carpet’. But, is it such a good idea?
1. A change of domain name is a big business step first and foremost. If you’ve had your domain for longer than a few months, you will undoubtedly have built up a name for yourself amongst your target market. Your reputation will intrinsically be linked with your domain and as clients recommend you to others, they will often give the web address as an easy point of contact. If you change your domain, you risk losing some of this goodwill and word of mouth. You’ll also have to work hard to re-educate your clients about your new domain, some of which you may not be able to call or email. It’s important to weigh up this potential loss of traffic and business with the likely gains to be made from a new domain over the long term.
2. Any marketing material your already possess will likely have included a link to your existing web address. It will appear on business cards, printed pamphlets, brochures, catalogues, billboards and in radio and TV ads. Changing your domain will make all of this expenditure moot and will necessitate a costly reprint of any existing marketing material to include the new address.
3. Your branding may also be affected as a new domain online is akin to renaming your business offline. Reputations and impressions you have worked hard to build will not automatically be transferred to the new domain, simply by virtue of the fact that the same people are behind it. You’ll have to work hard to regain your sense of brand at the new address, should you decide to move away from your current domain name.
4. You may need to invest in a new site design. While it would be nice to think that you could simply move your existing site lock, stock and barrel to a new address, the visual design of the site may need changing. Logos, headers and footers may need to be re-designed for example, to remove the old address and include the new one. Likewise, all copy will have to be thoroughly reviewed and references to the old address removed and replaced with the new one.
5. Your organic search positions may be affected if you change your domain name and don’t use the correct forwarding techniques. A common mistake is just to point your old domain at your new site, without implementing a 301 redirect. If you simply park you old domain and point it to your new site, you’re opening yourself up to a duplicate content problem and will slowly see your old site slide down the rankings with your new site nowhere to be seen. Using a 301 redirect is essential as this will transfer all of the links you have built back to your old site, to the corresponding page on your new site. This link juice is a crucial SEO consideration and a great source of incoming traffic so it’s essential that the search engines know that the page has been moved.
With so much hard work going in to a domain change, is it ever worth introducing a new address? Absolutely. In the example above, a new domain name such as www.carpetandflooprotection.com would be a sensible choice. When a new service or product looks likely to be a very strong growth area for the company, it makes sense to include it in the domain. This will help you to cast as wide a net as possible and you don’t risk losing browsers who see the old address and think that you specialize in just the one service or product.
A new domain can also help search engine rankings and online marketing. It may be more memorable than the old domain, in which case visitors will have easier brand recall, leading to increased traffic flows. Including keywords in the domain will also assist with search engine optimization efforts and in the long term, could help secure higher search placements.