There might come a time in your brand or business’s life that you need to change your domain name. This could be due to a rebranding or because a better domain name has become available. You might be changing your digital marketing strategy and need a better domain name. Whatever the reason, it is an important decision and requires a great deal of planning.  

Changing your domain name might sound simple, but without the right planning and procedures, you could lose all of your SEO (search engine optimisation) efforts almost in an instant. Losing this authority could potentially damage your new website. For example, if you have been working on an extensive link building campaign, you might lose the SEO value that you have built during this time. 

In order to ensure that you can save your SEO, keep reading below for our tips on successfully changing domain names. 


Perform An Audit


One of the most important steps to changing your domain name and maintaining your digital marketing strategy is to perform an audit on all of your statistics. This will help you to form a better picture of everything that is happening regarding your domain. You will also have a good benchmark to judge the progress of the domain switch. 

One of the most important aspects of the audit is the list of inbound links that are coming to your website. This is one of the most vital SEO ranking factors for search engines, and you should aim to minimise these losses as much as possible in order to maintain your page authority. You can use Google Webmaster Tools in order to review your link profile. This will show you all the links coming into your site as well as how search engines rank them. 


Everything Needs A 301 Redirect


Setting up a 301 redirect will not only send users to the correct page, it will also tell search engines that the page has been moved and to transfer the link credit to the new page. You can do this by creating a redirect in your .htaccess file that is able to transfer everything on a domain-name level. 

This will automatically add a 301 redirect to all of your old domain URLs and will send them to the new domain with the same URL. Ensuring that everything is being correctly 301 redirected is vital. It is one of the best ways to ensure your SEO ranking remains the same and all the links that are being sent to your old site are now redirected to your new one. You will need to spend time on this to make sure it is all correct. 


Give Google A Heads Up


One of the best tools to have in your digital marketing strategy is Google Search Console. It is highly effective when performing a domain name change, and one of the major benefits is that it’s free! You can use the “change of address” option which requires you to add your new domain and verify it in the console. 

Currently, this option is only supported in the old version of the Search Console. Simply following the prompts will help you to easily alert the search engine to the fact that you now have a new domain name. If you do not have access to this option, you can submit sitemaps to the console of both the old and new domain. This will ensure that Google becomes aware of all of the 301 redirects that you have put in place. 


Same Structure Is Best


When you are changing your domain name, it is best to keep the same URL structure. This will make it easier for Google to recognise that you have changed domains and will help them to account for any missteps in your ranking. It is similar to changing your business name during a rebrand – keeping a similar structure helps consumers to recognise your company. 

If you do wish to make changes to the URL structure, it is better to wait for a few months after the domain transfer. This will make it easier for you to make the changes you need to your URL structure. By waiting, you will have given search engines ample time to index your website and for you build up your online presence. A different URL structure might make this process longer than necessary. 


After The Change


Double And Triple Check Everything


On the day that you migrate, you will need to spend time double and triple checking everything. This means that you need to ensure that everything is linked correctly and that there are 301 redirects in place. Another important step to take is to perform a keyword audit on all of the keywords used in your digital marketing strategy that are driving traffic to your site. 

Search for these keywords on Google and ensure that they are 301 redirecting properly. You will also need to go through your inbound links to ensure that they are redirecting correctly, too. Once this check has been performed, be sure to schedule in another check a week later. This will help you to ensure that there are no issues with your domain name and website. 


Ask For A Little Help From Friends


Asking for outside help regarding your website is always a good thing. They might be able to see errors that you have missed and can inform you of these as soon as they see them. You should ask your staff to type in the old domain name into the browser and provide you with the results. You can also ask family or friends to type in your new domain name and tell you what happens. 

If you have completely redesigned your website, then you will also need people to test it for you to ensure it runs smoothly. For example, have your employees check its responsiveness on mobile and tablet devices, and ask your friends to use it on their desktop computers. This will tell you if it has been successfully upgraded. They can also tell you if there are any 404 errors which occur if a page does not redirect correctly.  


Take Some Time


Changing your domain name is important, ad so you will need to take time deciding whether or not it is the right decision for you. You will also need to ensure that you spend time performing all the necessary audits and checks once the domain name change has been finalised. 

If you are interested in changing your domain name, contact the NetMechanic team to find out how we can help you.