How to Change Your Domain Name
Thinking of changing your domain name? Changing your domain name can be a scary process. After all, you've worked hard to build brand awareness, and you probably have some backlinks pointing to your site. You don't want to sacrifice your rankings or any authority, but you've reached the point where changing your domain name is inevitable.
What are you to do?
Don't fret; we've got you covered. Below we showcase a few primary concerns when changing your domain name and walk you through the process of changing your domain without harming your SEO.
Common reasons to change domain names
Before we dive into the process of actually changing your domain, let's take a look at some of the common reasons you'll want to make this change in the first place. When changing your domain, always give it a lot of thought. It's not something you'll want to jump into lightly.
- You want to change the extension
When you originally bought your domain name, the domain extension you wanted wasn't available. When you have a .net or .biz domain name, this can convey less authority to your visitors. Websites like .com can also be easier to remember and can be the default domain extension your visitor types into the search bar.
- Your business name has changed
If you've changed the name of your business, then there isn't a way around it. It would be best if you changed your domain name. This is one aspect of maintaining a clear and consistent brand online.
- You're tired of your old domain
It can be tempting to change your domain name because you want to give your site a facelift and freshen things up. However, you'll want to make sure you're thinking this through. Make sure that changing your domain is worth the risk of potentially lost rankings and traffic.
How to change domain names while keeping SEO juice
If you're positive you want to change domain names, then follow the steps below to minimize any risk of lost rankings.
If you're a current HostGator customer, please read our support documentation on changing your domain name.
- Back up your site
Backing up your current website will help you avoid any potential pitfalls. Before making any massive changes to your website, make sure you have a working backup. You'll want to test your backup to ensure all of your content and files are intact and nothing is corrupted.To help with your domain change process and avoid any potential catastrophes, later on, it's always recommended to back up your site regularly. Current HostGator customers can get automatic daily backups with CodeGuard.
- Check for domain penalties
Did you know that your new domain could already be penalized? When buying a used domain, there's a chance there could be some low-quality backlinks pointing at your site. You'll want to disavow these links before you move forward with migrating your site.
The best way to do this is to utilize Google Webmaster Tools. Navigate to Search Traffic >> Manual Actions and see if there are any instances of webspam targeting your domain. If there are, submit a removal request, and you'll be all set.
- Migrate your content
Now that you've done the foundational work, it's time to move your content to your new domain. Doing this all at once will help speed up the process and reduce the risk of any negative SEO impact.
You can use a plugin like All-in-One WP Migration to simplify the process if you're utilizing WordPress. If you're doing it manually, then you'll want to set aside time where you can copy everything over.
- Redirect your old pages
Now it's time to add URL redirects on all your old content to your new site. You'll want to use a 301 redirect, a permanent redirect. This will pass your SEO juice onto your new site.
You can use a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects if your site runs on WordPress, but if not, refer to this article from Google Support. These resources will help you implement redirects to all of your necessary pages.
If you have pages that are no longer present on your new site, make sure you create a relevant page so users don't land on a funky 404 page.
- Tell Google you've moved
Now we've reached the final step in the process. It's time to tell Google we've moved. You can do this by navigating to the gear icon in the right-hand corner and submitting a change of address within your Google Webmaster Tools dashboard. This will alert Google to your new location. Just make sure you complete all of the previous steps first.
To further increase the functionality of your new site, you can create a new XML sitemap. According to Google, you should create two sitemaps. One for your old domain and one for your new domain. Over time, you'll see that the old domains will be de-indexed, and your new domains will take their place.
There you have it. If you've followed the steps above, your new site should be migrated, and you should be error-free.