Changing the domain name of a website can negatively impact the SEO and organic traffic of a website, and therefore is generally not advisable. There are several metrics associated with every domain name including domain authority, domain age, trust factor, geographical location and links. A lot of risk is involved in transferring from an old domain to a new domain. The following measures will help you to minimize traffic loss after a domain name change.
Which is Better: Register a New domain Name OR Buy an Old Domain Name?
The first step is to acquire a domain name. Be careful in your choice of TLD for the domain (.com, .org, .edu. .us etc). The domain TLD serves as a geo location signal and directly affects the ranking and traffic of a website. If you are planning to buy an aged domain, you need to be extra cautious because it may have been penalized or banned by a search engine. To discover if the domain was banned or penalized you will need to do a little bit of research about the history of the domain, WhoIs record, and the number of pages indexed by search engines. Add your new domain name to Google and Bing webmaster tools to analyze any statistics they have kept about it and see if there are any warnings. In case of a domain banned because of spamming, filing a reconsideration request with both search engines can be a good idea.
Uploading a “Coming Soon” Webpage
Most domains are parked and make use of a classifier for identification by search engines. Uploading a few content pages on your domain a few weeks before going live with the website and mentioning that it will be the location of new website will enable search engines to easily crawl and index your new website. Moreover it will help search engines to differentiate your real website from the parked domain.
Upload Pages to New Domain
Upload pages/files/folders/images of your existing website to the new website. If you want to change the structure and layout of your website, don’t forget to note down changes as it will simplify your further efforts of mapping Old URL pages to new ones with permanent redirects.
Direct Old URLs to New Ones
After uploading the content of the website, make 301 redirects from your old domain to new one. Redirects should be done at the page level i.e. every page of the existing site should be redirected to the corresponding URL of the new website. Mapping should be done properly. Avoid redirecting all the existing URLs to the home page of a new website. 301 redirects are recommended as these are used for permanent redirects. In this way you will pass old metrics, characteristics and statistics (PR value, links, anchor text data etc.) to the new pages.
Change of Address in Google Webmaster
Next you will need to use the change of address tool in Google Webmaster console. Register both old as well as new websites to the webmaster tool to inform Google about your transfer of the old domain to the new one. This change works at a site level. It helps Google to clearly understand the transition for the whole domain instead of specific web pages.
Review Important Backlinks
Finally, I recommend that you update important back-links .i.e. links from high authority sites pointing back to your website and link directly to your new website. This way, not all the inbound links will be from redirects.
Keep Patient and Stay Updated
Domain name change is a major update for any website. One should keep patient and devote some time to test everything before the full transfer of your site from old to new domain. Always remember to renew your domain regularly so as to prevent your website from losing any referral or page rank coming from inbound links.
Follow these simple measures to protect your website from loosing traffic after a domain name change. Unless it is essential to change a domain, don’t. Nobody can guarantee 100% restoration of traffic and search ranking after changing a domain name.