Change Your Domain Without Ruining Your Ranking

analytics-and-statisticsThere may come a time where you want to change the domain name on your website. If your site has been active for a while, you will have some ranking you don’t want to lose. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure you don’t lose what you’ve built up over the years.

  • Stay organized: Make a list of things you need to do, and make a schedule that works for your situation.
  • Review your statistics: Review and save your website statistics so you can see what your traffic is and where it is coming from. This information will help you make decisions and monitor results after you’ve changed your domain.
  • Keep your website structure the same if possible. Consider if you have any sub-domains or other structural items that will be affected.
  • Tell Google your are moving.
  • Keep any old URLs active and have them rewrite to the new domain. You may decide after a period of time to let them go, but base that on your analytics later. Now is not the time to let any other active domains go.
  • Marketing Automation Tools. If you are using them, make sure to update your settings with the new domain URL.
  • Adwords. If you are running any Adword campaigns, update the URLs and settings.
  • Review error pages before and after the switch. Fix as needed.
  • Redirect all of your robots.txt and sitemaps to the correct location.
  • Change your name online. If your domain name change was inspired by the change of your business name, you’ll need to update the name of your business where it appears online. Update social accounts, Google Places, internal blog links, email signatures, employee profiles on Linkedin, etc.
  • Create a holding page. If you are moving everything to a brand new site/location go ahead and create a holding page with a little bit of content to tell people what to expect.
  • Create 301 Redirects for your web site. (See below.)

Create a 301 Redirect for every page on your site

This is the MOST important thing you’ll need to do for your site during this process. Think of it like giving a forwarding address to your Post Office. Whatever page has a 301 redirect on it will be telling the search engines that the page has moved permanently and it will transfer the SEO credit to that new URL.

This is also a great thing if your page name has changed along the way. For instance you can tell your old page at www.yourdomain.com/contact should be forwarded to www.yourdomain.com/contact-us permanently.

If you have a blog that you keep up regularly, you may be thinking, “Holy crap — that is going to take me ages to do!” Fear not, dear reader. You can set up a wildcard in your htaccess file to do this automatically. You can also use a tool to make a list of all of your pages. Here is one I found recently called Screaming Frog that will spider your website for you.

Manual way to set up a 301 Redirect

One page:
Redirect 301 /oldpage.html http://www.example.com/newpage.html

Multiple pages, each on it’s own line:
Redirect 301 /oldpage1.html http://www.example.com/newpage1.html
Redirect 301 /oldpage2.html http://www.example.com/newpage2.html
Redirect 301 /oldpage3.html http://www.example.com/newpage3.html
Redirect 301 /oldpage4.html http://www.example.com/newpage4.html

Wild card way to set up a 301 redirect

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule (.*) http://new-domain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

And, there are also some really cool htaccess generators to help you if you get stuck on the proper syntax. Here is one I found that seems to work great. You can search Google for “htaccess generator” to find others.

If you want to double-check your redirects, there are tools for that too.

After the switch

  • Double-check your redirects.
  • If you are aware of any URLs that have back-links that you can change, do it. Pull a back-link report to help you find them.
  • Your rankings can slip a bit after a big switch. You might consider doing some sort of big marketing push with some link building or some short-term Pay-Per-Click advertising. Consider telling your users ahead of time and making it an “event.”
  • Check for broken links.
  • Verify the new domain in your webmaster tools account.

Here is a video form Google Webmasters:

Lena Shore

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