What Happens To SEO When Changing Domain Names?

What Happens to SEO When Changing Domain Name & How to Preserve Your Traffic

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Changing a domain name can influence SEO performance and website visibility. Search engines have indexed, ranked, and built trust with the old domain, and a new one will be perceived as an entirely different entity.

This article will discuss the key steps to change the name of your domain without sacrificing your hard-earned SEO. Stay with us as we show you how to ensure a seamless transition for your website.

 

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Takeaways
  • Carefully implement your domain change and SEO strategy to preserve SEO and ensure a smooth transition
  • Implement 301 redirects and maintain high-quality content to safeguard your rankings
  • Regularly monitor your site’s SEO performance post-change with your Google Analytics account
  • A reliable hosting provider ensures long-term stability for your website
  • Outreach to other websites to update and secure your precious backlinks
  • Update social media accounts, directories, and logos for a seamless post-domain migration experience

What Happens to SEO When You Change Your Domain Name?

Changing the name of your domain is a significant move that can profoundly impact your website’s SEO performance. Here’s why:

  1. Loss of Historical Authority

When you’ve had the same domain for a while, it accumulates a history that search engines, like Google, come to trust. This trust is built through the content you’ve created, the user engagement your site has fostered, and the backlinks that point to your domain.

However, when you change to a new domain, you effectively reset the clock. You lose this accumulated trust and need to work from the ground up to rebuild your domain’s authority.

  1. Drop in Search Rankings

If your old domain had enjoyed high search engine rankings, you should anticipate a temporary decline when you decide to change names. This dip occurs because the engines require time to adapt to and comprehend your new domain.

During this transition phase, it’s common to experience reduced visibility in search results, potentially losing organic traffic to your website.

  1. Backlink Challenges

Think of backlinks as digital endorsements for your website. They serve as a validation of your content’s quality and relevance in the online world. However, when you opt for a domain change, your old backlinks can quickly become outdated, leading to a disconnect from these valuable online connections.

To maintain your website’s authority, you can create 301 redirects from the old domain to the new one. You can also get in touch with the owners of the websites that link to your domain and ask them to update the backlink to the new domain.

This process can be time-consuming but is essential for regaining your site’s SEO strength.

  1. Confusion for Users

Your loyal visitors, who were accustomed to your old domain, may face challenges in locating your new site during the initial stages of the transition. This can lead to a decrease in the number of returning visitors and a potential drop in user engagement on your website.

It’s essential to understand that your new domain may require some time to gain recognition and familiarity among your audience. Hence, patience and proactive measures are crucial during this adjustment period.

Why Would You Want to Change Your Domain Name?

There are several valid reasons to consider when changing your domain name, each tied to the growth and evolution of your online presence.

Here are some of the most common factors that may prompt a domain name change:

  • Rebranding — When your business undergoes a significant rebrand or name change, a new domain may better reflect your updated identity.
  • Copyright Issues — Legal concerns regarding copyright infringement can necessitate a domain name change to avoid legal consequences.
  • Growth — As your business expands, a domain that better encompasses your evolving range of products or services may be required.
  • Relocation — Changing your domain can be useful if your business relocates, catering to a different audience or geographical area.

Benefits of Changing a Domain Name

Changing your domain name can offer several advantages, enhancing your online presence and aligning it with your evolving needs. Here are some potential benefits:

  • Improved Brand Alignment — Ensure your domain reflects your new brand identity and values.
  • Enhanced SEO Opportunities — Correct past SEO mistakes and adopt a more SEO-friendly domain.
  • Fresh Start — Leave any negative associations or issues linked to the old domain.
  • Targeted Marketing — Align your domain with specific products, services, or markets.
  • Competitive Edge — Outshine competitors with a more relevant and memorable domain.
  • Legal Compliance — Resolve copyright issues or legal concerns associated with the old domain.

Risks of Changing a Domain Name

Changing your domain comes with its share of risks. The biggest risk is losing traffic to your site. There is no guarantee that you will lose organic traffic after changing your domain, but it is highly likely.

After a domain change, Google must relearn and reindex your site. There’s no telling how long it will take for your search traffic to bounce back to where it was or if it will even come back. It becomes a patient waiting game after your site has been changed over.

Here are the potential risks:

  • Domain Age —The old domain may have established trust and authority over time, which can be challenging to replicate with a new domain.
  • Brand Awareness — Changing your domain can temporarily confuse users familiar with your old one, affecting brand recognition.
  • Loss of Backlinks —The backlinks pointing to your old domain may become irrelevant, impacting your site’s authority and SEO rankings.

Does Buying Extra Domains Help SEO?

A multiple-domain strategy adds an extra layer of power to your SEO efforts. Rather than relying on a single domain, you can leverage multiple domains to enhance your visibility and drive more clicks.

It’s an unconventional SEO approach but can yield significant benefits if managed effectively. Some notable advantages include:

  • More Visibility for High-Value Keywords — With two well-ranked domains targeting a top-tier keyword, you secure double the real estate in search results.
  • Niche Targeting — For larger brands with diverse audiences, dedicated domains for specific topics can expand your reach and help you rank for a broader range of search terms.
  • Brand Awareness — Affiliating a secondary, relevant site with your brand can maintain your presence in customers’ minds and cultivate positive associations with your brand name.

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How to Change Your Domain Name without Losing SEO in 12 Steps

Changing your domain name doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your SEO efforts. It’s a meticulous process that requires attention to detail. Here’s a breakdown of the essential steps to ensure a smooth transition while preserving your SEO:

  1. Create a List of All High-Performing Pages on the Old Domain

When undergoing a domain change, you need to preserve your most high-performing URLs.

This involves two critical steps:

  • Ensuring the new site mirrors the high-ranking, high-organic traffic pages from the old one
  • Confirming that the content on these new pages matches the relevance and keyphrase focus of the original pages

Search traffic can plummet if a successful page from your old site doesn’t find its counterpart on the new site. Without a competitor (a page) for that keyphrase, you risk losing valuable organic traffic, which is a primary reason why website redesigns often result in decreased search traffic.

  1. Preserve Keyword Focus on Top URLs

When rebranding, fresh content often comes into play. While some pages may undergo changes, it’s vital to maintain keyword relevance for those critical pages that promote your services and rank for valuable search terms.

To identify these crucial keywords, consider using Google Search Console (GSC):

  • Access GSC and navigate to the Search results report
  • Click the “Pages” tab to view pages that rank and draw traffic
  • Drill down into each URL to discover the keyphrases it performs best for

When rewriting these pages, ensure the following:

  • The title, header, and body text present the primary key phrase
  • Secondary keyphrases also appear in the body text
  • The primary keyphrase is in the anchor text of internal links
  • The word count remains consistent or only undergoes minor changes

For high-impact pages and keywords, consider using on-page SEO tools like SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant or MarketMuse Optimize, working alongside your CMS to implement recommended changes.

  1. Build a Page about the Rebrand

As you transition to a new domain, constructing a dedicated page about the rebrand is paramount. This page is a critical link between the old and new domains, providing visitors with an explanation of the changes, the reasons behind the rebrand, and any relevant information.

Incorporate engaging visuals, clear messaging, and a user-friendly layout to create a seamless experience for your audience. This page can help bridge the gap and mitigate confusion during the transition, ultimately preserving user trust and SEO performance.

  1. Create an SEO Redirect to the New Domain

Redirects play a pivotal role in preserving SEO during any website launch, and when changing the domain name, their importance amplifies.

Redirects help Google locate new URLs and pass valuable link equity to your new domain, preventing broken links and safeguarding your site’s Domain Authority.

When changing the domain name itself, three redirect approaches with varying levels of difficulty and effectiveness come into play:

  • Broad but Basic: Redirect to the Homepage — The simplest approach, though not optimal for SEO. It involves redirecting all old URLs to the new homepage with minimal effort.
  • Efficient and Effective: Directory-Level Redirects — Redirect entire URL directories to relevant new pages. For instance, in the case of an e-commerce site, you might route the entire product catalog to the primary product page on the new website.
  • Precise and Powerful: Individual URL Redirects — The most meticulous method requires an audit of the old website to map old URLs to their corresponding new ones. This approach is vital for preserving SEO value.

Which approach is right for you depends on two key factors:

  • Existing Rankings and Visitors — If certain pages have existing rankings and attract visitors, you should redirect it to a corresponding page on the new domain to keep its SEO value.
  • Inbound Links — If other websites have linked to specific pages on your site, you should redirect them to a corresponding page on the new domain. If there is no matching page on the new domain, you can redirect it to the homepage.
Note

There’s minimal risk for pages with no rankings and no inbound links. Redirecting these has no SEO impact. However, consider redirecting them to the homepage in case someone has bookmarked the old URL.

To identify linked pages, professional-level SEO tools are beneficial. Still, Google Search Console, specifically the “Top linked pages” report under “Links,” can offer insights into pages linked from external websites. Sort by “Linking sites” for a comprehensive view.

  1. Use the “Change of Address” Feature in Google Search Console

Google Search Console offers a valuable tool to streamline your domain name change. The “Change of Address” feature lets you notify Google about the transition, expediting the indexing process for your new domain.

It’s a crucial step in preserving your SEO efforts as it helps Google understand the switch and update its search results accordingly. Utilizing this feature ensures a smoother and faster transition for your website, reducing potential disruptions in your search rankings.

  1. Update Your Google My Business Account

Changing your domain name extends to your Google My Business (GMB) account, an integral part of your SEO strategy. When searching for your brand, logging into the GMB admin account allows you to make necessary edits, ensuring that your GMB listing reflects your new domain and branding.

Key updates within your GMB account include the name, logo, and website. Furthermore, consider the Performance section for local listings, which monitors views and website clicks. To connect GMB with Google Analytics for comprehensive tracking, use a campaign tracking code to measure visitors from your GMB listing to your website.

  1. Update Search Engine Analytics

Resist the temptation to start afresh with a new Analytics account when changing your domain name. Starting anew can complicate pre-post measurement, making issue identification and resolution more challenging. Instead, maintain your current Analytics account while making crucial adjustments:

  • Change Account and Property Names: Ensure they reflect the new brand, eliminating references to the old business name.
  • Update View Names: Modify view names to align with the new brand identity.
  • Update Website URL: In view settings, update the website URL for each view to match the new domain.
  • Review Filters and Goals: Check filters and goals, ensuring they are compatible with the new URL structure.
  • Set an Annotation for Launch Day: As with any major website change, add an annotation to mark the launch day.

The process is simpler for Google Analytics 4 (GA4), with fewer references to the domain and no annotations. Focus on creating events for each conversion in the Configuration section, mirroring destination goals in Universal Analytics.

Mark these events as conversions to ensure accurate website performance tracking.

  1. Check Google Tag Manager

When transitioning to a new domain, creating a new Google Tag Manager (GTM) account is unnecessary. GTM’s flexibility allows you to easily move your container, tags, and configurations to the new site.

If your “Cookie Domain” is set to “auto,” there’s no GTM configuration required. This setting lets Google Analytics detect the domain automatically and with GA4, it becomes even more straightforward.

Utilize variables for your tracking code, which is a best practice. With variables in place, there’s no manual addition required for each tag; simply reference the variable.

Watch for other instances within GTM where the old domain might be referenced, particularly in event-tracking configurations.

  1. Update Your Marketing Tracking Services

Updating your domain isn’t limited to just Google Tag Manager. Your marketing tracking services, including tools like Hotjar, MixPanel, LiveRamp, and NewRelic, also require attention. To avoid disruptions, log into each of these services and inform them about your new domain.

Neglecting this step can sever the connection between the service and your website, leading to a data blackout. This process also offers an opportunity to audit your marketing technology stack.

Review the contents of your GTM container, ensuring that your site’s JavaScript isn’t running unnecessary services, thus optimizing your visitor’s experience and reducing costs.

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  1. Update the Directories and Social Media Accounts

Numerous online locations likely reference your old domain, and tracking them all down for updates is vital. This includes links and logos on local directories, YouTube, LinkedIn, X, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites.

The quickest way to discover these references is by searching Google, excluding your own website from search results, and scanning the web for any lingering mentions of your old brand. Ensuring consistent branding across the web is essential for maintaining your SEO performance during the domain transition.

  1. Reclaim as Many Links as You Can

Not all links can be updated independently, especially those like press mentions, author bios in guest posts, or image source links. Reclaiming these links involves outreach, a practice known as link reclamation, which SEOs prioritize.

A direct link to your website holds more value than one that passes through a redirect, with the exact difference being unclear but estimated at around 10-15% link equity loss, similar to “Page Rank decay.”

Utilize an SEO tool or Google Search Console to compile a list of links to your website. If you have contacts at the companies hosting these links, reach out politely, informing them of your rebrand and new domain, and request an update.

If you lack contact, consider networking through platforms like LinkedIn to locate an editor and make a polite request for link updates. It’s about keeping your web presence accurate and up-to-date, not spam.

  1. Check Your Sitelinks Search Box

A sitelinks search box is a valuable feature that allows users to search your website or app directly from the search results page. It offers real-time suggestions and other convenient features. If you find a search box displayed when searching for your brand, especially above your sitelinks, it’s a good sign.

If, at any point, it was altered to utilize your site’s search tool and display results on your website rather than through Google, it’s important to ensure that the code is up to date and functioning effectively.

How to Make Your Domain Name SEO-Friendly After the Domain Name Change

Changing your domain without compromising your search engine optimization is crucial. Here are some actionable tips to ensure your new domain is SEO-friendly:

  • Monitor SEO Performance: Use tools like Google Analytics to continuously track and analyze the impact of the domain change on your SEO metrics.
  • 301 Redirects: Implement 301 redirects for all old URLs to the corresponding new URLs to maintain SEO authority.
  • Quality Content: Ensure your website’s content is high-quality, relevant, and keyword-optimized to attract search engine traffic.
  • Mobile Optimization: Optimize your site for mobile users, as mobile-friendliness is a significant factor in search rankings.
  • Page Speed: Improve website loading speed to enhance user experience and boost search rankings.
  • Schema Markup: Utilize schema markup to provide search engines with structured data, helping them better understand your content.
  • Keyword Research: Conduct keyword research to identify your new domain’s most relevant and high-performing keywords.
  • Quality Backlinks: Build high-quality backlinks to your new domain to increase your website’s authority and trustworthiness.
  • Regular Updates: Consistently update your website with fresh content to keep both users and search engines engaged.
  • Social Signals: Leverage social media platforms to promote your content and enhance your online presence.
  • XML Sitemap: Submit an updated XML sitemap to search engines to assist with crawling and indexing your new domain.

Final Word: Changing Website URL without Hurting SEO Is Possible!

Altering your domain name may initially seem daunting, but it’s a maneuver that can be executed smoothly with the right strategy. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can make the transition while preserving your SEO performance.

Remember, SEO when changing a domain name is about careful planning, diligent execution, and continuous monitoring. Make the right decision for your website’s future, and for more guidance on web building and hosting, explore our resources.

Ultahost Domain Hosting
UltaHost delivers customized hosting solutions for everyone, from beginners to industry giants, emphasizing superior VPS and managed hosting services for hassle-free website functionality. Ultahost offers a free domain, SSL, and many great features, but what really makes it stand out are its highly transparent pricing plans and all the included freebies.
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Next Steps: What Now?

Learn More About Changing Domain Name

Frequently Asked Questions

Does changing a domain name affect SEO?

Changing a domain name can affect SEO, but it’s possible to change your domain without significantly harming your search engine results pages (SERP) rankings. By implementing 301 redirects from the old to the new domain, maintaining content quality, and optimizing keywords, you can minimize the impact of the transition and ensure a smooth SEO performance for your new domain.

Are domain names important anymore?

Domain names remain vital in the digital landscape. While they are no longer the sole factor determining SEO success, they still play a significant role. A relevant, memorable name aids in user recognition and trust.

In the context of domain migration, the right name can facilitate a smoother transition and preserve the equity of your current domain for SEO. This ensures your online presence remains strong.

Does .com rank higher in SEO?

The .com domain extension does not inherently rank higher in SEO. SEO success is determined by various factors, such as content quality, backlinks, and user experience. While .com domains are common and familiar to website visitors, other extensions can rank just as well when combined with strong SEO strategies on an existing website.

How do I change the domain name in WordPress?

To change your domain name in WordPress, follow these steps:

  • Backup Your Website: Before any changes, ensure you have a full site backup.
  • Update WordPress Address and Site Address: Go to “Settings” in your WordPress dashboard and update the URLs under “General.”
  • Update .htaccess and wp-config: Edit these files if necessary to reflect the new domain.
  • Set Up Redirects: Implement 301 redirects from the old domain to the new one.
  • Update Internal Links: Manually update any internal links on your site.
  • Monitor SEO Performance: Continuously track your site’s SEO performance post-change.
How do I change the domain name in cPanel?
  • Log in to your cPanel account.
  • Go to “Addon Domains” or “Parked Domains,” depending on your needs.
  • Add the new domain and specify the directory where it should point.
  • Update your DNS records to match the new domain.
  • Test your new domain to ensure it’s working correctly.

This process will change your domain within cPanel while retaining your website’s functionality.

Will changing my domain name affect my organic traffic to the new website?

Yes, it can impact organic traffic when changing your domain to your new website. To mitigate this, make sure to implement 301 redirects, preserve high-performing content, and update your SEO strategy for the new domain. By following these steps, you can expedite the recovery of your organic traffic after the domain change.

How long does it take organic traffic to recover after a domain name change?

The recovery time can vary, but by following best practices and consistently monitoring your site’s performance, you can expedite the process.

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