If your website has recently been through a domain name change, or you are thinking about changing your domain name, you’ve probably considered how this change will impact your website’s popularity and placement in search results. While it is true that changing your domain name can have an adverse effect, there are things you can do to keep that from happening and to keep your website relevant and visible in search results.
Step 1: Identify Potential Issues Created By A Domain Name Change
Shortly after a domain change, one of the best things you can do is to start using a website crawler. Crawlers, such as the one offered by Screaming Frog, are programs that you can install on your computer. They are used to “crawl” your website, which is just the technical term for checking errors or SEO problems that could exist in a number of areas on your site.
Obviously, you can’t fix problems if you’re not aware they exist. This tool can alert you to any links you may have forgotten to change or to other features on your website that, since your domain change, don’t work from an SEO perspective. Knowledge is power and once you have been alerted to website problems, you can then fix them and strengthen your site in the process.
Step 2: Review the SEO Focus and Redirect Page URLs
After the website crawler has given you feedback on the potential problems, you will need to fix them. Some of the feedback you will most likely receive will relate to technical SEO.
This could include:
• Title tags and H2’s
• Meta descriptions
• Image file names
Along with these corrections, you’ll want to create redirects from the old pages to the new ones. This is called a 301 redirect. This is the best way to direct your users and search engines to the correct page under the new domain name. Simply put, when someone clicks an old link or types in an invalid URL it will redirect them to the new location. If you have a WordPress website, there are plugins that will let you individually add 301 redirects, or bulk upload a spreadsheet to do it quickly and easily.
Step 3: Fix Broken Links and Backlinks
When you change your domain name, a lot of your links are going to change. This includes links on your site’s navigation menu, links to internal pages and in-content links. A good site crawler can spot most, if not all, broken links, but it’s important to be on the lookout for issues that could cause frustration to website visitors and lower your search engine ranking.
Don’t forget about backlinks! If your site has been relatively successful, there are probably other sites that have linked to yours and those links need to be updated to keep the same positive impact on your website’s traffic and ranking in search engines. Fortunately, there are tools, such as the Ahrefs tool, that can find faulty backlinks, making them easier to correct.
Step 4: Alert the Search Engines and Directory Sites
Finally, don’t keep your domain name change a secret. Major search engines have a lot of information tied to your domain name, such as how well your site performs, its ranking position and what keywords are most relevant to your site. You don’t want all of the information to be discarded and to have to start from scratch just because you’ve suddenly changed domain names.
If you have an account through Google you can request the “change of address tool” in Search Console. This tool notifies Google about the new URL, so they can index the new website quickly and keep your search traffic moving along.
Before you submit your “change of address” to Google, make sure you have followed every step they outline and have completed the actual content migration, including verifying your new website with Google.
In addition to letting search engines know of the switch, change your information on any directory sites and online websites where your domain name is listed to avoid hassles and to ensure a successful, positive experience for everyone.
Completing all these steps can be a time consuming process, but you will not regret it when your website continues to rank high in search results. Don’t lose your website’s fame, just because of a domain name change!
Have you been through a domain change yourself? Or maybe you’re about to embark on one. In either case, we’d love for you to share your thoughts, tips and experiences below.