How to change your business domain name without losing traffic

There are certain important steps that must be taken to avoid losing both existing and potential customers when you change your domain name.

Coming up with the perfect new domain name for your business can be extremely exciting. All is well and dandy till you start to lose search engine traffic on your site. From the moment you resolve to rebrand your business, an important factor to consider is how this change is going to affect your business. Transferring from an old domain to a new one poses certain risks, because each domain name is tied to characteristics such as the age of the domain, hyperlinks and GEO location signals. A new domain name is sure to have an impact on target keywords used by your business, which will inadvertently affect the amount of traffic coming to your website.

Hopping on a new domain name because it is available and infinitely more desirable could possibly be the best thing that ever happened for your business. However, there are certain important steps that must be taken to avoid losing both existing and potential customers in the process. The tips outlined here would help you retain your current traffic to your site.

Step 1: Back up your entire website

First of all, it is good practice to always have a current backup of your website. So if you do not already, backing up your website is the first step to take when changing your business domain name. A website backup can be carried out in three ways; manually, using an online service like VaultPress, or through backup plugins. After successfully doing a website backup, create a full list of all the pages on your site. The title tags and meta descriptions which you want in place on your new domain name should be highlighted to ensure that the keywords that already pull traffic are featured on the new site. Screaming Frog is a handy SEO tool which could be easily used to achieve this.

Step 2: Register new domain

Next, is to register your new domain, or to purchase an old one if you need to.Find out using a domain name checker, if the domain name you are interested in is available. If it is, then go ahead with a domain name change request.AsBrendan Wilde (Online Manager) at freeparking.co.nz points out, ‘there is always a risk that an old domain has been banned by one of the big search engines. Therefore, some research into the domain’s history is advised. Its past look and statistics are metrics which can be investigated in order to determine how safe it is to purchase such a domain name. A reconsideration request can be filed for a website that has been banned due to spamming, but don’t move from a healthy domain to one with intrinsic problems’.

Step 3: Put up an ‘under construction’ page

An ‘under construction’ notice serves as a holding page for your new website. It is temporary and serves the simple purpose of letting visitors know that your site is under construction. You can also provide further information on this page, like when to come back, or any other useful information.

Step 4: Transfer your pages to the new domain

Moving from the old domain to the new one can be done in two ways; by manual transfer or through the use of plugins. For a manual transfer to be possible, first ensure that your content management system such as WordPress or Blogger is operational. Say for instance you use Blogger for managing your site content. Your website should already be prepared with its basic framework in place. This can be done through a detailed installation or take the quicker route by employing the five-minute installation. To do a plugin transfer to your new domain, WordPress users can enjoy a simpler way using Softaculous, which assists with an automated migration process.

Step 5: Redirect URLs

This is the one thing you simply cannot afford to forget when changing your business domain name. It’s far too important. After you have migrated the contents of your old website to the new one, redirects need to be placed leading from the old domain to the new one. It is better to do redirection on the page level, rather than just redirecting all pages to the new domain homepage. Therefore, each page of the old site should be mapped to the appropriate new URL. There are different types of redirects and the 301 redirects are the most advised for your new domain. 301 redirects transfer the important web characteristics and statistics which are important to retain authority and web traffic such as page rank values, anchor text data and links. Note that 301 directs cannot be reversed in the future, so if you aren’t changing your domain name permanently, a 302 redirect would better serve this purpose.

Step 6: Update the relevant backlinks

The most important backlinks are the ones that point to your old website and link directly to the new domain pages. Such links are usually from reputable sources with high page rank, so it is important that they be updated. Although 301 redirects transfer most of the old domain’s characteristics, and statistics to the new one, the relevant backlink should still not be overlooked. Two useful tools for getting this done are Google Webmaster Tools and Backlink Analyzer.

Step 7: Pre-test offline

An offline pre-test is necessary to check if everything is working properly. And if you’re feeling especially finicky, you can check to see if your site is mobile-compatible. The SEMrush Site Audit tool can be used to find out if your website’s mobile version has any technical issues. After you have ensured that there are no broken links on the new site, and that all titles and meta descriptions on your old domain were successfully migrated to the new page, it should be okay to push the pages live.

Step 8: Inform Google about the new domain name

You’re almost there now. Inform google about your domain change. Google has a tutorial on the Google search Console which would be helpful. Log in to webmaster Tools and find the ‘change of address’ button. The whole process tells google about your new domain name.

Step 9: Notify users of the change

Now, you can notify your users about the change. Creative ways to do this include publishing a blog post about the domain change or updating your social media contacts. You can also ask for feedback from your users to find out if there are any improvements to be made.

You shouldn’t change your domain name unless you absolutely have to. However, if you find that you need to, the steps above will help you reduce the loss of traffic to your new domain. Don’t cut corners!

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