There are some perfectly good reasons for wanting to change your business or website domain name. Perhaps, you’re downsizing or going through a renovation. Or, it could be due to a shift in market focus. It’s not uncommon for a company or brand to want to transform itself.  There are several examples of companies who struggled with their original domain names but became global success stories after rebranding. Google was once BackRub, PayPal started out as Confinity, and Pete’s Super Submarines became Subway.

Re-branding isn’t as simple a process as it used to be and, in fact, the idea of changing domain names can become a nightmare for even the most experienced webmasters. Changing domain names is essentially risky, especially when there’s nothing wrong with your existing domain, technically speaking.  And, from an SEO point of view, you may have more to lose than to gain.

The reason for this is that Google and other search engines view the change in domain names as a “clean slate”, at first.  This can have an impact on your site ranking because the search engine may not know to assign the authority your current site has built up to your new domain name. The result is that the transition has a negative impact on your business rather than the positive effect you were going for.

Steps for a successful domain move:

  • Five crucial actions that shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re going to change domain names include:
  • Pre-launch audit: audit everything you can before launching including website copy, meta content, canonical tags, internal links, menus, mobile usability, meta robots attributes, structured data and markup code, images, page load speeds, etc.
  • Redirect mapping: formulate a list/site map of all of your current pages; assign their current URLs with new URLs containing your new domain name. 
  • Updating all links:  Set up a page redirect for each of your URL’s to make sure that all website links, both internal and external, are working correctly. It’s a much cleaner, more SEO-friendly solution.
  • Notify Google:  Use Google’s “Change of address” to tell Google about your new URL. This will help to transfer your rankings and authority.
  • Post-launch audit:  Following the domain name change, it critical that you audit the website to ensure that everything is working as it should be, especially when it comes to redirects. Watch out for drops in traffic, major fluctuations in keyword visibility, and an increase in Error reports in Google Search Console as indicators of potential problems.

What about your customers?

You may have informed Google about your domain name change, but what about your customers?  It’s essential to the success of your rebranding that you keep customers, website visitors, and/or your email subscribers and social media audiences informed before, during, and after the process.
The process of changing domain names can be very stressful as well as time consuming. If it goes wrong, it could have long-lasting consequences. At Caroff Communications, we’ve been designing and redesigning websites, running SEO programs, or both for more than 20 years. We can help you get through the domain migration process and help you to grow your business.

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