Changing from one domain to another can be one of the most trickiest things to do.
Forget SEO, giving your existing traffic, the same, seamless user experience is in itself a great effort. To make things worse, you have SEO issues – here’s a check list of how to change domain names without losing SEO ranks.
Think SEO first, everything else second.
The gravest mistake people make while changing domains, is not to take SEO into consideration first. Think SEO first, because after you have made the changes, it is difficult to roll back. And by the time, you’ve rolled back, the SERPs would have already updated and you would’ve lost your time.
And oh! Before we go ahead, I strongly suggest you download the FREE version of the SEO software I use (worth $125). It fetches all kinds of SEO data that other tools do not. Much recommended!
steps for changing domain names without losing SEO Traffic or ranks
- Make sure you have both the old and new domain verified in the same Webmaster Tools account.
- Use a 301 redirect on all pages to tell search engines your site has moved permanently.
- Don’t do a single redirect from all pages to your new home page — this gives a bad user experience.
- If there’s no 1:1 match between pages on your old site and your new site (recommended), try to redirect to a new page with similar content.
- If you can’t do redirects, consider cross-domain canonical links.
- Make sure to check if the new location is crawlable by Googlebot using the Fetch as Google feature in Webmaster Tools.
- Use the Change of Address tool in Webmaster Tools to notify Google of your site’s move.
- Have a look at the Links to Your Site in Webmaster Tools and inform the important sites that link to your content about your new location.
- Submit a Sitemap listing the URLs on your new site to Google via Google Webmaster’s tool.
- To prevent confusion, it’s best to retain control of your old site’s domain and keep redirects in place for as long as possible — at least 180 days.
- Make sure that the new URLs are showing up on Google (search for site:URL). Once they do, drop the old URL/Section/Category or one by one.
- Ensure that there are no URLs missed (with different versions etc).
Remember that doing 301’s site wide will not give the best user experience or ensure proper SEO. In such cases all the URLs get replaced with a single new domain. This is not good. Instead, do a single case to case redirection on URLs, if this is tough, do a pattern match redirect or a category/subfolder redirect.
And until the new URLs are indexed well on Google, DO NOT drop the old site. This is a common mistake.
All the best.
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