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SEO Guide: Changing Domain Name Without Hurting Your Rankings

Need Help Changing Domain Names

Thinking about changing your domain name? It’s a significant move that can have a big impact on your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. Whether you’re rebranding or simply unhappy with your current domain, understanding the SEO implications is crucial for maintaining your website’s visibility.

Domain names aren’t just digital addresses; they play a vital role in how customers find and remember your website. A study found that the number of domains linking to a page strongly correlates with higher rankings on Google. So, if you’re worried about how a domain change might affect your SEO, you’re not alone.

This guide will walk you through the entire process, highlighting potential risks and benefits while helping you avoid common pitfalls. By the end, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to make an informed decision and execute a seamless transition.

Preliminary Steps Before Changing Your Domain Name

Taking a systematic approach to domain migration ensures a smoother transition and minimizes SEO impact.

Choose a New, Effective Domain Name

Select a domain name that reflects your brand and resonates with your target audience. Keep it short, memorable, and easy to spell. Avoid using numbers or hyphens, as they can confuse users and impact your site’s accessibility. Consider using keywords relevant to your business and ensuring the new domain name aligns with your branding efforts.

Audit Your Current Website’s SEO Performance

Perform an SEO audit using tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. Assess website performance, loading speed, and HTML issues. Check content quality, incoming, and outgoing links. Access Google Search Console to review search results performance, index coverage, and mobile usability reports. This audit helps identify strengths and areas needing improvement, giving a baseline to compare post-migration performance.

Create a Comprehensive Backlink and Content Inventory

Compile a list of all backlinks and content assets. Use SEOptimer to export new, lost, or changed backlinks into CSV, Excel, or PDF formats. This inventory helps ensure all valuable links and content are preserved during the domain migration process. Identifying high-value backlinks also aids in crafting outreach messages to update links and maintain SEO value post-migration.

Technical Steps to Change Your Domain Name

Changing your domain name necessitates a meticulous approach to avoid losing SEO ranking. Follow these technical steps to ensure a smooth domain migration.

Setting Up the New Domain

First, register your new domain name using a domain registrar like Namecheap or GoDaddy. The new domain should be short, memorable, and relevant to your business. After securing the domain, set up a hosting plan and configure your DNS settings to point to your new domain. Verify the new domain in Google Search Console to ensure it’s recognized by Google.

Migrating Your Website Content to the New Domain

Transfer all website content to the new domain. If you’re using WordPress, utilize plugins like the WordPress Migration plugin to export pages, posts, and media files. For non-WordPress sites, manually download and upload files using an FTP client like FileZilla. Ensure all content, including text, images, and metadata, is accurately transferred to maintain SEO consistency.

Implementing 301 Redirects Correctly

Create 301 redirects to ensure that visitors and search engines are directed from your old URL to your new one. For sites on an Apache server, add redirect rules to your .htaccess file. Here’s an example:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^old-domain\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.new-domain.com/$1 [L,R=301,NC]

Use 301 redirects to retain link equity and prevent broken links, crucial for minimizing SEO impact.

Updating the Internal Links

Update all internal links within your website to reference the new domain. Tools like Screaming Frog can scan your site to find and replace outdated URLs. Ensure that every internal link, image path, and script source is updated to reflect the new domain. This step is vital for maintaining SEO value and enhancing user experience during the domain migration process.

Utilizing these technical steps ensures a well-executed domain change SEO strategy.

Updating Your Domain Information Across Platforms

During a domain migration, updating your domain information across platforms is crucial to minimize any negative SEO impact and ensure a smooth website transfer.

Modify Your Domain Details in Google Search Console

Access the Google Search Console to modify your domain details. Navigate to the settings section, and use the “Change of Address” tool to notify Google of the URL change. This helps maintain your search engine rankings and ensures that Google indexes your new domain correctly. Ensure you verify ownership of both the old and new domains before using this tool.

Update Your Google Analytics and Other SEO Tools

In Google Analytics, update your property settings to reflect the new domain. Go to Admin, select Property Settings, and modify the default URL to your new domain. Also, update other SEO tools such as Bing Webmaster Tools and any third-party SEO software you utilize. Keeping these tools updated ensures accurate traffic tracking and continuity in data analysis post-migration.

Notify External Sites to Update Backlinks

Contact the owners of external sites that link to your content to update their backlinks. This is especially important for high-authority sites that contribute significantly to your SEO. Send personalized emails detailing the domain change and providing the new URL. Rebuilding your backlink profile is vital for minimizing the SEO disruption from the domain change.

Implementing these steps ensures consistent branding across platforms and preserves your search engine visibility during the domain migration process.

Post-Migration Actions

After completing the domain migration process, it is crucial to implement several post-migration actions to ensure SEO stability and recovery.

Monitoring SEO Performance and Traffic Changes

Monitor your website’s performance through tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics. These tools help you track recovery progress and identify any issues that arise from the URL change. Regularly check the Index Coverage and Performance reports. These reports show how well your new domain is indexed and how it performs in search results. Track metrics such as organic traffic, keyword rankings, and indexing status to detect any drops or fluctuations.

Adjusting SEO Strategies Based on Performance Metrics

Adjust SEO strategies based on the performance metrics gathered. If you notice a decline in rankings, evaluate your content’s optimization and ensure all 301 redirects are correctly implemented. Ensure there’s no issue with canonical URLs to avoid any duplicate content penalties. Rebuild your backlinks by contacting high-authority sites, informing them of the domain change, and requesting link updates. Continuously create high-quality content tailored to your new domain to enhance search visibility and SEO impact.

By focusing on these actions post-migration, you can help maintain your website’s SEO health and mitigate any adverse effects from the domain change.

Troubleshooting Common Issues After Changing Domain Names

Changing a domain name can bring several challenges. Address these issues promptly to maintain your site’s SEO health.

Handling Drops in Organic Traffic

Organic traffic drops after a domain migration are common. Regularly monitor your traffic using tools like Google Search Console and Google Analytics. A temporary dip in traffic is expected but prolonged drops indicate deeper issues. Verify that all 301 redirects are configured correctly to ensure users and search engines get directed to the new URLs. Review your website transfer process and update your SEO strategy to target keywords under the new domain.

Resolving Broken Links and Redirect Errors

Broken links and redirect errors severely impact user experience and SEO. Conduct a thorough audit to identify any broken links using tools that can export data, such as SEOptimer. Implement 301 redirects for all outdated URLs to guide users and search engines to the correct pages on your new domain. If any redirects are not working, troubleshoot them in your hosting settings to prevent 404 errors.

Dealing with Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content can arise from improper URL changes during a domain migration, confusing search engines and hurting your rankings. Ensure that canonical URLs are updated to reflect the new domain. Use a site crawler to identify any duplicate content and resolve it by consolidating URLs or updating the sitemap. This approach helps search engines understand the original source of content, preserving your site’s SEO integrity.

By addressing these common issues effectively, you can maintain a strong online presence and mitigate the negative SEO impacts associated with changing domain names.

Conclusion: Ensuring Seamless SEO Transition When Changing Domain Names

Changing your domain name is a significant move that requires careful planning and execution to protect your SEO efforts. By following the outlined steps and being proactive in addressing post-migration challenges, you can minimize disruptions and maintain your search engine rankings.

Regularly monitoring your SEO performance and making necessary adjustments will help you stay on top of any issues that arise. Remember, patience and persistence are key during this transition period. With the right approach, you’ll ensure a seamless SEO transition and continue to thrive in the digital landscape.

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OUR WORK

HoliMont Ski Club

Taking America's largest private ski club from the blue square to double black.

For almost 60 years HoliMont has been committed to creating an environment for generations of families and friends to adventure and build memories together. As America’s largest Private Ski Club, and WNY’s Premier Ski Destination, it was time for a change to reposition the club for the new season they were stepping into.

In partnership with their incredibly committed and passionate team, we’ve rolled up our sleeves to not only reintroduce HoliMont as an All-Season Club but to engage new members and remind existing members of how wonderful a place HoliMont is for family, friendship, and fun. 

Industry

Private Club Sports

Location

Ellicottville, NY

Services

Branding
Web Design & Development
Photo/Videography
Digital Marketing

Brand Identity

Refreshing their identity without reinventing it. 

HoliMont has a very recognizable mark with decades of history behind it – so our approach was focused on breathing new life into a timeless logo.

OLD LOGO

Logo Redesign

Simple & Structured.

Removing the dated styling (shadows, outlines) as well as the caps-case on the word mark helped to reveal a more timeless and versatile logo.

Color Studies & Typography

A high-end, rustic, and elegant take on WNY ski culture

Combining rich greens, rose gold, and a quality typographic system gives HoliMont the recognizable look it deserved.

Brand Texture

Topographic mapping of the 'Mont made for the perfect texture.

We converted a topographic map of Holimont in order to create a series of brand textures to add some intrigue and beauty to the visual identity.

Brand Texture

Topographic mapping of the 'Mont made for the perfect texture.

We converted a topographic map of HoliMont in order to create a series of brand textures to add some intrigue and beauty to the visual identity.

Brand Identity

Custom badges for all of the 'Mont's programs. 

We created unique symbols with illustrations to represent each program within HoliMont. You can see these around the ‘Mont any time you visit!

WM-PROJ-HMONT-PROGRAM-LOGOS-MOBILE

WEBSITE

A premier destination: online and off.

We took the original site and did a complete overhaul, giving HoliMont the impact it deserves for current and prospective members.

WM-PROJ-HMONT-WEB-MOCKUP-2
WM-PROJ-HMONT-WEB-MOCKUP-3

Mobile

A simple yet beautiful experience, even if you're browsing from the chairlift.

A partner dedicated to the outdoors needs a platform that’s easily accessible on the go. We created a seamless, simple design that makes getting the information you need a walk in the park.

Creative Assets

A simple yet beautiful experience, even if you're browsing from the chairlift. ​