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How to preserve SEO rankings when changing domains

Dumping an old name for something more catchy that has no Internet history is just about the worst thing you can do SEO-wise.

Domain name changes, when you change your website URL from www.abc.com to www.xyz.com, are often required when a company goes through an ownership change, or sometimes to take advantage of a business opportunity.

Other times it can be that a long-desired domain has suddenly become available, or your business has changed its focus and is re-branding as the first step of a new course.

In any case, a decision to change a longstanding domain is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly as it will require significant effort to market the new domain and potentially cause some temporary confusion among customers and prospects until the new name takes hold.  At the same time, there’s another area of concern when it comes to domain changes: search engine optimization.    

If your company is used to seeing its website listed on the first page of Google for terms that are important in driving qualified site traffic to your website, you’ll need to take extra steps to ensure a smooth transition of your website from its old URL to the new one to prevent disruption of your SEO.

SEO issues to consider

The SEO value of your website is determined not only by the optimized content on your site, but also by the quality and quantity of backlinks to your site, as well as the age and value of your domain name itself.

When considering a domain name change, it’s important to understand the value of your old URL vs. the new one you plan to use.  Google likes domains that have longevity, so dumping an old name for something more catchy that has no Internet history is just about the worst thing you can do SEO-wise.  Ask your SEO firm to run a report on the old and new domains to determine the difference in the Trust Flow rating.  That will help you understand how steep a hill you’ll need to climb to get back to your current SEO standing.  If the option is available, acquire a quality domain that has a good Trust Flow rating, one that has been in use previously, at least for several years.

Once you’ve activated the new domain, be sure to set up redirects, so that when someone clicks on an old link in a search engine or elsewhere, they’ll be redirected to the newly named site and the correct page.

You’ll also need to do a thorough check through our website for any direct links to your old domain.  If you use relative links throughout the website and haven’t changed file names, then your redirects should work fine.

Finally, you’ll need to pull a report on all the backlinks to your old domain and work to have those updated to your new website address.  Doing so will help transition the SEO value of your old site to the new site.  Adding more backlinks to the new site will help make up for any backlinks over which you have no control.

Expect some SEO fallout

Even with the most careful planning, expect there to be SEO fall-out for a period of time while your new domain begins to build its SEO value.  You’ll need to ramp up your SEO efforts to bridge the gap from the old URL to the new one to regain any lost Google rankings.

In an ideal world from an SEO perspective, companies would never change their names or their domains. But, when this action becomes necessary, extra planning and attention to detail can prevent a long-term SEO disaster.

Contact Pilot Fish for expert SEO assistance or call 877-799-9994 ext. 2102.


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