SEO Impact of Moving Website to a New Domain: What You Need to Know

by Garrett Nafzinger

Updated on May 31, 2024

Evaluating Pros & Cons of Changing Your Domain

  • Navigating a Temporary Traffic Drop: Plan to minimize the initial drop in traffic with swift, strategic actions.
  • Ensuring Proper Search Engine Re-indexing: Index your new domain quickly to keep your site visible to search engines and users.
  • Preserving Link Equity: Redirecting links is critical. Keeping the same URL paths as your old site can greatly simplify preserving your SEO value.
  • Maintaining SERP Rankings: A seamless transition in SERP rankings ensures minimal impact on user experience and maintains visibility.
  • Upholding Brand Recognition: Rapidly inform your users about the domain change to maintain your brand’s trust and recognition.
  • Keeping Up Local SEO Visibility: Quickly update local SEO details to stay visible in local search results, which is critical for businesses relying on local clientele.
  • Weighing Benefits and Drawbacks: Rebranding might improve alignment with business goals or user perception. Enhanced domain names can increase click-through rates (CTRs) and improve memorable branding. However, the downside includes potential SEO disruptions. A poorly managed migration might lead to ranking drops and lost traffic.

Planning for a Domain Migration

A successful domain migration requires thorough preparation to avoid disruption and maintain SEO value. Begin by creating a detailed pre-migration plan to guide every step of the process.

  • Setting up 301 Redirects: These redirects will send users and search engines from your old domain to your new one, ensuring you retain SEO ranking.
  • Updating Canonical Tags: Consider updating canonical tags on your old website. This can inform search engines about the upcoming change but may require extra effort.
  • Reach Out for Backlink Updates: Contact websites linking to your old domain and ask them to update their links. This helps maintain your link equity and authority.
  • Conduct a Content Audit: Make sure the content on your new site matches the old. This ensures a seamless user experience and maintains your SEO.
  • Audit the Current Website: Understand what works, what brings traffic, and what generates conversions. Using Google Analytics and SEMrush tools, identify top-performing pages, traffic sources, and keywords.
  • Mapping Out URL Changes: Create a detailed spreadsheet listing existing URLs and their new counterparts. If possible, maintain the same URL structure on the new domain to simplify redirection.
  • Inform Stakeholders: Ensure all team members, from developers to marketers, understand the migration process. Clear communication prevents misunderstandings and helps everyone stay aligned.
  • Updating Internal Links: Replace old URLs with new ones in your content, navigation, and sitemap to ensure links point directly to the new domain.

Ensuring a Successful Transition

  • Extensive Pre-Launch Testing: Test your new site thoroughly to catch and fix issues before users encounter them. This step is crucial to avoid unexpected problems.
  • Choosing the Right Time: Plan the move during off-peak times to reduce disruption. This can help maintain business operations smoothly.
  • Optimizing Site Speed: Ensure your site loads quickly. Speed is vital for SEO and user experience, especially during a transition.
  • Verifying New Domain Ownership: Verify your new domain promptly so you can manage it efficiently in webmaster tools. This step is essential to maintain control over your site.
  • Monitoring Performance Post-Launch: Monitor your site’s performance after launch. Quickly detecting and resolving issues can prevent bigger problems later.
  • Aligning the Internal Team and Broadcasting the Change Externally: Communicate the changes with your team and inform your customers. Keeping everyone in the loop helps ensure a smoother transition.
  • Preparing for Downtime: Schedule the switch during low-traffic periods. Monitor closely for any issues and address them immediately. A backup of your site ensures you can quickly restore it if issues arise.
  • Submitting New Sitemaps: After the migration, update and submit the new sitemaps to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. This helps search engines crawl your new URLs faster.

Post-Migration Monitoring

After moving your website to a new domain, monitoring its performance is vital to ensure everything runs smoothly. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Track Traffic Changes
    • Use tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to monitor your traffic and visibility in organic search. Look for large drops or spikes.
  2. Check for Errors
    • Use Google Search Console to identify any crawl errors or 404 pages on your new domain.
  3. Verify Redirects
    • Double-check that all your previous URLs correctly redirect to the new ones. Tools like Screaming Frog can help with this.
  4. Monitor Rankings
    • Keep track of your keyword rankings. Significant drops may indicate issues needing attention.
  5. Audit Backlinks
    • Ensure that your backlinks are pointing to the new domain. Use tools like Ahrefs or Moz for this audit.
  6. Update Sitemaps
    • Ensure your XML sitemap is updated and submitted to search engines to facilitate better indexing.
  7. Perform Regular Checks
    • Schedule regular checks for at least three months post-migration to catch any delayed issues.

Additional Post-Migration Practices

  • Utilizing Google Search Console helps identify indexing issues and track search performance. Check the “Coverage” report to find URL errors and the “Performance” report to see how the site ranks in search results.
  • Analyzing Backlinks: Use tools like Ahrefs and Moz to monitor backlinks and ensure they point to the new domain. If necessary, contact site owners to update links.
  • Monitoring User Behavior: Track metrics like bounce rate, session duration, and pages per session using Google Analytics. Significant changes could indicate issues with site navigation or content clarity.
  • Rechecking Sitemap Submissions: Resubmit sitemaps to search engines to confirm that new sitemaps have been indexed.

Following these steps can help you maintain your SEO health after a domain change. A domain change doesn’t have to derail your SEO. Maintain your URL structures, communicate effectively, and stay alert. With the right approach, you can move your domain seamlessly, keeping your SEO intact and your users happy.