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What’s The SEO Impact of a Domain Name Change?

What’s The SEO Impact of a Domain Name Change?

Did you buy a new domain name that you like more than the current one you have for your business or website?

Maybe you want to change the business name?

Whatever the case may be, the decision to migrate a website to a new domain name is a significant one, particularly in the context of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Assessing the Feasibility of a Domain Change

I’ve put together an analysis which delves into the intricacies a domain name transition, evaluating both the potential benefits and drawbacks, and providing strategic insights for businesses considering this big move.

I always consider it a good move to change your domain name if the domain you want to change to adheres to any or all of the below:

  • A .com domain
  • A shorter domain name than your current domain
  • Is easier to spell than your current domain
  • Is correctly spelled (unless your brand name is the misspelling)
  • Does not have any dashes
  • Does not have any numbers (unless the number is in your brand name)

If you have a one-word, correctly spelled .com domain that properly represents your brand, make the switch. You have the perfect domain.

Potential Impacts on Organic Search-Driven Revenue

Revenue is always my first consideration. If a substantial portion of your business revenue is derived from organic search traffic, caution is advised. The transition period post-domain change can range from approximately one month (in an ideal scenario) to six months (in more challenging cases) or longer. This period is crucial as it will affect your website’s organic search rankings, and revenue.

Strategic Recommendation: In cases where a domain change is imperative, expect to allocate substantial resources towards massive SEO efforts. This strategic investment is aimed at minimizing the duration of ranking loss and expediting the recovery of your website’s previous search standings. This means that after the switch, you create more content, generate more digital PR/backlinks, and work on creating an amazing experience on your site. This will help you recover any rankings you lost as quickly as possible.

For Businesses Less Dependent on Organic Search-Driven Revenue

For businesses where organic search is not a primary revenue driver, you’ll just have to ensure you update your domain name on all of your social profiles and business directories you’re listed in.

From there, the transition to a new domain, supplemented by a robust SEO campaign, can be a viable strategy to create organic search-driven revenue.

4 Advantages of Changing the Domain Name:

If you have a new domain name that you like better than you’re current one, there could be plenty of benefits in changing over to the new domain name. Below are some potential benefits you could realize with the right domain name switch:

1. Enhanced Brand Authority

The shorter and easier the domain, the more your brand stands out to people as an authority. This can facilitate word-of-mouth referrals and brand recognition. Also, it’s easier it is to refer people to your website with a shorter domain name, as they won’t be guessing “what was that site’s name again?

2. Potential for Improved Site Traffic

A strategically chosen new domain, especially one that is more memorable, user-friendly, and search-optimized, can eventually lead to increased site traffic. However, this is a long-term benefit and requires concerted marketing efforts for realization.

3. Opportunity for a Clean Backlink Slate

If you have a spammy backlink profile for any reason whatsoever, this could hurt you at some point down the road, if it hasn’t already. It could also hold you back from ranking for as many keywords as you’d like at top spots of search results. By moving to a new domain, you get a fresh start on building quality links the right way. Alternatively, if you choose not to move to a new domain, you can always upload a disavow file through Google Search Console, so that Google understands you were not the one building all those spammy links (which, hopefully, you weren’t the one trying to be cheap and cut corners).

4. Consistency Across Branding Platforms

A domain change can be an opportune moment to ensure uniform branding across all digital platforms, including social media profiles. Just make sure you grab those social media handles ASAP.

2 Disadvantages of Changing Your Domain Name

Changing your domain name is very costly and time-consuming. This is especially true is your brand has been around a long time and/or you’ve been doing SEO for many years, building a strong reputation online.

1. Resource Intensiveness

The process of changing a domain name can be resource-heavy, encompassing not just digital marketing efforts but also updates to physical marketing materials such as brochures, business cards, and signage.

2. Temporary Decline in Search Rankings

I’ve heard people say that there’s a way to change domain names and not lose any rankings. Hate to break it to you, but, a new domain always experiences a temporary decline in search engine rankings. This is due to the time required for search engines to reassess and recognize the the new domain.

Backlinks have been the top ranking factor for websites since day 1 of Google. Even with effective redirects, the full value of existing backlinks may not be immediately transferred to the new domain. And then manually reaching out to websites that link to the old domain and requesting they change/update the URL typically ends up in only a 10% success rate. There’s also lots of time involved in finding the author of the page/post, finding out how to reach out to them (email, social, etc.), then hoping you send the right message that they don’t just ignore, trash, or send to spam.

Pro tip: offering to pay the publishers for their time in updating the link is a great motivator and will greatly increase your success rate.

How to Mitigate Loss of SEO Value After Switching Domain Names (Checklist)

To ensure you mitigate the long-term loss of search engine rankings, follow this checklist:

  • Ensure the new domain name you’re switching to isn’t penalized by Google for any reason
  • Properly setup/adjust your GA4 account
  • Properly setup/adjust your Google Search Console account
  • Properly setup/adjust your Bing Search Console account
  • Properly setup redirects on the new domain/site
  • Properly setup wildcard redirects from your old website to new website
  • Update every social profile to reflect the new domain name
  • Update every business profile you’re listed on to reflect the new domain name
  • Get every great backlink you have from external sites to edit the hyperlink to reflect the new domain name
  • Update all internal links
  • Update all internal anchor texts which mention the site name if it’s changed with the new domain name
  • Ensure you launch the site that’s on the new domain on the exact same server it was on before
  • Launching a comprehensive SEO and content marketing campaign. This includes building new, relevant backlinks, issuing press releases, and engaging in content marketing to generate buzz around the new domain. SEO efforts are pivotal in re-establishing and even enhancing your website’s authority and search engine rankings.

What is a wildcard redirect?

A wildcard redirect is different than your normal redirect in that a wildcard redirect will redirect every page on the old website to it’s corresponding page on the new website, whereas a normal redirect will redirect every page to one page. Here’s an example:
Normal redirect:
https://myoldwebsite.com/pagename -> https://mynewwebsite.com
https://myoldwebsite.com/about-us -> https://mynewwebsite.com
https://myoldwebsite.com/blog -> https://mynewwebsite.com
Wildcard redirect:
https://myoldwebsite.com/pagename -> https://mynewwebsite.com/pagename
https://myoldwebsite.com/about-us -> https://mynewwebsite.com/about-us
https://myoldwebsite.com/blog -> https://mynewwebsite.com/blog

Update your business listings.

Change Your Domain Name With Confidence

The decision to change a domain name should be approached with a thorough understanding of the potential SEO implications. While there are definite advantages, particularly in terms of brand positioning and the opportunity for a fresh start, the challenges, particularly in the short-term loss of search rankings, cannot be overlooked. A well-planned and executed SEO strategy is essential to navigate this transition successfully. For businesses not reliant on organic search traffic, the decision may be simpler, but for those who are, careful consideration and strategic planning are key.

If you have any questions or special situations not listed above, please reach out and chat with us, we’d be more than happy to help you make sure you do the switch properly.

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