How to Switch Your Domain Name without Losing Traffic & Ranking

Of course changing your website domain name is never going to be something you do spontaneously, but sometimes it is necessary. For example, if your business name changes due to a merger or other reasons, your domain name needs to reflect your brand and new company name.

However, since you’ve probably created high converting landing pages for your website and have developed a certain amount of traffic, internal and external links, not to mention optimized content, you wouldn’t want to lose any of this history since it all of it impacts the ranking and performance of your website. So here’s how to switch your domain name without losing content, traffic, and the history affecting your ranking.

old domain to new domain

First things first, you need to expect that once you’ve switched to a new domain from an affordable provider like this and chosen a name that reflects your business brand, you are going to experience an immediate drop in rankings. This drop, however, should be short-term and not damage your website’s rankings on the whole.

1. Site Backup

In order to not lose anything, you need to completely and thoroughly back up your site (this includes files and database). There are backup tools available that develop a list of pages, downloads, title tags, meta data, everything that you currently have on your site affecting ranking that needs to be preserved when moved over to the new domain.

site backup

2. Create a 301 Redirect

Your 301 redirect will direct browsers and link activity on the original website to pages on your new domain. This step cannot be overlooked as it is the most important step to the domain migration and if you do not implement it correctly then you will lose your rankings and traffic on the original site. What’s more, you could accrue duplicate content penalties on the new site. In order to ensure that this is done correctly, see here for a video tutorial from Google on how to implement a 301 redirect.

3.  Create a holding page on the new domain

The major reason for a holding page is to ensure that your new domain is noticed as soon as possible, even before the migration and the new domain is actually live. Although this isn’t completely necessary, since your 301 redirect will achieve essentially the same thing, it is nevertheless a good idea to show that the domain is owned and that the site is soon to come.

4. Testing, Testing, 1-2-3

Before going live with the new domain, it is a good practice to test that everything is functioning as it should. Test for broken links, problems in content like page titles and descriptions, everything and anything in order to ensure that once the site is live on the new domain, it is perfectly functional as it was before.

5. Go Live

This is pretty self-explanatory, once you are sure that everything is as it should be, then go live on the new domain.

go live

6. Verification

You will then have to go through a verification process through your Google Webmaster Tools in your Google Analytics account. Here is a brief explanation of the verification process.

7. Notify Google

Once your site on the new domain is live and verified, then you need to let Google know of the change. You should be able to do this through your Google Webmaster Account with a change of address tool.

When following these steps you should be able to maintain your website ranking and traffic. Ideally if everything has been done correctly, your old page will slowly decrease in ranking as your new page increases in ranking. It could take a few months for the ranking to normalize and further improve after a move. Again, a full domain move for a website should be a well-calculated decision, and when it is unavoidable, it needs to be very carefully handled in order to avoid harming your original site and impairing your new one.