How to move your website to a new domain, the right way.
There are a lot of reasons to move your website to a new domain name. From re-branding your business to acquiring a more relevant domain name, migrating takes a lot of work.
It’s easy to think that moving simply involves copy and pasting content from the old domain to the new one. Make no mistake, this will make matters worse and will only hurt your SEO.
So how do you do it properly?
We know that a lot of things can go wrong beyond SEO. In fact, you’ve probably stayed up late just thinking – how will this affect my SEO or what happens to my traffic – are all thoughts that crossed your mind.
In today’s post, we’ll discuss how to move your website to a new domain name, the right way.
Backing up should be part of your routine by now, since it helps you recover quickly in case something goes wrong. It’s especially important when you’re moving to a new domain name in case you need to revert back.
Create a sitemap of your URLs
The next thing that you want to do is generate a sitemap for both your old and new domain.
A sitemap is a list of all your URLs. Google uses your sitemap to understand the structure and flow of your website. It also gives you the advantage of being able to quickly inform Google of any new pages that you add, like for example a new blog post.
There are a couple of ways to generate a sitemap – for WordPress users, SEO Yoast offers the option to automatically create one. Alternatively, www.xml-sitemap.com can generate one for you, regardless of the content management platform you use.
Set up 301 redirects for your website
A 301 redirect tells Google that your website is permanently moving to a new domain. While Google supports different types of redirects, 301s are the preferred method.
Make sure to apply the 301 redirects on a page by page basis. While it’s much easier to redirect every page to your new home page, it hurts continuity and the overall user experience.
If you have old pages that no longer serve a purpose, create a 404 page to inform customers that the page no longer exists. If possible, offer some relevant content to them so that they can stay on your site.
Update your information on search engines
After creating the sitemaps, head over to Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) and notify Google about the change. On GWT, select the “Change Address” option to notify Google of the change.
Before you begin the move, decide HOW you’ll be moving.
- For small to medium sites, you can move all your pages simultaneously because it helps create a continuous and seamless browsing experience. This also helps Google quickly detect pages on the new domain, allowing it to index the new site properly.
- For larger sites, it’s better to do it in chunks. This makes it much easier to identify any issues that might come up and fix it.
After you determine how you’ll be moving, submit both sitemaps that contain the old and new URLs. This helps Google understand how the old and new URLs correspond to each other.
The process goes like this – your new domain will NOT have any pages indexed while the old one has tons of indexed pages. As time goes on, the new domain will slowly build up the number of indexed pages, while the old domain will eventually drop to zero.
While you’re waiting for Google to fully index all the pages on your new domain, start creating content to generate new links back to your site.
Depending on the size of your website and how well-known it is, it can receive a lot of media attention from different media outlets, which helps quickly rebuild any lost links.
Make sure to also let your followers, customers and partners know about the move. Ask them to update the links that point back at you so the proper link credibility is passed onto your new domain name. Remember to take advantage of social media and email newsletters. They’re your best friends and allow you to reach a large audience, quickly.
Monitor your traffic and rank
After you move your website to a new domain name, monitor its traffic and rank. You may notice that your rank for some keywords may drop but don’t worry about it too much. This is normal and it should rectify itself over time.
Google Analytics and the Search Console allow you to monitor your traffic over time, but you may also want to use other SEO tools like Moz and SEMRush for additional insights.
Beyond traffic and rank, monitor any broken links that may be affecting your site’s performance. Make sure to fix these issues ASAP to avoid any penalities.
Bonus Tip: Re-branding
If you’re rebranding to a new design for your site, hold off on launching and moving at the same time. Ideally, you’ll want to give your old content some time to rank on Google so you can collect some data. Once you have some data, you can then start rolling out newly designed pages and measure it against historical data.
Moving your website to a new domain is an exciting time but it can also be nerve-wracking. With different factors involved, you’ll need to make sure that Google and other search engines are properly informed about the move in order to avoid penalties to your SEO rank.
Remember to take your time and that moving your website to a new domain takes time and preparation. If you take the necessary steps involved, you’ll be able to maintain and even improve your rank on search results for relevant keywords.