Building a successful and, more importantly, sustainable business is often associated with a company’s ability to adapt to change. One of these changes is rebranding.
Globally, we see companies every day that decide to change their name. Whether due to a merger with another company or simply a strategic decision to rebrand a product / service.
Changing the name of the company leads to the need to change the domain name. In 2020 online presence is a key part of building any business and although for some, changing a domain name may seem like a minor change, it can be at the root of subsequent problems for the company.
If you and your company have an online presence, then we are convinced that you know from experience how much effort it costs to build a good online reputation of a domain to be able to rank as high as possible in search engines. Also, another even more important aspect is building a relationship with customers and gaining their trust.
That’s why you shouldn’t allow yourself to lose everything you’ve built over the years just because you have to change your domain name.
And this is exactly what we will look at in the following lines – how to change your domain name in the best way so you don’t lose traffic!
Let’s get started.
1. Register the new domain name as soon as possible
As soon as you decide what your new domain name will be and you have checked that it is free – register it!
It’s a well-known fact that the “age” of a domain name can have a positive effect on generating more organic traffic!
Of course, this is not one of the main criteria by which the Google algorithm ranks sites in the first place, but it is certainly an indicator that your site is legitimate.
The other main reason is to avoid a situation where another user may overtake you and register the domain you want. This can certainly confuse your rebranding plans!
When registering a new domain, it is very important to check that it has not been penalized by Google (and therefore left behind and re-released for free registration). The verification can be done by consulting an SEO specialist, who will verify through the necessary tools for the history of the domain such as Ahrefs and Web.Archive.
2. Make a map of your old site (Sitemap)
Before transferring all your content to the new domain name, it’s a good idea to create a “map” of your site, also known as a Sitemap.
Building a Sitemap is mandatory for every site and if you have not created one yet, we advise you to do it immediately.
There are two types of maps – XML Sitemap and HTML Sitemap.
The first type (XML) is created to help search engines find all existing pages in a website more easily.
From an SEO point of view, the XML Sitemap is an extremely important element. This map provides information to search engines about the relevant pages that are present. Through it, so-called “crawlers” can better prioritize the content they go through, and it indicates which pages can be crawled and which can’t.
The second type, HTML Sitemap, helps Internet users. HTML maps are a list of absolutely all pages of a website and users can easily access any page!
Both HTML and XML maps are elements that must be present on your site.
As you already know, one is important for the user experience, and the other – for the good ranking of your site in search engines!
But when it comes to changing a domain name, it’s a good idea to make a sitemap to know which pages to redirect to their new links!
3. 301 Redirect to your old pages – a way to keep traffic and site authority
301 Redirect is a way to tell crawlers that a link has been changed permanently and now the old URL leads to a new one, but with the same or similar content and meaning.
If the whole procedure seems like a lot of unnecessary work, then now we will argue why you should not miss this stage of the transition from one domain name to another!
As we have already said, building an online presence for years has its benefits. One of them is ranking your old pages on Google and attracting organic traffic to your site.
Also from the creation of your first site to the moment of transition to a new domain, you have built a reputation on the Internet and you have built trust in your users. With these 301 redirects, you “transfer” all the SEO value of the site accumulated to Google to your new domain name.
In case you decide to skip redirecting your old pages to the new ones via 301 Redirect, your users will reach 404 error pages by clicking on an old link that will stay in the Google search index for a long time and thus damage the user experience. to your potential customers.
Another huge advantage of 301 Redirect is that about 90% of the authority of your old site will be transferred to your new page. In other words – if your old site performed well, then the chance that the new one will do it is huge!
We understand that all this may sound too technical, but it should not scare you. If you can’t handle it yourself, we strongly advise you to look for a programmer or SEO expert to provide you with the necessary assistance.
If you use a CMS system such as WordPress, you can easily perform the redirection with the help of plugins that will automatically complete the task.
The investment you will make to hire a technician to perform the entire rerouting procedure will certainly pay off in the long run. Otherwise, you risk losing everything you have built so far.
4. Audit content and links leading to your site (backlinks)
Before you start redirecting from your old site to the new one, you need to do a few more things. We encourage you to do a comprehensive audit of your content so far and see which pages are performing best.
Then see how many external links lead to these pages. As mentioned, using 301 Redirect will keep the credibility of your pages, but it would certainly be a better option if you could contact all the sites that link to yours to ask for a link change (with the new one).
A tool with which you can find all the links that lead to your pages is Moz – Link Explorer.
You can also try Mention, which is specialized software for tracking the mention of your brand on the Internet.
In any case, there are many different ways to track backlinks.
It is important to take the necessary measures to update them to make sure that you do not lose from your SEO optimization!
5. Use the Google Search Console tool to inform Google
This tool is a way to communicate with Google that your site has been moved to a new address. Google says you can “use the address change tool when you move your website from one domain or subdomain to another: for example, from example.com to example.org or example2.com.” This tool notifies Google of your change and helps you migrate Google search results from your old site to your new site.
You can access it in Settings in the new Search Console.
6. Forward your emails
Something very important – to update your email addresses and forward all emails from your old to your new mail. We encourage you to forward your emails for an extended period of time, as users often misunderstand the rebranding and continue to send emails to your old address.
7. Analyze, analyze, analyze
If you have Google Analytics installed on your old site, you must do so on the new one. Use the data from your current site as a basis to assess how the change of domain name has affected.
Once you switch to the new domain name, it will be extremely important to monitor the traffic to your site and how it is positioned in search engines . You can expect a slight drop in results, but given the change, they are perfectly normal.
If you happen to notice a huge drop in traffic and ranking of your site, then there is certainly a problem and it is good to solve it in a timely manner. That’s why services like Google Analytics are so useful – you can easily track and fix the problem!
8. Change your social media accounts
Social networks are part of the strategy of a number of small and large companies. If you are also on this list, you should not forget to update the information in the social networks in which you are positioned.
In some cases, the only change you will need to make is change the name of the page and of cource the url to the new domain. In some rare cases, if your brand name is a popular word, you may run into a problem that a page with a similar name already exists.
Then you have two options:
- If the existing page is inactive, you can also contact its owner to try to get the name you want.
- If the owner does not want to part with the page, you may consider modifying your name on social media.
And a third option, in case you find yourself in situation number 2, you can register your domain name as a trademark and then take legal action.
Whatever happens, you must remember that it is very important in all social channels to stick to the same name so that you can be easily recognized by your users.
9. Prepare your users
And last but not least, prepare users for the upcoming change.
You know very well how difficult it is for a business to attract new customers. Why lose them because of a domain name change?
Start early to communicate the upcoming changes with your users. Give them the reasons why you decided to take this step. Tell them what will change for them, what changes will occur in your offers (product / service).
Consider a comprehensive strategy for announcing the changes.
Decide which are the most appropriate channels to connect with your users. In short – do not keep them in the dark!
The earlier you prepare customers for the upcoming changes, the less chance you have of losing them!
Following the steps we described in this article, we believe that you will be able to easily change your domain name. Don’t let the technical aspect stop your desire for change. Do what’s best for your business.