Does Changing My Domain Name Affect SEO?

Friday, December 6th, 2013
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When your business expands, adds a new partner, or undergoes a brand change, you may decide to adopt a new domain name.  You should definitely register the new domain name so that is properly represents your business.  And you should utilize that domain name. What you should not do, however, is jump to reconfigure your website with the new domain name.

Photo by Jonathan Ruchti

Photo by Jonathan Ruchti

 

In a word, Yes.  Updating your website’s primary domain name and all of the links within it will affect your SEO.

I have seen it happen to a few of our clients, and it took months to recover the efforts put into the SEO marketing.  Consider all of the links that you built as you submitted your website listing to various directories, classifieds and social networking profiles.  Consider the recognition by Google that your unique domain name has earned after months of content writing about your industry.  If you simply replace your domain name with a new one, that reputation is almost erased.

Some have disagreed with this point, claiming if you have a simple redirect of the old domain name to the new one, everything will be just fine.  But I beg to differ, because I have seen the affects even when an organization kept it’s old domain name and changed it to a forwarding name, updated Webmaster Tools, and had all their 301 redirects set up and ready.

Can you keep both domain names?  Yes.

I recommend that you retain the original domain name for the primary website configuration, keeping all the links and pages and url structures in tact, so you aren’t really changing the architecture or reputation name of the site.  When you acquire the new domain name, set it up as a domain pointer (also called a domain forwarder by some hosts), and make sure you have the proper 301 redirect set up in your htaccess file / website configuration to recognize the new domain name as a forwarding name to the “old” one.

This setup allows you to have both domain names operating, allowing you to use the new name for marketing purposes, on your business cards, on brochures, etc.  You can even ask your web host (or email host) to create email forwarding options for the new domain name so you can receive all your email in one place, without worrying about which email address people are writing to.

What if I absolutely must change the domain name, and keeping the old one is not an option?

Sometimes a website name must change permanently – maybe because maybe its legal or agency regulated policies require it. There are things you can do to prepare your audience, your customer base and search engines for this change.  This does not guarantee that your website marketing will go unaffected, but it makes it better prepared to succeed under the new name.

Soft-launch your domain name as a pointer/forwarder before your official launch date.

Go ahead and register the new domain name so you know exactly what it is and can start sharing it with your current customers, members and prospects before the official switch.  It can take people months or even years to stop emailing and visiting your old domain name.

Alert your social network followers.

After your announcement and well in advance of your official website change, start announcing to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus that you are adopting the new brand name and that you will soon have a new domain name.  This will alert your followers, get your community excited, and also create content about the new name on the Web.

Post a blog about your brand update.

Creating content with your new name can help to start building it’s reputation.  Pre-announce the plans and then announce it again on the official date.

Submit a press release.

When your Board of Directors or management team announces the name change, write a press release and distribute it to local news outlets online and offline.  Use PR websites such as PR.com and PRWeb.com to extend the reach of your press release and gain traffic to your website. This also builds content on the Web about your website with your name name mentioned.

Coordinate with your web developer.

Switching a domain name is not necessarily a quick fix.  Give your web developers plenty of notice to reconfigure the website and all of its web pages and links in time for the launch date.

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Posted in : Domain Registration, SEO

2 responses to “Does Changing My Domain Name Affect SEO?”

  1. Akash Agarwal says:

    I never change domain name for my site. I don’t know it is effective or not. I surely apply your tricks. Let’s see what’s happen.

  2. Vakis says:

    It is always better to keep the old domain with you and provide a redirect there. If it is not possible due to any reason, you may use the features of social media to announce the change in domain name.