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Will My SEO Rankings Drop if I Change My Domain?

October 21, 2020

As your business grows, you may realize that your website's existing domain does not fit well. Fortunately, changing the domain is easy! However, switching domains can have a negative impact on your SEO ranking if not done well. It can be challenging to keep domain migration from affecting your SEO ranking.

On the other hand, there’s good news! There are several ways to switch your domain name without affecting your SEO ranking. This means you can change your domain and still continue to rank high in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).

Keep reading to discover the domain change and SEO best practices you need to account for:

1. Research the New Domain

Look into the “past life” of your destination domain for any low-quality content or spam in its history. For this purpose, you could use the free version of Ahref’s Backlink Checker tool.

Next, add it to Google Search Console to see if Google imposed any manual penalty actions against the domain.

If you notice any mutual actions applied to the domain in the past, you can file a reconsideration request to have Google lift the penalties.

2. Review Search Performance

Find details of your existing SEO status. To do this, use Google Search Console (GSC) to get useful reports about your website, such as:

  • Performance of your domain in SERPs
  • Google indexing of your site
  • Usability problems with web pages on mobile devices
  • Backlinks to your website

3. Migrate the Website

If the destination domain uses a different hosting service, first export the website files from the old host to the new host.

If the host is the same, request that the host create a new folder for the new domain. Next, copy the files from the old folder to the new one.

4. Add Redirects From the Old Domain to the New Domain

Redirects help Google understand that your website has been moved to a new place and index accordingly. Use a “wild card” redirect to make each page/post/file point to its new location. This redirect is added at the hosting account level in a file called .htaccess.

At the WordPress level, you can do this directly using a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects. Next, use a tool like httpstatus.io to test things out. As a result, you will see the right “redirect chain.”

5. Inform Google About the Domain Change

Use the “Change of address” feature in GSC to inform Google about the domain change. For this, you have to first add and verify your new domain in the console.

Alternatively, submit sitemaps in GSC for both source and destination domains. It makes Google aware of all the 301 redirects performed in the previous step.

6. Test

  • Check if Google Analytics (GA) is properly tracking your site on the new domain (Real-Time > Overview).
  • After a week, check if your site’s traffic is almost the same as earlier.
  • Use GA to see how many 404 pages your traffic hits.

Alternatively, you can also use GSC, PageSpeed Insights, or Uptime Robot, to name a few. 

7. Take SEO Actions After Migration

Do the following:

  • Change the email address everywhere
  • Update all mentions of your domain names on social media, email signature, advertising campaigns, and Google My Business listing.

Advisably, keep the old domain live for 2-3 months for the 301 redirects.

Wrapping Up

Changing your domain name could cause a temporary drop in your SEO ranking. However, if you follow the steps above, they will help you to mitigate or completely avoid those effects. This is your business decision, and SEO can support all ethical practices associated with it.