How To Change Domains Without Hurting Your Rankings

How To Change Domains Without Hurting Your Rankings

RedirectsIn Google’s recent Webmaster Tools Update, they have added a neat feature that allows you to tell Google about your domain change, if you are planning to move your website from one domain to another. This has prompted me to write a quick little guide on how to properly move your website while keeping or at least minimizing your search engine rankings.

Domain Change? Notify Google

In your webmaster tools account, there is a new feature called Change of Address.  It is used to tell Google about your new website and URL.

This change stays for about 6 months, while search engine bots re-crawl and re-index your website.

How To Change Your Domain Address Using Google Webmaster Tools

  1. On the home page of your Webmaster Tools account, click the site you want.
  2. Click Site configuration, and then click Change of address.
  3. On the change of address page, go to Step 4, and in the verified site drop-down, select the new site.
    Note: You must have already verified the new url domain.

Guide To Changing Your Domain

Here are some other things to consider when you do change the domain of a website to ensure minimal search engine ranking penalties.

1. Take a full back up of your web site files, including database, if any

2. Sign up for a new hosting account, if you haven’t done so already.

3. Upload all web files to the new hosting account, including any scripting configurations and database.

4. Once you are certain your website on the new domain is uploaded properly, log into your domain registrar, and update the nameservers of this new domain provided by your hosting provider.  Wait about 24 hours.

5. Hopefully your new website is up and operating properly. Be sure to go through the site carefully to ensure it is operating properly. You can use xenu link checker to ensure there is no broken links on your site.

6. Check to make sure your analytics is installed as well. Run your new sitemap.xml file and upload to Webmaster Tools, to notify Google of the new site.

7. Note: Do Not cancel your old hosting account. I recommend leaving it up for at least 3 to 6 months to ensure a smooth transition to your new domain.  This way you will have the old information there should you need to reference it.

8. Create 301 redirects from the old domain to the new domain
If the page names have not changed, you can simply add this line to the htaccess file and upload to your old domain.
Redirect 301 /

9. Check in with Webmaster Tools on a regular basis to see the status of the new website to see that it is being recognized.

10. Start building new fresh links to this new domain

11. If possible, contact websites that have links pointing to your old domain, and ask them to update the link to point to your new domain page.

Note: Every website is completely different, and you will most likely notice a dip in rankings. Iif you follow this guide correctly, especially the sitemp.xml file and the 301 redirects, the dip in rankings will be a short one.

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Post a Comment


  • avatar

    As long as client’s are aware that there can be a drop, temporarily. It’s really a case-by -case… as we never know for sure how a site will react.
    But these steps will help minimize them.

  • avatar

    Colin I can’t tell you how many clients want to update their site however they are worried about their SEO rankings dropping. Good to have a check list we could work with and this will reassure our clients to make that jump to create a new site.

  • avatar

    Yes, Jay that’s correct.
    Usage of the 301 redirects will prevent any possible duplicate content issues. You are basically telling the search engines that the old pages have been permanently moved from that old domain to the new one.
    This will help the new domain get indexed quicker.
    I believe Elan, will be following this post up with an in depth view of how to do 301 redirects.

  • avatar

    Some smart SEO guidelines! Your post proclaims some authentic concerns which every website owner/marketer may come across.
    But following the optimization ways and guidelines appended by search engines across the world they can cross situations like this. Domain change is often an unavoidable situation, and this post have things in detail how to do it without burning our fingers.
    I love the post sir, for it is a reference item to me.

  • avatar

    Great post ! now i can feel more confident changing the domains easily ! But i have a concern that if we keep up the old site and the files, is there a chance that search engines can penalise for duplicate content or can .htaccess prevent indexing the page if redirects are written. Can we just place the .htaccess and delete all other files in the old domain so that in no way contents can be duplicated? Can you suggest which is the best option?

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