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You’ve worked hard to build your website. You’ve figured out the content that resonates with your audience, you’ve designed a beautiful site and your SEO strategy is driving new people to your blog consistently. Everything is how it should be – but then you start questioning your domain name. Maybe you’ve finally found your niche, and your domain name no longer fits your brand, or maybe the domain name you really wanted is finally up for grabs – is it too late to switch?
Not at all! Sometimes, changing your domain name can be beneficial, maybe even necessary, for the success of your blog and it’s totally possible. But while it comes with benefits, a name change can also be risky. If done incorrectly, you could lose the SEO ranking you’ve worked to build and loyal readers could be left wondering where you went.
That said, it’s completely doable, and like moving to another apartment, it’ll just take some effort, a bit of packing and a focus on logistics. Great planning goes a long way – keep reading to figure out how to change your domain name without losing any readers along the way!
Step 1: Figure Out What Really Needs to Change
Do you want to change your domain name or just the extension? The domain name is typically what your site is called, while the extension is what comes after the dot (.me, .com, .org, etc.).
Here’s how to figure out if you should switch one (or both!):
- Changing to a more relevant domain name: This is for you if you need a name that’s catchier, more SEO-friendly or more on-brand.
- Switching to a different domain extension: This is another way to personalize your domain name. For instance, with .ME, you can make the extension a part of your brand name or create a call to action, like www.cookwith.me or www.mommyand.me.
Once you know what’s changing, you can begin the transition so your readers know where to find you!
Step 2: Set up the 301 Redirect
In an ideal world, you would contact each site that has links pointing to your blog and ask them to update the links with your new address. Unfortunately, this isn’t practical, especially if you have a blog with dozens of backlinks.
Instead, before you start moving to another domain, you need to set a 301 redirect, which automatically lets the web know you’ve moved and sends people to the new location. The 301 redirect helps you avoid the dreadful 404 page not found and ensures a smooth transition by directing both your website visitors and search engines to your new domain.
The 301 redirect also ensures that up to 99% of your ranking power gets transferred to a new address, so your SEO work doesn’t go to waste. A 301 redirect sounds technical, but it’s actually easy to set since it only takes a few lines of code. If you use WordPress, there are free plugins that help you set and manage it.
Step 3: Get Your Sitemap in Order
Did you just read “sitemap” and start to panic? Don’t worry, it’s honestly not that complex! A sitemap is a file that tells Google and other search engines about the organization of your site’s content, making it easier for them to navigate through it. Not all websites have a sitemap but when you plan a domain migration, you need one for a smooth transition. Not to mention, there are other benefits of having a sitemap:
- It increases the chances of more of your content getting indexed by Google (especially if your website is huge, sitemaps help Google make its way through your pages).
- If your internal links aren’t the strongest, listing them in your sitemap will help.
- Sitemaps provide a good source of additional information for Google.
Just like you need to put everything in boxes when relocating in real life, sitemaps are the way to pack your content in the cyberspace and ensure it finds its way safely to a new domain.
Step 4: Monitor the Transition
Even after following all of these steps, you’ll notice a slight drop in blog traffic after switching domains. Don’t panic, because it’s perfectly normal — search engines need time to adapt to the new situation! As long as you followed the above steps, things should go back to normal.
In order to check if the move is going according to plan, you can use Google Search Console. Here’s what to keep an eye on:
- Check if there are any crawling errors on your new domain.
- See if organic impressions are gradually decreasing on your old domain and proportionally increasing on your new one.
- Check external links once again and ensure they are pointing to the right domain.
Usually it takes around six weeks for rankings to assimilate, so try to be patient!
Step 5: Let Google – and Your Readers – Know You Moved
At last, you can throw a housewarming party and celebrate your new domain home! This means you should let Google know you’ve moved: change your address in the webmaster tool account (in the Google Search Console) and then resubmit your sitemap.
Don’t have a webmaster tool account? Here are some benefits you get by having one:
- It allows you to verify the website ownership.
- It enables you to be in full control of your website and analyze diagnostics independently.
- It offers you insights of the relevant statistics (e.g. click-through-rates, conversions, traffic statistics, etc.).
Once you’ve told Google, it’s time to tell your blog readers! Use social media to spread the word about your new domain. Not only will you direct your previous visitors to the new address, but chances are you’re going to attract new ones, too.
Want to learn how to boost your blog’s SEO? Check out our webinar recording on 10 Ways to Get Traffic to Your Blog or Website. You’ll learn tried and true methods to boost your site’s exposure and keep visitors coming back!