Changing domains can be a pain…but only if you’re not prepared. In order to help you avoid the grief that can result from a URL switch, we’ve developed this handy guide for covering your bases. It’s so easy, we don’t even need to go through the entire alphabet.
Audit Your Current Domain Data
How much traffic are you getting? Where is this traffic coming from? What is your top landing page? Collecting valuable metrics from Google, SEMrush and other analytics tools will help you determine whether or not the URL switch is successful—if the numbers go astray, you know something has gone wrong and needs your attention.
Backup Your Website
You should backup your site regularly, but it’s especially important during times of transition. Make a copy of your code files, images, databases—everything. Many web hosts will offer free, automatic backups as part of their more advanced plans, but it’s on you to make sure they’re done correctly and frequently. There are plugins and other services that can help you figure this out, too.
BeingScaredToChange.Sucks. We believe you should be able to update your domain to something more impactful without any backlash.
Contact Your Host Provider
If you have an account manager at your host provider (Shopify, WordPress, Squarespace, etc.), reach out to them! Let them know that you’re changing your URL and what date you expect the transition to take effect. It’s good to have all parties involved and aware of big changes so they can be ready to lend a hand.
(Re)Direct Your Users to the New Site
Understanding how to redirect one URL to another URL is a crucial step. Know the difference between 404, 301, 302, 303, 307 and 308 redirects (hint: 301 redirects are what you need when moving URLs permanently—they’ll keep your site up and running while maintaining SEO health). Services like EasyRedir and Screaming Frog will help you put these redirects in place, and make sure they’re working properly post-transfer.
Educate Yourself Before Making the Change
There are a lot of things to do before changing your URLs, and you should know what you’re getting into. Hence, why we’ve written this article. You don’t have to stop here though—read up on other major considerations (like how to avoid an SEO disaster) to discuss with your web development team before making the switch.
MessingWithYourSERP.Sucks, so make sure you know what you’re getting into and who you can rely on for help along the way.
File for a Change of Address
After you’ve switched URLs, use the Google and Bing webmaster tools to file your change of address. This lets search engines know that you’ve permanently moved your site. While 301 redirects are enough to get the message across, it’s a good idea to go one step beyond that so everyone knows where to find your company online.
Get Verified on Google Search Console
Verifying your site with Google Search Console is like verifying your site ownership—a required step before you’re able to access and control your website’s search data and presence. There are different methods you can use (think HTML file upload, HTML tag or record DNS, among others), but it’s best to stick with what you know. There’s no reason you shouldn’t use the same verification method you used for your original domain.
Help Users Find You
Organic traffic may suffer for a short period of time after switching URLs, so you might want to think about giving your site a boost. Consider some pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to pull in traffic while the redirect dust settles.
Internal Links: Remember to Change Those, Too
Your homepage, blog posts and navigation bars likely include internal links (a.k.a. links to other pages on your site). Don’t forget to update these! While plugins like Better Search Replace are available in WordPress, other times this will need to be done manually. Hyperlinks that point to [YourOldDomain].com won’t work once you’ve switched URLs.
Take a deep breath and know that you’re not the first brand ever to change URLs—and you surely won’t be the last. It may seem overwhelming, but big names like Twitter (once Twttr.com) and Moz (once SEOmoz.com) have done the same, and they survived just fine.
Keep Your Backlinks Up to Date
Reach out to the sites that direct users to your old domain, inform them of the URL change and ask them to update their links accordingly. Most will be happy to make the switch for you, which will help minimize the number of “redirects” you need to navigate. Don’t forget to also build fresh backlinks with authoritative sites using your new domain address.
Launch (and Celebrate) Your New URL
Buy your team cake! Pop some champagne! Pat yourself on the back! However, throwing a “launch party” for your new URL should also include sending a notification to your loyal followers on social media or in an e-newsletter. Let them know why you’re changing your URL and why—that way, everyone can celebrate together.
FeelingStuck.Sucks so you shouldn’t be tied to whatever URL first came to mind when you decided to make a website. Change happens, rebranding happens—and your current URL should always reflect your current digital marketing message and strategy.
Photo Credits: Shutterstock / Dean Drobo, Shutterstock / Flamingo Images, Shutterstock / GaudiLab, Shutterstock / GaudiLab