Rebranding or shifting to another domain can be an exciting new opportunity for your company, but this process can be quite a pain in the neck if you don’t have a detailed domain migration plan. Worse yet, an improperly planned migration can be a disaster for your brand’s online presence, which is why you need to make sure you know exactly what you’re doing.
Fellows over at Google have been so kind to provide us with a step-by-step migration program that should help us make this move less of a hustle. In this article, we will be taking a closer look at 4 basic steps your domain migration plan should follow:
– Preparing the new site structure
– Moving the site
– Monitoring traffic
– Preserving backlinks
The most important thing you need to do prior to moving your website to a new domain is ensure that its structure will remain the same. This will help you preserve your search rankings and go through the transition smoothly. However, if you’re also planning to do a major redesign to go with your new identity, you may want to consider doing these two things separately. That way, Google will understand more easily that you haven’t just created a completely new website, but that you’ve moved the old contents to a new place.
Since you don’t want to mess up your general structure and the associated search ranking positions, you should go through the process step by step. Google recommends that you move all the contents to a subdomain first in order to make sure everything goes smoothly. Afterwards, you need to redirect the old pages to point to the new website using permanent 301 redirects, which tell the engine that your contents now reside under new URLs.
If your website is running on WordPress, you can do all this using this Simple 301 Redirects plugin that is probably the easiest way to ensure your URL structure will be preserved upon migration.
Once you’ve made the move, you need to inform Google about this. The first thing you need to do is submit the new website to Google Webmaster Tools and verify that you own it. Now you can submit your new sitemap and continue monitoring your website’s performance. It is important to know that 301 redirects happen on a page level and only after you see that all your old pages are returning proper 301 redirects, you can be sure the website has moved completely.
The change as huge as a domain name migration can impact your traffic in different ways, which is why you need to keep monitoring traffic stats in order to identify potential problems. Google may not be that quick at indexing your new pages, so you definitely want to occasionally check how it’s handling the change.
Another thing that may be significantly impacted after you move to a new domain is your backlink portfolio. At the same time, this is one of the toughest things to manage given that it’s out of your control. Namely, you’ll need to contact the owners of websites that have a link pointing to your website and ask them to change it. Of course, reaching out to all the websites that link to yours may be an exhaustive process, but you definitely need to try this for those that matter most.
Finally, none of this is too much of a hustle compared to running your website under a domain you don’t really like. So go ahead and get that awesome new domain for your brand without worrying too much about the migration process itself. As long as you follow the steps above, both your content and search rankings will be just fine.
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