How Will a Domain Name Change Impact Your Website Traffic and Ranking

How Will a Domain Name Change Impact Your Website Traffic and Ranking

Are you in the process of rebranding? Or a more appropriate domain name for your business just freed up and you want to jump on that train while it’s still available?

Though you might’ve been working on our website’s rankings for months, or even years, this migration could prove to be beneficial in the long run. But if improperly performed, your rankings may plummet and distance you from your visitors. In fact, you can sink so deep that no one will be able to locate you no matter how loyal your followers might have been up to the migration point.

Despite the Google’s 2012 algorithm change, domain names remain a crucial ranking factor.

Improper migration will likely send your regular visitors to a 404 page every time they attempt to reach any of your website’s pages.

But hasn’t Google minimized the domain name’s importance?

Yes… and no. Here’s the gist:

In 2012, Google shook up the domain world with its algorithm change which affected exact match domains. Namely, the team that stands behind the search engine noticed that a great number of companies relied on exact match domains to rank their websites high in search results, even though they featured low-quality and thin content.

What many concluded from this move was that Google minimized the importance of domain names and started prioritizing other ranking factors. Wrong.

Even adding a dash or an underscore can affect your organic traffic and your website’s position in the online world.

Websites which featured exact match domains but were supported by the quality content on their pages were not as shaken up by the update since their legit approach to SEO kept them safe and at the top.

The Importance of the Domain Name for SEO

Selecting the right domain name for your online business property is now as important as ever, it’s just that you cannot rely solely on the domain name to have your website appear high for the terms you are targeting.

It’s imperative to set up a solid SEO strategy for your website after changing the domain name to ensure you get back to your old spot in search results (or to rank even higher this time around!)

While there is a revolving door at the entrance to the SEO world, domain names have never truly left. If you make a smart choice, your domain name can:

  • Increase your CTR
  • Elevate trust
  • Draw more attention in the search engines results pages
  • Improve your brand potential

Even some seemingly minor changes can have serious implications on your SEO efforts, meaning that just by adding an underscore or a dash can affect your organic traffic and your website’s position in the online world.

  • A drop in organic traffic can occur if you send your visitors to 404 pages that haven’t been properly redirected. It is normal to see a decrease in a number of organic visitors until Google indexes the changes, but if the migration is performed properly, this should be only temporarily.
  • A drop in rankings as a result of lowered traffic. Furthermore, note that if you are moving to someone’s old domain it is possible that there’s an abundance of spammy links pointing to it. This can further push you into the abyss, that is – unless you disavow toxic websites pointing to the domain in advance.
  • Duplicate content may occur if you mishandle content migration, which may even put your new domain at risk of penalization unless the issue is removed timely.

While this may sound daunting, you should not fear change as long as you complete the transition with due diligence.

How to Migrate from One Domain Name to the New One

Not all work done so far has to be forever lost. While we’ve described in great detail the migration process in our step by step guide, let’s review the crucial points once again:

  • Define your needs and analyze the industry to be sure you’ve found the right keyword opportunity. Ensure you are making a change for the better: to a more SEO-friendly and relevant domain name.  
  • Crawl the old website to get the list of all internal pages and redirects. Note that some crawl errors may occur and it is best to utilize Google Webmaster Tools to discover them. Aside from obtaining a list of the inbound links that have to be redirected to the new website, you’ll also get the list of all backlinks pointing to your website. This is where migration presents itself as a perfect opportunity to separate the wheat from the chaff and forever rid of the spammy links.
  • Organize your sitemap so that Google gets all the info it needs to go through your website seamlessly. This will also increase the chances of having your content crawled and indexed.
  • Set up 301 redirect sends both your website visitors and search engines to the new domain you select. With 301, you transfer around 99% of your ranking power to the new address. This will prevent your visitors from landing on a 404 page that will not only drive them away from you, but straight to your competitors.
  • Continue to monitor the transition to determine whether all is going according to the plan. While your traffic will not skyrocket the day you migrate, you should see a steady increase in visits over time.
  • Inform Google of your migration by changing the address in the webmaster tool account and re-submitting the sitemap.
  • Inform your followers through social media so that you lower the number of people who try to reach you through your old domain.

Think Few Steps Ahead

In addition to a properly managed migration, ensure you have a solid SEO strategy for your new website that will not only get you back to your old spot but will raise you even higher and help you to maintain that position. To find out all there is to know about the relationship between SEO and domains, you can check out our comprehensive eBook which provides detailed explanations to the most commonly asked questions and lists quotes from some of the most reputable experts in the digital marketing industry.

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