designer hand working with  digital tablet and laptop and notebook stack and eye glass on wooden desk in office.jpegMany businesses want to change domain names, perhaps because a coveted domain is finally available, they want to consolidate multiple domains into a single digital property, or their current domain name is no longer (and may have never really been) aligned with your brand or offering.

However, many businesses who head down this road are shocked to discover that after they change domain names, they basically drop off the face of the search engine map. This is even more traumatic given that climbing back up the SEO ladder takes months or years — and it’s not cheap, either.

Fortunately, your business won’t suffer this cruel fate, because you’re (hopefully) reading this before you change domain names, not after. If so, here are 11 steps to avoid destroying your SEO ranking:

  1. Back absolutely everything up “just in case.”
  2. Conduct a comprehensive audit to identify all inbound links (i.e. links from other sites that point to any page on your site).
  3. Create a 301 redirect that achieves two critical objectives: it automatically routes visitors to the right pages on your new site, and it also tells Google and the other search engines that your site has permanently moved, and (this is the super-ultra-critical part) that it should transfer the link juice to the new site/pages.
  4. If possible, stick as closely to the same URL structure in your new site as your old one.
  5. Inform Google and other search engines that your site has moved (you can do this for Google through the webmaster tools dashboard).
  6. After your domain name has changed, check, check and check again. You want to confirm that all links are functional and the 301 redirect is configured correctly.
  7. Update various online directories with the new URL.
  8. Reach out to sites that were linking back to your old site (which you identified during your audit from step #1), and ask them to update the URL accordingly. This is a fairly time-consuming process and not every site will respond or comply.  
  9. Monitor and fix any 404 errors, which happen when a page isn’t 301 redirected properly. Check daily for the first two weeks after the URL change.
  10. Have a link-building plan at the starting line ready to go once you’ve confirmed that 301 redirects are working fine. Remember that Google is really interested in inbound links, so look for ways to guest post content on external sites that have good page rank.  
  11. Submit your new URL to new directories, but make sure you choose those that are relevant to your industry, marketplace and target audience. If you simply submit to every directory out there, instead of getting more SEO love, you may actually be penalized (Google may see this as a “black hat” tactic and put you in the SEO dog house). 

Some Final Words of Advice  

As you can see, there are a lot of moving pieces when you want (or maybe need) to change domain names. Making a mistake with any step — or simply doing something in the wrong order — can dramatically lower your SEO rankings. Our best advice? Contact us at Leap Clixx today and we’ll take care of your site migration project strategically and safely. That way, you can focus on running your business, while you leave the SEO logistics to professionals who know what to do; and just as importantly, know what not to do!

Also, be sure to check out our FREE eBook on how to use SEO to boost your inbound marketing results