First of all, let’s find out why the business owners decide to change the domain of their website.
1. A more friendly domain is now available. If your website was built on a ".biz", ".shop" or any other domain which is not ".com", it’s highly possible you want to make this change. Of course, it’s not impetuous to do so, but users remember more easily the websites which are built on this domain. Also, they convey a greater level of credibility.
If you find yourself in one of these four situations and still want to change the domain, keep reading this article and find out the steps you have to follow in order to prevent the negative SEO consequences.
Completely backup your website
Clean the new domain
If the new domain has been previously registered, you have to make sure it’s not carrying any penalties. To check this out, type the name of the new domain in Google Search Console and check the Manual Actions page. If you don’t identify any problem, you can feel confident in going forward with the change. If there are any manual actions, it’s necessary to make all the necessary changes, then send a reconsideration request. Once your request will be approved, you should be free to move the content on the new domain.
After you move the content on the new domain, make sure you make a 301 redirect for every single page. This will help Google know where is the new content. If you transfer the content manually and you don’t use a plugin, you have ensured that the management system of the content is self. For example, if you move a WordPress website on another WordPress website, then you can use plugins like Duplicator or All-in-One WP Migration to automate the whole process.
Permanent redirect for the old pages
A correct 301 redirect not only will it direct your users to the right page, but will also tell the search engine that the page has been permanently moved and it’s necessary to transfer the link authority to the new address. You can create a so-called „wild card” redirect which you can find in the .htaccess file – this will transfer any information to the new domain and most important will automatically generate a 301 redirect for every URL from the old one. It’s important to ensure the 301 redirects are correctly accomplished because they are the key to maintain your rankings in the result pages. Neglecting this step, there will be two identical websites. Google does not accept duplicate content, and identical pages can bring you a lower ranking in result pages. You can use a dedicated tool, like http://www.internetofficer.com/seo-tool/redirect-check, to make sure that everything has been accordingly transfered.
If you are going to change the content on the new domain (which means the new website won’t have the same content as the old one), you will have to follow some steps:
Here are some tools you can use to make 301 redirects:
The .htaccess generator: it’s a free tool that will give you the exact codes you have to insert in the .htaccess file.
Simple 301 Redirects: a free WordPress plugin that you can use to automatize your redirects.
Tell Google your website has been moved on a new domain
Every redirect you did has already told Google that you have changed the domain, but it’s recommended you send an official notification of this modification. To do this, check the new domain in Google Search Console.
Monitor the 404 errors
404 errors appear when a page has not been properly redirected. It is advisable to use a tool that monitors them and updates any error 404 that occurs. In the first week check every day and remedy any possible problem. Later, check for a month once a week, because some issues may still be occurring.
Create a sitemap
„Initially, the sitemap containing the new URLs should not include indexed pages, while the old URLs sitemap should have indexed most of the pages. Over time, the number of indexed pages in the old sitemap will drop to exhaustion, an indirect proportional trend relative to the pages in the new sitemap.”
Manually creating an XML sitemap is virtually impossible, especially for large pages with hundreds of pages. Fortunately, there are tools that automate this process:
XML-Sitemaps: it analyzes the whole website and automatically generates a sitemap. It also gives you a list of non-functional links.
Google XML Sitemaps: A free plugin that will not only create a sitemap, but will notify the search engines every time you add content.
Check and update your internal links and backlinks
For this process, you will need a tool like Screaming Frog's Broken Link Checker. After making the 301 redirects, even internal links will refer to the new domain, which means you will eventually have to close the old domain. Therefore, all these links will no longer be functional. That’s why you will need to find all these links and indicate to which domain they send.
If possible, contact sites that link to your site and ask them to update their links. Of course, these links will link to the new domain without help, but such a change ensures that you maintain the link authority on an undetermined period of time.
Social media platforms
The presence in social media is often omitted after changing the domain. Most of the time, entrepreneurs forget to update their URLs, brand name or logo.
Open Graph protocol
Update the open graph tags in the new domain's HTML code so that it reflects the new domain name and new URLs, descriptions, logos, and images.
Social Media Platforms
Check your Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest profiles and update your information. Any reference to the old domain must be changed with the new data. Any reference to old URLs needs to be changed with the new URLs. Also, images and logos need to be reviewed and restored.