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How to Minimise Damage to Rankings When Changing Domains

Posted by in SEO

A question that has been posed a number of times my colleagues and I is this: “How do I make sure my rankings don’t drop when moving to another domain?”

The simple answer is you can’t! There is no 100% guaranteed way to make sure your rankings stay stable if you decide to switch domains. But if you follow the below steps, the damage will be minimal, and will be far outweighed by the benefits of getting to “start over” with your online marketing strategies. And if you let your SEO conultants help with the new website, it should be more Google friendly!

  1. When designing the website that will reside on your new domain, make sure that you have a lot of the same type of pages as you have on your existing website. For example, if you are ranking really well for “toothbrushes” and the new website doesn’t have a dedicated page for this keyword, there will be a drop in rankings. Ensure that the content is quality!
  2. Ensure the new website isn’t indexed before the site is launched. It is very important that Google can’t see the new website before you’re ready to switch from old to new, as you can be penalised for duplicate content and a myriad of other items. Don’t rely on a disallow robots.txt – I have seen Google get around this a number of times. The best and safest way is to create a staging server with a password.
  3. Ensure all internal links are pointing to pages within the new website and not in the old website. This most probably won’t be a problem with a brand new website, but if you are creating a modified website on a new domain, this can hurt you – redirect loops are a killer!
  4. If you have affiliated websites or partner websites, make sure they update their links. Even though most of the link juice is passed on through a 301 redirect, there is evidence that not all inlink authority is transferred.
  5. Set up 301 permanent redirects. This is without doubt the most important part of the migration to a new domain. If a mere 302 temporary redirect is set up, none of the authority of that website is transferred. So you are basically just showing people the new website and tossing all of your links.
  6. Create a new sitemap.xml and submit it in Google Webmaster Tools. This should be one of the first items actioned as it pushes Google to recrawl the website and take note of all the exciting changes.
  7. Make sure Google Analytics code is on the new website and is tracking correctly.
  8. Start a link building campaign to the new website. If you have 5000 links pointing to the old URL and 0 pointing to the new, although it is ok, it is not optimal. Start link building to get the numbers up!

Done!

If you have any questions about this, or you would like me to revisit some of the points, leave a comment so I can write a new blog to explain further.

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