Does Changing Domain Name Affect SEO?

May 12

Does Changing Domain Name Affect SEO?

Many years ago when SEO was much simpler than it is today, the domain name you chose could have a massive impact on the rankings of the website. However, things are more complicated now, and Google has essentially modified their core algorithm to reflect an abuse of exact match keyword domain names.

The practice may have originated from companies buying a domain name that was a little bit more than a keyword. Before, it was enough for a site to rank. These days, however, things are different.

SEO and Impact Of Keyword Rich Domains

It was in 2012 when Google decided to end the tactics performed by companies that try to improve their rankings using weak websites. These sites augment their SEO using Exact Match Domains or EMDs. For instance, if a business wanted to increase their rankings for the keyword “car insurance quotes,” it could purchase the domain “carinsurancequotes.com,” and it would start to rank. Mobile SEO also changed dramatically with a lot of cctlds and GTLD now introduced in the mix.

These sites, however, did not contain much content for them to even be on the first ten pages of the search results. They would only have a few pages that contain lots of keywords. Since Google was never a fan of these schemes, it made a move to drop the value of such domain names significantly.

How Your Domain Can Influence Your Online Marketing Efforts

You can find different SEO companies out there, but they will provide the same services, including technical search engine optimization, paid search campaigns, social marketing, and content marketing. While it is true that every company is a bit different and they provide their services from various angles, they are still based on the same theories.

The approach to SEO has certainly changed, but the goal is still the same. Websites should be able to give quality answers to user questions, respect search engine best practices, and make sure content does not get stale. All these things are tasks that everyone can do. However, there is one unique element that no one else can copy, and that is your domain name.

While it can no longer contribute to your site’s rankings like before, your domain name can still provide some benefits, including:

  • More potential for your brand
  • More attention in the results pages when people search for a related keyword
  • More trust
  • Higher clickthrough rates

Just the fact that domains do not hold the same power they once had can be upsetting for a website owner. Even scarier is the thought of moving your site to a new domain, which can be a terrifying prospect but may be necessary for the business that is rebranding or restructuring. There are hundreds of TLDs and GTLDs now available. Simply because you are a business that has a vanity domain available should not be the only reason to move your domain name. Ensure that you understand that Google is still relatively new to dealing with all types of TLDs and GTLDs.

Here is a diagram of how a URL structure of a domain works

URL structure including port,path and other addendumsChanging your domain name requires time and careful planning; it is not something you should do on a whim. The truth is you will likely experience a drop in rankings shortly after your move to a new domain if you haven’t been careful enough. It is undoubtedly frightening, but the reduction should only be temporary, especially if you know what you are doing.

The process should not be taken lightly but there are some solid reasons why moving to a new domain can be beneficial for the site and the entire business.

You can change into a more-user friendly domain. If you have been using a .biz or .net for a long time and a .com is finally available, you may want to make your move. It is not a necessity, but a .com certainly conveys credibility over those other extensions. If you are located in countries that prefer their own version of the domain name like Australia a .com.au may be a more obvious choice.

Other reasons may include you want to consolidate your other sites into one. If you have other sites that deliver the same content types to almost the same audience, it may be the right choice to bring them together as one.

Domain Moving Checklist

In order to ensure that the transition is smooth and successful ensure that you audit and put mitigations in place before moving.

Audit: This task includes listing all your inbound links to help minimize the loss of the decent links you have. Link auditing can be done by going to your Webmaster Tools and click Search Traffic found on the left side menu. Export the links you want to keep for your records.

Link Audit Webmaster tools301 Redirect: It is essential that you set up a 301 redirect to send the user to the right page. Another significant use is it tells Google that your page has been permanently moved. What is critical here is that you 301 redirect everything, particularly on a domain-name level. To do this, you can redirect using a wildcard process in your .htaccess, which will automatically transfer all your old domain to the new one.

Inform Google: You also want to make sure that Google knows that you moved. Using Webmaster Tools, you will find the Change of Address tool, which you can use to tell Google that your domain name has changed. This step is useful so that the search engine will update your domain in its system and all your listings will be modified accordingly.

After you have migrated, you should check everything not just once or twice but several times. All your links should be resolve and return a 200 OK status code. Ensure that your redirects are 301 and not 302 or 307’s. There is a comprehensive SEO checklist we compiled so please check it out before moving your domain.

After you have moved ensure that you keep an eye out for all types of issues with both your webmaster tools and your Google analytics. Use a third party tool like Matomo hosted on your server to keep an eye out for any anomalies in your web traffic. Any significant drop in traffic can really kill a business especially small businesses that are entirely surviving on web traffic.

As you can see, the whole procedure can take a lot of time and effort and is often under-budgeted, specifically concerning the time required to fully accomplish it. Changing domains can affect your search referral traffic, but your site and your rankings should recover if you performed all the necessities in making sure your move is properly executed.

About The Author

Ajay Chavda is the co-founder of Weboptimizers, an SEO agency in Melbourne and has been involved with SEO for over 15 years. Between the digital properties and security forums he has managed, his articles have been read by approximately 50 million unique visitors.

7 Comments

  1. Caroline
    May 23, 2018 at 7:40 am · Reply

    This article is truly an eye-opener. I still thought that the domain name influenced the website ranking. The information on how to transition to a new domain was particularly important to me. I am thinking of moving my domain while at the same time consolidating my other links to one website. Based on the information provided in this article, the transition appears relatively simple and I am confident that I can carry it out successfully without getting flagged by Google. I am still worried about my site ranking. Is there a proper way of picking out a domain name that will improve site ranking? Looking forward to learning more concerning domain names from your website.

  2. Sandra
    May 23, 2018 at 9:12 am · Reply

    I never thought about this one, that is why this information surprised me a little. People are ready for doing anything for popularity. But it was nice of you that you present us this kind of SEO although this one seems like much more complicated than others. You need to pay attention on so many things in order to make everything work properly. You need to be not only expert but super expert to do all of this. So this one is definitely not going on my list of doable jobs. Good luck to all of them who are working with this.

  3. Richard Baker
    May 24, 2018 at 4:17 pm · Reply

    To be sincere I have gained a lot since I started reading blog posts from this website. This is one of the best articles I have come across. A well-researched and written article that clearly covers the risks involved in changing a websites domain name and the procedure that cushion businesses against the collapse of their own websites. The detail and amount of input on this article is something worth celebrating. Ajay, you still have a long way but keep up with the good work. Rewards are coming your way. And my question is it still relevant to have 301 redirects and PBN’s at the same time?

  4. Dan Aranas
    May 25, 2018 at 5:04 pm · Reply

    5. Many companies are really investing on valuable domain names. It is not unusual to hear of a company who pays thousands of dollars just to acquire certain domain names. Hence, domain names are still very valuable and good domain names will surely bring in the necessary results. Additionally, you can readily assess and know the value of your domain name by availing of an appraisal service. This appraisal service can easily help you figure out your domain name’s value. However, there are telltale signs that would readily indicate the high value of a domain: signs like being easily understandable, short length, correct spelling, meaningful keywords, and domains that end in “.com.”

  5. Dan A.
    May 25, 2018 at 5:06 pm · Reply

    Many companies are really investing on valuable domain names. It is not unusual to hear of a company who pays thousands of dollars just to acquire certain domain names. Hence, domain names are still very valuable and good domain names will surely bring in the necessary results. Additionally, you can readily assess and know the value of your domain name by availing of an appraisal service. This appraisal service can easily help you figure out your domain name’s value. However, there are telltale signs that would readily indicate the high value of a domain: signs like being easily understandable, short length, correct spelling, meaningful keywords, and domains that end in “.com.”

  6. Bill Boggs
    May 26, 2018 at 4:24 am · Reply

    I’m glad to read this post. your article is very helpful for me I also had this confusion when I wanted to choose a domain name for my blog, now I fully get to understand what it entails, and if I have to acquire another blog, I’m sure I’ll come up with a better domain name and extension.

    Nevertheless, content is really what matters if you need to rank on google. Thanks for sharing this, I’ll share it with my facebook friends, perhaps newbies would learn a lot from this post.

  7. Raquel
    May 29, 2018 at 5:47 pm · Reply

    I have gained new knowledge regarding this domain name modification, though I still believe that once domain name created, it should be the name that you will use all through the years since it should marked the potential customers, though in making domain name, the correct spelling, readable and the one that can easily be remembered. Changing domain name from time to time is unnecessary so when creating one, try to make some researches and read this informative article.

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