How to Preserve Your Website’s Rankings When You’re Changing Domains

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

The importance of domain names remains undisputed and is still rocking as hard as ever.

There is a popular story among entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs today, and it is the one of “the grind”. A lot of successful people are ready to condense all their success secrets into “go out there and grind”. To not care about “unimportant details” and just get the work in and it will pay off.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against working hard, but the devil still is in the details. And anybody choosing a domain name knows it. Some people postpone choosing a name for their business until they are forced to choose it. E.g. making a website and choosing a domain name.

This isn’t wrong, Sometimes, if you can’t answer “the name” question right away, it’s better to set it aside for a while and let it present itself to you. The domain name is important. Even if you are already a fully branded business, it can still be a challenge figuring out how to translate your brand’s name into a domain name.

Then there is, of course, the question of choosing between the different .com, .net, and others.

Making a website takes a lot of decisions to be made. Some of them come more naturally to people. Like some people have a vision of the design of the website and just go with it. For others, it takes three days to choose the background color.

But rarely does somebody escape losing a few hairs when it comes to domain names.

Why would you change your domain?

In case you were one of those that postponed choosing your domain name until it was “Important”, you might have chosen it on a whim and thinking about changing. Choosing a domain name might not be at the top of your priority list at certain times of evolving your business, but it should never be chosen on a whim.

There might be stories of people choosing the first thing off the top of their head and “getting lucky”, but I suggest you don’t take your chances. On the other side of the story, it is possible that you outgrow your own name.  Maybe your business outgrew its own name.

It is possible if you started with a very specific name catering to a small niche and you grow venture into other walks of business that you want to change it. This, however, is usually mitigated by starting other projects and diversifying. Another possibility is different technical reasons for changing a domain.  Like changing the hosting service or having some kind of contract.

Or maybe the .domain got canceled – that is a possibility.

Of course, changing the .domain can also be a planned business move to attract a bigger audience or establish a more trustworthy presence. And surely, changing your domain is always an option with rebranding and similar marketing strategies. Some businesses buy extra domains to try and take over more space in the search engine ranking pages.

It all depends on the scenario. Anything can be a reason seeing how fast not only the internet is changing, but the culture in general.

Multiple Domain Strategy

Sometimes, a business might invest in buying a new domain, (or domains) to improve its marketing strategy. There are many reasons for having more than one domain.  In the “good old days” of Google, before their bots became responsible web-officers, all that was needed for good SEO ranking was as a website full of keywords.

Back then, the algorithms weren’t so advanced, to speak objectively. All you needed was to fill up an expected quota of keywords that a legitimate site would have, and you would suck up the SERP rankings. It wasn’t long before, of course, this became weaponized, and people started using fake constructed websites for achieving whatever goal they had.

You can understand why buying multiple domains sounded like a great idea for some. It wasn’t always just to get noticed, but to drown out the competition. Google, of course, was having none of it. This kind of behavior was flagged by Google and was penalized, and internet marketers entered in strategic warfare with Google’s crawler bots. Luckily, today the dust has settled a little bit, and Google has a pretty objective ranking system when it comes to SERP.

So in present, venturing into a multiple domain strategy works a little differently. First of all, you need to realize that this is a long term strategy. If you are going to venture into a multiple domain approach, you need to be ready to put in the work that is needed to, well, run a website.

If you are going to invest in a new domain or domains, you want them to be relevant and have a good ranking. And to do that, they need to strive for the best. The SERP competition is fierce and we all know that, and Google bots are trained to spot those striving for the best and award them. So, to have a multiple domain website strategy you need to have two things: You need to have a good enough reason for them (enough material, resources for the site), and the ability to keep them both relevant and ranking good.

See, if you are going to run more than one domain, it will only be logical for you to link them up. Unless you are a spy or running some kind of a scam, you will want your pages to link up and feed one another. But you need to keep an eye on a few things.

Google’s Scoring method

Google has really put in the work to refine their ranking system, and have managed to build a system built on the concepts of authority and trust. It might sound abstract, but it really does work this way.

Google has split its scoring into three levels:

  • Domain authority
  • Page authority
  • Link authority.

Together, they tell the search engine how trustworthy the site is.

Domain authority is mostly consisted of the “age” of the site. Google is keen on not allowing new domains to rank high until they prove themselves – which is a pretty good mechanism taking into consideration the amount number your fist buffer – even if you have enough resources and great content for your site. No matter how strong your business is, a new domain is not going to blow up overnight – it just isn’t.

That is, it can, but it won’t topple the previous leaders that easily.

ContentKingApp suggests when it comes to “Age and trust: keep playing by the rules and take great care of your website.” Your next obstacle is going to be link building

Link Building
Source: Toplerseo

The general consensus is that link building contributes to more than 50% to your SEO success.

All external links to your website are counted as votes for your websites, passing on authority, relevancy, and trust.

The most important thing when it comes to link building is that the link source (the page on which a link to another page is placed) and the link target (the page to which the link redirects you to) have a similar topic.

This is how google bots make out if you are just making spam content or are the links coming from a relevant source. If it isn’t coming from a relevant source, it’s probably doing more harm than good

Redirecting to a new domain

If you are new to this, it might sound like the Google police hands out a lot of penalties. But in reality, they are not overly strict.

Google guidelines (as well as the guidelines for their social media, like Instagram and Facebook) keep changing constantly. This is because people are trying to find easy ways out – which is understandable. But Google is not unreasonable.

For instance, the “age” rule doesn’t apply to aged websites that are changing domains.

If you were running a website, and for any reason you needed to change your domain, you can keep your Google score, if you do things right. They won’t leave you sinking.

If you are migrating to a new domain, the most important thing is to do your redirects properly.

When you chose to move to a new domain it’s going to take time for new habits to form among your users. You can do your best to put the word out that you are moving to a new domain, but you can’t escape the process.  And you can’t be out there tugging sleeves of your users.

This is why redirection plugins have been invented a long time ago.

301 Redirect

Source: Hallaminternet

Redirection plugins automatize the redirection process.  A 301 redirect is an indicator that says that the link you clicked on has moved somewhere else.  The 301 redirect is a status code that tells the search engine that the content on the Requested URL has been permanently moved.

And the 302 redirect functions in the same way but regards a temporary redirection of content.

A redirect is a way of sending website visitors to a live URL when the requested has been removed.

This is important because a lot of your users will still be visiting your last domain.

And since they are, you can help them not get lost.

Not only that, but as we mentioned earlier, Google will also “remember” your website if you use a 301 redirect. If you have already proven your age and earned the stripes, Google will remember and try to retain the ranking you worked so hard to earn. It might take them some time, but they will follow through.

The thing you need to watch out for is choosing the right redirect. If you use a 302 redirect when you should have used a 301 redirect you can hurt your ranking. And hurting your rankings is the biggest fear when doing redirects is losing SEO ranking, so it’s important to keep in mind that search engines react differently to these two redirects.

The 302 redirect is a temporary redirect, so it is set up that it doesn’t pass all of the search engine points to the new website.  The link authority and relevancy we have mentioned early are transferred only within a certain amount, which is also reasonable. If you are moving only temporarily, you do not want to take all your furniture with you.

On the other hand, when it comes to 301 Redirects, it is proven to pass on around 90% link equity from the redirected page. This is where some people make mistakes, and lose their rankings, even though their traffic is still on point. Google may pick up that the set up was wrong and he will try to decide how to treat the redirect.

301 Redirects plugin

A trialed and tested redirection plugin is the 301 Redirects plugin developed by the WebFactory team, called 301 Redirects – Easy Redirect Manager.

It’s free, easy to download, and easy to use.

All you need is to choose the “Redirect from” and “Redirect to”, keeping in mind what kind of redirect you should use.  With the 301 Redirect plugin, you can choose both 302 and 301 redirects.

Also, it allows you to manage bulk redirects with the Import/Export option.

The 301 Redirects plugin is one of the most trustworthy and praised. And if you are using WordPress as your hosting platform it should be a no brainer. It is developed to seamlessly work with the platform and is constantly updated without missing a beat,

In conclusion

If you are stressing about domain names or migrations, don’t worry, it’s normal. It is after all, the main way you present yourself on the World Wide Web.  Of course, not to put down all the other aspects like content and design, but the address of your website is effectively going to be your main marketing tool. If you are thinking about buying multiple domains and executing a multiple domain strategy, take a little time to plan it out.  Make sure it is an investment that will pay off and that makes sense venturing into.

Lastly, if you are switching to a new domain, be sure to wisely use redirections. Don’t throw away all your hard work to get to the rank you are at.  Educate yourself and/or find somebody to help you with the redirections.

Even when using redirects you can lose some domain, page, and link authority.

But all in all, none of these decisions can be made wrong if you are aware of it all works.

Author Bio

Matija is a writer at WebFactory that enjoys exploring the newest trends of SEO, WordPress, SaaS, and other technical and content-oriented aspects of online creation, and sharing his expertise with readers to guide them towards digital success. You can discover more about those topics by visiting the WebFactory blog, as well as one of the plugins that they’ve crafted that you might find particularly useful for excelling at our today’s topic, called 301 Redirects.