How to change domain names without losing Google traffic or SEO
"Want to learn how to change your blog or website domain name without losing precious Google traffic, PageRank or SEO juice?"
This article will provide a domain change checklist and show you the best way to transfer PageRank and SEO to a new domain without losing much (if any) Google search traffic in the process.
Businesses and bloggers looking to switch their sites to a new domain name need to be careful not to lose any authority and SEO juice built up on the old domain. High ranking pages on the old domain must pass their SEO juice to their counterpart on the new domain, otherwise you'll fall out of the rankings and business and revenue will suffer.
In addition, the quality of the browsing experience for users should be maintained through the move so that human visitors don't end up being put off. This means that analytical data becomes critical for detecting broken links and other potential problems on the new site.
How to change a website domain name
There are two ways to go about changing a site's domain name. You can:
- point the new domain name to the existing website
- create a new website account (with the hosting service of your choice) with the new domain, and transfer a copy of the website across
Option 1 is far quicker and easier so this is the domain update method I'll focus on here, because it doesn't require making and transferring full site backups, like the second option.
Domain name change process and checklist
In order to change a blog or website's domain name you will need to:
- purchase a new domain name
- point the new domain to the current IP address
- point the old domain to a different account
- use 301 redirect in .htaccess to permanently redirect traffic from the old domain to the new domain
- add and verify the new domain on Google analytics and Google Webmaster Tools
- Specify the domain change in Google Webmaster tools by completing the form in Change of Address under Configuration
It's beyond the scope of this article to explain how to change DNS records. Any good web hosting service will provide tools to do this, or hosting support to do it for you.
Let's explore the remaining points in more detail...
Domain name changes with Google in mind
We can't simply point the new domain name at the existing site and carry on as normal. From Google's perspective, there would be two websites with exactly duplicated content - the new domain, and the old domain.
This scenario is likely to end in a Google Panda algorithm penalty, which will decimate organic search traffic volumes - not what you want.
Instead, we need to point the old domain name away from the existing site. This prevents a potential duplicate content problem, but Google's index is still full of the old domain results and we need to direct that search traffic to the new domain.
The old domain name needs to be given an account so that visitors can be 301 redirected to the new domain. A 301 redirect tells Google that the current page has been permanently moved to a new address.
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Upon encountering a 301 redirect, Google will simply transfer any existing PageRank and authority to the new page with little to no reduction in SEO juice.
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