Thinking about changing your domain name? Take a read of this article.
Choosing a domain name is a big decision when starting out online. At this point we often have a limited or fixed view of which direction our website will take. As often happens in life, paths can take unexpected twists or unforeseen opportunities come along. Suddenly the domain name we chose no longer fits our business and it’s time to rebrand. It might also be time to focus on a specific keyword pivotal to your business and to make the most of online marketing. Here is a list of all of the reasons and SEO benefits of a domain name change:
- Your business needs a more relevant name.
- You want to use your country extension (.co.uk for example instead of .com).
- You want to use several country extensions as your business has become global but they are not available for the domain name you own.
- You want to change your less authoritative extension (for example .biz) to a strong .com.
- Brandability of domain: “Your domain name is how users will find, remember, share and identify your company online. In both social media and search engines, the domain name is the primary way by which users can identify where the link will lead.”.
- Relevance: your domain name is your online calling card so it should express your message.
- A domain name which includes a premium keyword increases click throughs on ads: This can be a huge advantage to invite traffic to your website.
- Including a keyword in your domain name: when anyone links to your website, these links include “anchor text” (a keyword in the url of links pointing to your website). Having keywords present in anchor text increase the ranking of your domain name.
But what are the consequences of physically changing that all important domain name on your website’s SEO ranking?
Changing an existing domain name to a new one can affect the way the search engines and your current customers find your website. You must let your visitors know of the change of url. This is easy to do with a permanent 301 permanent redirect, or perhaps even temporary 302 redirect of the pages of your website. This will bring anyone visiting your old domain name to your new one automatically. You should also announce the change on your social channels, and give customers plenty of notice.
But what if your domain name has good SEO ranking? All the SEO effort that has gone into your specific domain name needs to be preserved carefully by doing a proper 301 permanent redirect. This way your new domain name will inherit the SEO attributes. Redirection needs to be done properly, preferably by a webmaster, otherwise if there are any errors you will lose traffic to your website immediately. You will need to access your website files on your server, and each internal link on your website needs to be redirected individually.
You also need to ensure that you redirect to relevant content pages on your new domain name. Google will detect if there is a discrepancy in content: for example don’t redirect a page about apples to a page about oranges. A good rule of thumb is this: “give visitors what they are expecting when they click on a link”. Another way to measure a good redirect is to compare keywords: redirect a page to the new one where the keywords are the same in both. Under no circumstances should you redirect all links to your new homepage. Google may consider them as improperly redirected links and give the error page 404.
Inheriting SEO rankings
Now that you have preserved the SEO ranking of your old domain name, will you inherit any SEO ranking of your new domain? The answer is, simply, yes. But this comes with a warning: again relevant content is important. To inherit the ranking benefits of the new domain there needs to be some correlation of keywords and topics for Google to consider the redirect and content of both sites as a proper viable entity.
Please note that search engines are under no obligation to preserve the SEO rankings from a domain name which has changed ownership or is being redirected. So if you are going to change your domain name, make sure it is for the substantial reasons that will genuinely benefit your business.
Register your new domain name with WestHost and our support team can give you the help you need to fully redirect your current website to your new domain name. Visit our website to get started.