Moving to a new domain name will certainly affect your search engine ranking or SEO. The answer people are looking for is – is there a solution wherein the search results don’t get affected due to change in domain name.
In the digital world, people don’t look at changing domain names on a daily or monthly basis, it’s only when they are compelled to do so for certain reasons viz. company mergers, domain selling, re branding, etc. If you chose to port most of the content from the old site to the new site, it is imperative that the transition happens accurately.
Apply 301 redirects to your website
The first and foremost thing to do is use 301 redirects since a domain name change is a permanent move, a 301 redirect should be used instead of a 302, as 302 is used whilst the move is temporary. A 301 redirect tells the search engines that the shift is permanent, and implementing the right code is one part of the process.
Setting up a 301 redirect tells search engines about sending the user to the new or right page. A wildcard redirect needs to be done in the .htaccess file that transfers all the files on a domain name level. It is imperative for web hosts and website owners to ensure all the pages and links are given a 301 redirect to ensure you stay aground for user searches and traffic.
Make sure you have the same URL structure
Whilst switching domains it is imperative that you keep the same domain structure whilst switching from one domain to another. Once the domain has been transferred, necessary changes can be made to change the URL.
Inform Google about your movement
It’s quite simple to achieve this, login into your webmaster tools, and click on the gear icon, and click on “change of address” to make the changes. This informs Google of your domain name change and makes the necessary updates in its system as well.
Keep a check on 404 errors
If your page isn’t redirected properly, it could throw a 404 error. For the first few weeks, website owners need to keep a check on 404 errors and fix them, if there are any.
If there’s more than one site, and you want to consolidate all the contents of the three sites into one, then it’s better to test it first. You can do it by redirecting a sub-domain to the new domain and check if you get the same traffic or you can move a site or sub-domain that receives the least traffic and then test your results as well.
Leave the old site running for a few months
Keeping your old site online for a couple of months makes it easier for users and search engines to identify your 301 redirects, and this makes the transition efficient rather than destructive wherein if you decide to close the old domain instantly, it would result in poor search engine indexing and lesser number of users knowing of your transition.
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If done correctly, the transition can be a positive one and your SEO rankings won’t dip too low. It is always good to have this done by an experienced web designer, developer, or web host as a wrong turn can get your site out of sight, and way down the search ranking results.