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What Happens to SEO When You Switch Domains?

What Happens to SEO When You Switch Domains?

Google determines rankings by analyzing metrics on both domain level and page level. When you change your domain, you reset the domain metrics back to square one. Which is bad for SEO… That’s why our CEO & Digital Director, Eric Van Cleave put together this comprehensive list of steps to take when switching to domains to protect your SEO rankings.

The good news is that through careful management of redirects,  the submission of the site map, and avoidance of duplicate content, the transition to a new domain can be accomplished with minimal damage.  The bad news is that the process will be labor-intensive and take time.

MOZ changed their domain from SEOMoz to Moz and in the process, created a guide to changing your domain name.  Here is a summary list of the steps to take to effectively redirect your site to a new domain name.

  • Your old domain will need a sitemap so your first step would be to create one
  • Develop content for the new domain, especially for simple things like the description of your company, about us, contact information, mission statement, etc. Now once you have set up the domain, its time you make it live
  • Get your new domain and old domain registered and verified in Google Search Console.
  • Enable a 404 page on the old domain to direct visitors to the new domain.
  • Test the redirects in a development environment from the old domain to the new one. Preferably, this should be a one to one redirect rather than redirecting multiple pages to one page on the new domain.
  • Create a 301 redirect for your old domain to the new domain
  • Resubmit the old sitemap to search engines
  • From Google Search Console, open and fill up the “Change Address”
  • To make sure all URLs have been verified by Google and Bing, create a new sitemap and submit it to the search engines
  • Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Center will run the diagnostics for the sitemap and fix any errors found

Once all of this is done, the only thing to do is to monitor placement and traffic.  Unfortunately, once this has been completed, there is no path to reverse the process.  Some wobble in rankings, and therefore, traffic, should be expected, but should not last more than 3-4 weeks.

The safe route is to simply retain the old domain, but this is often overshadowed by branding and marketing considerations.  The use of ad vehicles like Google Display (especially retargeting) and Social Media Advertising can help to gently inform those in your target market about the change, and if done properly, even help to generate some website traffic to partially make up for the inevitable wobble in rankings.

One final tip, as the Google Core Algorithm changes continue to demand readable and relevant content, take the opportunity to review and upgrade and update your website content.  This will pay dividends in the long run.

Eric Van Cleave is the CEO and Digital Marketing Director for TIV Branding


TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at info@TIVbranding.com.