Transcript For How to Change Your Domain Name with Minimal SEO Impact – 141;
Jesse Dolan: Changing your domain name is a pretty big deal. You know what I mean? That’s your address out there for all things digital, but if you can follow those steps, you definitely put yourself in the driver’s seat and have the best chance to come out the other side without any major impact.
Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics where we bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan. I’m here with Sue Ginsburg.
Sue Ginsburg: Hi.
Jesse Dolan: Bob Brennan.
Bob Brennan: Howdy.
Jesse Dolan: Ready to answer some questions. Sue, what question are we talking about here today and where’s it from?
Sue Ginsburg: Today’s question is to my listener and a client. How do you minimize the effect of changing your domain name on your SEO? Thank you, Oscar, from Luxor Hall and Elegancia Formal Wear in Dallas. Appreciate the question. I am pretty sure that more than just Oscar have thought about this and asked themselves the question.
Quote of the day is “nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice” and that’s from Martin Luther King Junior. Think there are lots of people who have said versions of it, but “gained without sacrifice” is Martin Luther King Junior. Oscar is not the only client that asks us this question. We get asked this question frequently when people are looking to change their domain name and want to maintain, or not lose, the traction that they’ve gained with their SEO on or their current domain name. Makes sense.
When you change your domain name, it may be confusing to Google as well as to people who know you on your former domain name. May be bookmarked on their computer or at least in their mind as to what it is. Making a change means people have to make a change too, which, as we all know as humans, not always easy. Is it worth it? That’s the big question. That depends on why you want to change your domain name. I feel like, Jesse, here my answer is it depends.
Jesse Dolan: It depends. It always depends.
Sue Ginsburg: Here are five good reasons to change your domain name. Your current domain name may not reflect your brand and business anymore. Industry shift, your business shifts and evolves, your local coffee cafe now sells bagels and has a drive-through, your bike shop now offers rentals and has snowboards and skateboards, and everything else. Obviously, good time to change your no domain name to better reflect that.
Second, your domain name doesn’t set the right tone for your website. It once did; it doesn’t now. Third, your domain name isn’t getting traction. You’re not working with us on SEO or, if you are, we recommended a name change and you just think a different name would get more traction. Fourth, your business name has changed. Northwest Airlines became Delta. Obviously, they had to change their website for that. Ernst & Young became E&Y, happens all the time. And fifth, you want to change your domain extension, which is the dot com or the dot net or the dot org. Maybe you’ve moved your business to Australia. You want to use the dot au. Maybe your domain name is only available with dot net. Lots of reasons and that would be a legit reason to change your domain name.
If you’ve ever had to change it, you may have noticed a dip in your rankings if you follow your rankings. What did you do to raise it back up to where it was or hopefully to get it even higher? If you’re on your game as a business owner, you know your domain name is really important to your online presence: that’s how people find you. And you will want to know best practices for making a change like that and minimizing your traction because chances are good, over the course of your business, one of those five reasons will come up and you may need to make a domain change.
Obviously, we deal with this a lot as the SEO experts: working to gain and keep your website traction. Our clients’ businesses are evolving just like yours are and they change domain names for any of those five good reasons all the time. I mentioned they ask us what they can do to minimize the impact of the change and as business owners I’m guessing that you are wondering that too.
So, let’s ask the experts that we have right here with us, Jesse and Bob. See what they have to say, what we can all learn from experts who have done this many, many, many, too many times to count times before. So with that, I toss it to you two. Tell us what you know.
Jesse Dolan: Sue, I can start off replying on that. There’s definitely a right and a wrong way to go about this, like you said, with regards to your SEO. Obviously, the wrong way would just be change your domain or launch your new website, whatever, and replace your old website and then just do nothing. That’s going to break everything. If you had any SEO beforehand, which is the assumption we’re operating under here, you want to carry that forward, so you can’t just make a cut. You definitely have to pull it forward and transition.
So I’ll go through a couple quick things here, which would be a good punch list if anybody’s needing to change their website or change their domain name. First, plan ahead. So the things I’m going to say here on this checklist, either follow them or brainstorm on some other things as well. Do some research online. Whatever it is, plan ahead. Don’t go into this haphazardly. Obviously, if you’re following us, tuning into the show, you understand the importance of SEO. This whole topic here is about don’t break your SEO while you do this. Right? So plan ahead, make a checklist, and follow it.
First thing you want to do is purchase your new domain name. Have that ready to go. Decide what that is. There, I’d say pause. Take some thought into it. Again, if your new domain name, if you can be choosy, make sure it has some keywords on what you want to be found for. Within that, put some logic into it for that. You’re going to want to back up your existing website, your current website, they have right now. Depending on what you’re on, like if you’re running a WordPress website, there’s ways that are fairly easy to back it up. Let’s say if you’re on maybe some kind of a hosted platform, Wix, Squarespace, or something like that, that you can’t maybe back it up or whatever, clunky, but a good way…
The point of backing this up is we want to retain this data. Not that you’re going to maybe use that exact backup as a copy, but if something goes haywire, you don’t want to erase your old website and not have a new website and be stuck in limbo. So you’re going to want to back up your current website or as more of an analog way, go into your pages, print them off in the printer, take screenshots. Find a way to capture at least your primary pages: the look, the content what’s on your site. Just make sure you have some kind of a copy of that thing.
So now, in the best case scenario, let’s just say you were on your current domain. Maybe it’s a WordPress website. You buy a new domain on your same web host, most likely, and you just make that switch. There’s really shouldn’t be a whole lot involved with switching it if you’re not… We’re not talking about redesigning, rebuilding, changing your website; just taking the existing site and moving into a new domain. So once you have your new domain, once you have your site backed up, you should be able to flip the switch and push it over to your new domain name and then it’s live. Now that doesn’t mean we’re done though. That just means that the first part is accomplished. You’ve now switched your domain.
Now what you got to do is go back and make sure you pull all of your SEO and everything else from your old site into your new site. So the first thing you’re going to want to do is redirect your old domain name to point to your new site. As long as you’re not changing any content, you should be able to go into your web host and just do… They may call it a wild card redirect. But basically, if I have intrics.com/redballoons, and now it’s going to be intricswebdesign.com is our new domain /red balloons will be the same page, what you can do is go into your web host and just say, “Any page on our old domain, have it redirect that exact same page on the new domain.” So as long as it’s still /redballoons on your new domain, Google will automatically… I’m sorry, not Google. Your web host will automatically push people if they were looking for inrix.com/redballoons to the new domain at that same /red balloons.
Now, if you change that /red balloons, if you change the URL of your pages, that’s going to break that, and then you have to do individual redirects to tell your web host like, “This was the page. Now here’s the new page.” So if somebody’s going here, push them here. But generally speaking, for this example, you shouldn’t have to do those individuals. It should be a global domain redirect. So now you’ve purchased your new site. You’ve backed it up. You’ve pushed it over. Your new domain is live. Now we’ve redirected all of the old URLs to be going to your new one. The important part for that is maybe you have a link on a webpage out there somewhere or a business card, or just different inferences… instances, I should say, of your domain out there in the wild that people are still going to visit. Over time, that’ll diminish as they come to know your new site, but there’s that transition period where people are still going to visit your old website. You want to make sure that they get to your new website, that that chain, that link, so to speak, is not broken.
Hey, everyone, just a quick message about our free SEO audit tool on localseotactics.com and we’ll get right back to the show. If you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, go on out to localseotactics.com/free-seo-audit, or look for the yellow button up on the top right corner. Click that and it’s going to take just a couple seconds. You enter in the page that you want to optimize what you’re looking for: the audit to score against. Enter in that page, enter in the keyword you’re looking to get optimized for, and enter in your email address, click the button. It’s going to take a few seconds and then it’s going to send you off a PDF report via email.
It’s a great report. It’s going to give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it’s auditing this page. That’s going to tell you some of the good things that are happening. Some of the bad things that are happening too and give you basically a checklist of some things that you need to shore up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page for that keyword that you’re on editing.
Now you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors if you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they’re scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good that you’re not and some things to improve there. So, lots of different ways to use it. Completely free. Again, go on to localseotactics.com/free-SEO-audit, or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.
So you want those reader X in place. Once you get that established or even parallel at the same time, the other important thing is to get your new domain set up on Google Search Console. This effectively submits your new website to Google, makes them aware that it exists, makes them aware of the content and the pages. They start to crawl it and put it into the index. Additionally, you’re going to want to go into all of your citations. If you’re on Facebook Google My Business, Yelp, BBB, wherever you have your website listed… your old website listed, I should say… you’re going to want to go into that directory, into that portal, update it and put your new address in there.
Even though your old address will still work because of the redirects that we talked about in that previous step, you still want to get out there and put your new website wherever you can possibly get things updated. It’s going to make sure that that new domain is resonating in people’s mind for the branding and for their memory, and also send a clear message to Google that this is your website now. Don’t rely on the fact they have to process that redirect and draw that association. Get out in front of it and do it with intent.
And then, last but not least is if you can get a list of all of your back links or whatever websites are out there that are linking to yours, or to your old domain, get a list. There’s tools online or, again, if you’re working with an agency like us, that’s some power tools that we have to be able to provide you with that, or manage this for you even, but you’re going to want to find in addition to the Facebook, the Yelp and all those things, all the other back links. Again, your local church that you support or the T-ball team, like I always say, things like that. Get those back links updated, pointing to your new domain instead of your old one as well, and that’s about it. If you can follow those steps, again, assuming you had some decent SEO before and you do it in that loose order that we had there paying special attention to those redirects and updating everything after you go forward, you should be able to minimize any negative impacts on your SEO.
Now, I would say nobody should expect to not have any speed bumps. Definitely there’s especially now a lag with Google indexing your content and finding your new pages. So I would say there’s probably going to be a two to four week period where you may have a dip in traffic in an exposure, depending on how much of your traffic was reliant on organic search versus social media and other things pushing to it. But you should come out the other end just fine.
There’s really no way to avoid any kind of disruption. I mean, changing your domain name is a pretty big deal. You know what I mean? That’s your address out there for all things digital, but if you can follow those steps, you definitely put yourself in the driver’s seat and have the best chance to come out the other side without any major input, so there you go. Hopefully, that helps. Not a checklist per se. I don’t know how many items there were there. I didn’t count one, two, three, four, five, as we’re going, but just rattling them off in strategic order. That should cover most of the bases.
Sue Ginsburg: Bob, do you have any experience to share when this you’ve done this for any of your businesses?
Bob Brennan: I don’t know if this is a direct deal or more of a side deal, but it’s just whatever the reason is for the domain name change, maybe it’s a merger, maybe there’s you’ve got some ideas, but just as a business owner, you always want to consider vanity versus strategy.
Brennan Plumbing versus Minneapolis Plumbing, you want to go with Minneapolis Plumbing. It’s a exact keyword match. Now, you can’t always do that, but I think one of our episodes, we’re going to talk about multiple locations right, too? So-
Sue Ginsburg: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Can you be more strategic about that with those multiple locations? And then, as Google is cracking down on the GMBs… So you can’t get too carried away there with exact domain match unless you want to develop literally six multiple location names or… I mean, businesses that are their own entity, I don’t know if that strategy makes sense. So it’s tough because as business owners we have egos and I want my name up there. I’ve been doing this for 27 some years. I want you to see who I am. I want all my buddies from high school be jealous, whatever the case is. But you really should look at it strategically and say, “What’s what’s going to get the phone to ring?” In my opinion, people will debate this, but having an exact domain match or… I’m sorry… exact keyword match on the highest keyword volume searches, to me, strategically makes more sense. Does that make sense, Jess? Or are we-
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, 100%.
Bob Brennan: We’re talking about changing domain, I get that, but there’s obviously a price to do that and if you’re going to pay that price, it better pay off. It better not be your ego because you’re going to go backwards.
Jesse Dolan: Your domain name you’re changing too, but it should be a strategic reason for the change. And if possible, like you’re saying, challenge yourself to what that domain name is. Should include some keywords, either the geographic reference or the product or service keywords you want to be found for. Best cases, both. Sometimes you can’t pull it off depending on the situations, but give it some thought, 100%, 100%.
Bob Brennan: Because there’s an example out there is CPR Cell Phone Repair. It’s a franchise. They do well. They do very well with-
Jesse Dolan: That’s the perfect name.
Bob Brennan: … SEO. So you just type in phone repair, any major city that they’re in, they’re going to be at the top. Don’t get me wrong. They’re doing great things with their SEO, but that domain name, exact keyword domain match, is huge.
Sue Ginsburg: I think with any of the reasons there are to change your domain name, the SEO and online part of it is one part of the other things it impacts. Obviously, if you change your name, there’s a lot more marketing you need to do then to make sure your SEO isn’t dipping. What about how long would you recommend keeping the redirects from your old site?
Jesse Dolan: Those should be permanent really. The question for me would be more of if you ever were worrying about dropping your old domain like, “I don’t want to own this domain name anymore.” At that point, those would fall away, but most web hosts platforms that you’re dealing with, you set up those redirects and they don’t expire. You don’t have to worry about them again, so there’s no reason to put any timeline just because, again, two years from now, if somebody picks up that business card that’s been sitting there, or whatever, then they’re always going to find you. So, being that there’s no reason to terminate it timeline-wise, just set it and forget it.
Sue Ginsburg: Which also, you just brought up another point, you will end up paying for both domain names because you have to keep the old one active, so it can redirect?
Jesse Dolan: Yep.
Sue Ginsburg: Right? That’s great. Well, it sure sounds like it’s doable. It’s nothing that is impossible. It just needs forethought, planning and, like you said, Jesse, be intentional at it. This isn’t something you just do on a whim, fly by night, and hope that everything is going to stay the same and you’ll be ranking as high as you were before.
Jesse Dolan: I think to your point there too, Sue, this should be a one-time thing. You shouldn’t be doing this every year. So there’s going to be a dip. We’re talking about how to minimize that dip for SEO. This is a boat you don’t want to rock unless you have a real good reason to do it.
Sue Ginsburg: That’s great. Anything else, Bob?
Bob Brennan: Nope. Nope. That’s it. I guess the only other scenario is if you’re Arthur Andersen and you’ve gone through Enron and you’re-
Jesse Dolan: Forced.
Bob Brennan: … dodged a bullet, but that’s-
Jesse Dolan: Forced to change.
Bob Brennan: That’s way over my pay level. That’s more towards your pay level, Sue.
Sue Ginsburg: Yeah, right. Right. That’s great. If you remember one thing and one thing only, remember this, plan ahead and be intentional. Get to say one of my favorite sayings here. Hope is not a strategy. Don’t hope that if you do nothing your traction will be as good because it won’t. Changing your domain name has consequences on your SEO, of course, and on a lot of other things. Do it right and you can minimize the impact or don’t do it and you will minimize the gain I guess. So basically, if you’re going to do it, do it right. You want to keep your visibility where it was. Quote of the day again, “Nothing worthwhile is gained without sacrifice.,” Martin Luther King.
Jesse Dolan: Good one. Very fitting too. So if anybody’s thinking about switching again, rewind this, follow our checklist. If you got other questions related to this topic or anything else, we’d love to hear about them. You can send them on over: localseotactics.com. Scroll down to the bottom book, the button for submit a question. Send it on in. We’ll read it on the show. Answer your question for yourself and for the benefit of everybody else out there listening. It’s going to help everybody, not just you. And if you want to take it to the next step to call in and record that on voice, we’d love to play the audio on here.
I’ll let you plug your website, your company, all that stuff too at the same time and we’re going to throw you a free T-shirt, an Intrics T-shirt for getting up the muster and putting your voice out there, which sounds more challenging than it really is at the end of the day. So we encourage you to do that. If you’re so willing, the same thing: localseotactics.com. Scroll down to the bottom and hit the button for submit a question.
All right, Sue. Thanks for teeing that one up. Bob, thanks for your input there too. I’m sure that helped some people out and we’ll catch everybody on the next episode.