How to Save SEO during a Domain Name Change

All webmasters eventually learn that both migrations and redesigns can be a disaster if not correctly handled when it comes to your either already established site or just lunched site for a start-up.  Unluckily, one can stumble into a lot of loopholes during a migration, from dropping URLs, to botched redirection plans, to technical problems. And when that happens, you can lose traffic, rankings, and search equity. To say the least, it’s not pretty!

However, if you consider a simple procedure of changing domain name, you are simply moving from one domain name to another, without a CMS migration or a redesign. People think it is a piece of cake and are unaware of the myriad things that can go wrong. And the more complicated your site is, the more factors you need to worry about. Below are a few steps that are often overlooked during a domain change but if incorporated, can do wonders in saving your SEO:

All Versions of the New Domain Should Be Verified In the Google Search Console

This step is commonly overlooked by most people, albeit being one of the most important steps. Not only is it downright imperative, the more important step is to do this before pulling the trigger on domain name change. It is a good practice to set up a Google search console for each version of the new domain to guarantee that your website flows smoothly, without finding any surprises waiting for you down the road, such as a manual action or important messages from Google. Additionally, GSC can also be used to track the progress of your domain name. You should check both the new and the old domain to check for smooth functioning. In a nutshell, remember to check the non-www, https, non-www, and the www versions of your new domain in the Google Search Console.

Change the Site Address and the Settings for the WordPress Address

If WordPress is being employed to power your website, it is imperative to change the domain name in your wordpress settings as well. It is also important to change all the myriad installs you have running on your website. During a domain name change, WordPress can usually seize up if there are multiple installs running or a complex set up. For this reason, it is prudent to have your website backed up in multiple locations.

ISAPI_Rewrite or Mod_Rewrite Changes

Check to see if you have any redirects setup in your previous domain, such as URLs that no longer exist on your site but now direct to other URLS on your site. For instant, any of your other owned domains that redirect to your previous domain, and so on. If such a situation exists, you need to back up all your current httpd file (if you’re using an older version of ISAPI_Rewrite), or .htaccess file (if you’re using mod_rewrite), and then work to refine those entries, so that they now redirect to your new domain. It never works to send Google and users through pointless redirect chains. Also, there is no room for any redirect loops, since if you have many URLs behaving that way; things can turn a little messy.

Back Up Your Site

If it’s possible, it is a good practice to have your entire site backed up by the hosting provider, including your databases and WordPress install on a daily basis. If you rigorously adopt this habit, you can easily roll your site back to a previous version in the event of a failure, and save yourself a lot of grief and trouble. Furthermore, you can also use WordPress services or/and plug-ins to back up your site. It’s the equivalent of the digital insurance for webmasters and SEOs and well worth the initial investment!