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How to Update Your Domain Without Affecting SEO

Change is natural in any business. As your company evolves, you might be thinking of updating your branding, adding new products or services, or redesigning your website. Occasionally, this means changing your domain name, as well. This is easy enough to do, but before switching to a new URL, keep in mind that doing so will impact your SEO.

The Risks in Updating Your Domain

Your domain name is a crucial part of your online identity. As the Grail Knight warned Indiana Jones, choose wisely! But even if you’ve picked out a perfect name, at some point it might make smart business sense to update your domain. Some of the common reasons include:

  • Rebranding
  • Growth/expansion
  • Relocation
  • Copyright issues
  • A better, more representative domain name becomes available

There are many valid reasons for selecting a new domain, but it’s important to understand the risks involved. When you change your domain name, the URL on every page is affected — and that wipes out all the organic history you’ve worked so hard to obtain. Google and other search engines must recrawl, reevaluate, and reindex every page. You’re liable to lose your rankings, resulting in a drop in organic traffic to your site. 

The good news? There are strategies that can help mitigate, or even prevent, these losses. It is possible to change your domain name without seeing your search visibility and traffic numbers decrease…as long as you follow a few important steps.

4 Steps to Preserving Organic Traffic

Before taking the plunge on a new domain name, the following steps will help you preserve traffic and maintain your SEO rankings: 

  • Choose a strong domain name. This goes without saying! You’ll want a domain that is easy to spell, type, and pronounce. It should also be flexible to your business needs and potential growth so you won’t have to update it again in the future. 
  • Audit your domain. Unless you’ve purchased a brand new domain that has never been used before, your domain name will have some history. Conduct a thorough audit, looking at all backlinks and referring domains, to make sure your domain has a good rating and hasn’t been red flagged for misinformation, suspicious activity, or deceptive practices. Also manage your local citation listings to ensure they point to your new location.
  • Migrate your site to the new domain. Work with your hosting provider to ensure a smooth transition of all content, files, and databases. 
  • Set up redirects. This is the key to hanging onto your existing traffic. Set up permanent 301 redirects for all pages so users and search engines will be taken from your old URLs to your new ones seamlessly. Make sure each old page is mapped to a corresponding new page to prevent broken links, which can negatively impact SEO.

Foremost Helps Client Through Domain Change

A Foremost Media manufacturing client recently updated their domain name to reflect an expanded product lineup. To lessen the impacts, we performed a series of SEO steps to help maintain organic search visibility and preserve traffic to their updated website. This process included 301 redirects, updating local citation listings with the new domain, and transferring on-page keyword optimizations.

Our efforts paid off as there was no dropoff in SEO numbers following the switchover. Organic traffic numbers held steady (averaging 1,050 visitors per month) and organic keywords remained right around 2,183 after the new URL went live.

If you’re planning a domain change and want to ensure your SEO rankings don’t drop, contact Foremost Media for a free quote.