As a small business owner, you may need to change your domain name for any variety of reasons. You may change your business name and, as a result, need to update your website, or you may be rebranding a product or service. Either way, there is a right and a wrong way to change your domain name.
Unknowingly, some business owners just purchase a new domain and build a new website. Unfortunately, this can have a disastrous consequence on the traffic and sales to your site as well as damage customer relationships.
You’ve worked too hard to build your business and you shouldn’t lose everything just because you need to update your domain name. We’re going to walk you through some of the business and technical considerations to take into account in order to avoid unnecessary problems.
Let’s discuss how you can make the change correctly.
Over-Communicate with Customers
The hardest part of building a business is attracting new customers. Why lose them over something as simple as changing your domain name?
Before you start changing things, sit down and put together a communication plan that outlines when you’ll be telling your customers about the change and how.
The goal is to make sure your customers understand what’s going on, why it’s happening, and, more importantly, how it’ll impact them. In the end, you don’t want your customers to feel confused, because a confused customer usually does not end up buying things.
Lock in Your Domain and Start Building Trust
Once you’ve decided to change your domain name, one of the first things to do is purchase and register it. Of course, you want to lock in your domain name so no one else can buy it, but there are also some other benefits.
Did you know that the age of your domain could help you gain more organic traffic to your website? While domain registration age is not one of the top-ranking factors and is not likely to catapult you to the first page of Google, it is a slight indication that your website is legitimate. So, purchasing a domain name as early as possible is a good thing, especially if rebranding is going to take some time.
Update Your Social Media
One of the things to consider when changing your domain name is updating all of your social media accounts. Sometimes this can be as easy as changing the name and, in some cases, you may find that one or all of the names already have existing social media accounts.
What do you do if you can’t get all your social media accounts? The first thing you want to do is reach out to the current owner; in many cases, the social media account may be old and inactive.
If the current owner is unresponsive or unwilling to part with the name, consider modifying all your social media account handles, so they’re all the same. Having similar or the same social media handles makes it easier for customers to find you on any given social media platform.
If your new domain name is a copyright or trademark, you may consider taking legal action. Sometimes a letter from an attorney has a way of motivating people to act.
Map Out Your Old Web Pages
A sitemap is a map of all the pages on your website. If your old website does not have a sitemap, create one before changing your domain name. If you are on a CMS like WordPress, there are many plugins, both free and paid, that can generate a sitemap automatically. A popular plugin that creates excellent sitemaps is Yoast SEO.
Why do you need the sitemap of your website with the old domain name? The sitemap will show all the pages that need to redirect to the new URLs for the website.
301 Redirect to Keep Traffic and Authority
A 301 redirect tells the search engine crawler that the URL has been changed permanently and redirects one URL to another.
For example, if your current website has multiple location pages for each city, you will want to redirect each old city page URL to the new city page URL.
You may be asking yourself, is this useful, and is it worth the time? Pages on your old website are already ranking on Google and bringing organic traffic to your site. If you don’t 301 redirect the URLs, the user will likely see an error page after clicking an old URL.
Not only is this a bad user experience for the searcher, but Google will eventually drop the URLs from search results.
One of the best parts about setting up a 301 redirect is that 90% of the authority or link equity is passed from the old page to the new page. What does this mean for you? It means if the old page was performing well, the new page is likely to do so as well.
As a small business owner who is not a subject matter expert in websites and search engine optimization, you may find this overly technical. But it is essential to understand that correctly handling the technical details will help you maintain the online success that you already have.
Don’t Forget to Forward Emails
Do not forget to update your email addresses and forward old emails to the new ones. You want to keep these forwards in place for a while as you will be surprised at how many customers miss all of the communications you’ve planned and are still sending emails to your old addresses six months later.
Content, Backlinks, and Mentions
Do a content audit and identify top-performing content pages on your website. Identify what backlinks are pointing to those pages. The 301 redirects you set up earlier will help you retain most of the authority of the backlinks, but if you’re able to reach out to any webmasters, you can ask them to link to the new URL, which would give you 100% link equity from the backlink.
There are many SEO tools you can use to discover these backlinks. The Link Explorer by Moz.com is a popular tool that will give you all the backlink data you can handle.
Brand mentions can also help with authority. Brand mentions are online references to your brand, company, or product. Take the time to find brand mentions as well as backlinks, as being properly referred to will ensure your new domain name doesn’t lose all the SEO.
Make sure you’ve got Google Analytics installed on your old website, as this will allow you to monitor the status of your site after the domain name change using the original domain as a baseline.
After the domain name is updated, it will be imperative to monitor your traffic and rankings closely. It is not uncommon to see a small dip in traffic initially; however, if you see significant drops in traffic or rankings, it is likely an indication that something is wrong. Monitoring your analytics is a quick way to identify a problem and fix it.
Change Your Domain Name Without Fear
Changing your domain name can seem like a daunting task, but proper planning and communication will go a long way to making the change easier, and risk-free. We hope these steps provide the guidance you need to change your domain name without the hassle!