05/07/2010

By Kun Dang, Founder, Red or Blue Digital

At some point in time, site owners may come to a decision on changing the web address of their site. Sometimes this is because of rebranding, or it can be to move to shorter more memorable address. One consideration that always pops up is how does the change affect a site’s SEO performance.

From an SEO point of view, the first thing to is to go back to basics and really consider the benefits of moving domains. You should only move domains if absolutely necessary because a domain switch will have an impact how search engines rank the site.

The aim of this guide is to highlight the key points to minimise any impact of changing your domain address and essential tips that will help your site retain it’s natural search rankings. It helps you get a good idea of things involved when changing a domain from www.olddomainaddress.com to www.NEWdomainaddress.com.


The process of domain address change is broken down into 3 distinct stages

Stage 1: Plan the change

- When changing the domain URL, the first thing to do is plan the change around the content, site structure and scale of change.

- It’s important to take inventory of the old site content to know exactly what URL’s are changing.

- Depending on the change, there may not be an exact match between new and old content, if that’s the case, make sure the old page is matched up with a new page with similar content.

Stage 2: Execute the change

- Use a 301 Redirect to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site. The 301 redirect is the most efficient and Search Engine Friendly method for webpage redirection.

- Use the Change of Address tool in Webmaster Tools to notify Google of your site's move. (Tip: To use the Change of Address tool, you must be a verified owner of both the new and the old sites)

- An updated XML Sitemap should be created and submitted to search engines via the webmaster tools. An XML Sitemap is essentially an A-Z guide for search engines of your entire site.


Stage 3: Monitor the effects

- Check for errors on both new and old sites. The key is to look for pages that return with a 404 (not found) error. If all the redirects were executed correctly, there shouldn’t be any, but complications do occur and sometimes Tip: Xenu (Find broken links on websites) provides a free tool to help identify such issues.

- Monitor rankings. At www.RedorBlueDigital.com we use our own automatic rank checking tool, but there are lots of freely available solutions online, Tip: sheerseo.com provides a simple solution to monitor and keep up to date with changes to your main rankings before and after the change.

- Keep track of your Analytics. Take a benchmark before the change and note any major changes. Look from a response point of view, look for positive and negative changes as a result of the domain change.

Kun Dang is Founder of Red or Blue Digital (www.redorbluedigital.com) - A digital search agency specalising in scalable search solutions for ambitious brands.


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