Switching to a new domain is not a decision you should take lightly and it is certainly not something you should do on a whim. You need to be absolutely sure that you are prepared to make the change since you would want the change not to affect your website traffic and your SERP ranking negatively, and this can be a downright stressful endeavor.
Nevertheless, it can all be worth your while and you may even get higher rankings afterward, so apart from being tech-savvy, you will need a certain amount of patience before you are actually able to see the ultimate results of your domain change. This very useful guide, provided by one of the best web hosting companies out there, AltusHost, will help you out when switching to a new domain and it will introduce you to all the right steps you need to take to do that successfully, without losing your traffic and SERP ranking.
Before the Change
Note the following before you start the process of changing your domain: your website will experience a temporary drop in rankings and natural search traffic, but that fact should not worry you one bit since that is normal. The good thing is that you will be able to rebound in a few months, provided that you follow this guide and take all the necessary steps to ensure you don’t experience the negative effects and lose your rankings and reputation altogether.
Backup Your Website
Backing up every file and database you have on your website is of the utmost importance when changing your domain. You need to make sure that a full backup of your website is done before you make any changes so that you don’t end up losing any of your important files. Your web hosting provider can help you with your backup, but there are also a number of plugins that you can use as well. If you have a WordPress website, for instance, you can use plugins such as Backup WordPress, BackupBuddy and WordPress Backup to Dropbox.
Move Your Website to the New Domain
Once you have backed up your content, you can proceed to move it to the new domain. There are various plugins that can help you automatically move your complete database and, if you’re using WordPress, an excellent choice would be the Duplicator plugin. It will allow you to create a zip package of your entire database, which you can download to your computer before uploading it to your new site. After you upload the zip package, you will need to upload the installer.php file and launch it in your browser.
That will allow the Duplicator plugin to extract your files from the zip package and install your entire database on your new site, along with your WordPress plugins and themes. After your database installation is complete, you will be introduced to the update page, where you will need to update your URLs. That is when you simply type in your new domain name and, presto, you have successfully switched to the new site.
Set up 301 Redirects
Setting up permanent 301 redirects in your .htaccess file is crucial when you make a domain change since that code will redirect your visitors, not to mention Google, to your new site, thus ensuring you don’t lose your traffic and your ranking. Both direct and search traffic will be automatically redirected to your new domain, the importance of which simply cannot be stressed enough. If you don’t set up 301 redirects properly, or if you don’t set them up at all, you will lose all traffic and SERP ranking, which will negatively influence your reputation.
Notify Google about the Domain Change
You need to notify Google about your change of domain so that your new site can be displayed in the search results instead of the old one. You can do that with the use of the Change of Address tool in Google Webmaster Console. When Google updates your new domain name in their system, your new website will be verified and ready for the increase in traffic and rankings. Note that it would be very useful to notify your visitors about the domain change as well, by publicly announcing this in a blog post on your new website, for example.
If you follow all the steps from this guide provided by AltusHost, you will successfully change your domain without losing your organic traffic and SERP ranking, thus ensuring you maintain your credibility and your business success. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us or leave a comment in the comments section below and we will be happy to help.