Rebranding your company or website can be highly beneficial as it allows you to reposition your business creatively for increased online recognition and better online visibility.
However, there’s a problem to worry about: you risk losing either your domain authority or organic traffic.
If you’re looking to change your domain name to rebrand for expansion, retaining your site’s authority is vital.
In this guide, you will learn everything you need to know about moving your site to a new domain while preserving your site rankings and authority using 301 redirects.
What is 301 redirect?
301 redirect is a way of sending website visitors to a live URL when the one they originally requested has been moved. Simply put, it is a way for your site to send a quick message to your visitor’s browser that the page they wish to visit has been moved so they can be pointed to a new site or page of your choice.
Why should you care about 301 redirects?
One of the fears of many website owners when it comes to rebranding is the possibility of losing domain authority and search rankings when the site’s URL is changed for any reason. 301 redirects can be the difference between a successful site rebuild and an unsuccessful one.
Here are some reasons 301 redirects are essential:
- Preserve domain authority and search rankings:
Search engine spiders do not like it when they are served with 404 Not Found error response codes. If you move your site without a 301 redirect, your page will be dropped – not demoted to page 2 but dropped altogether. 301 redirects also help to prevent loss of link equity if those pages have inbound links pointing to them.
- Keep visitors engaged:
When visitors are presented with results by search engines and they click on your link that leads to a 404 page, it affects their experience of that site. With 301 redirects, visitors can land on your new site without even lifting a finger, engaging with content that could turn them to a follower or customer.
- Remove old URLs from a search engine index:
Search engines spiders crawl pages of your site from time to time to check for changes. If a search engine spider comes across a 301 redirect, it considers it a sign to remove the old URL from its index and replace it with a new one while still sending visitors to the new domain when they try to access the old one.
How to move to a new domain name without losing SEO rankings
If you’re looking to redesign, restructure or rebrand your website and you don’t want to lose the traffic, domain authority, and traffic you’ve spent years building, you need to have a strategy to achieve that goal. Here’s how to 301 redirect to a new domain without compromising your SEO.
- Ensure that the new domain has a clean past:
Except you are purchasing an entirely new domain name, it’s critical to do your due diligence to ensure that the destination domain has not been penalized before. You can search for the domain on archive.org to see the pages where it was previously displayed.
But if the domain is live in any way, you can simply add it to Google Search Console to see if any manual penalty actions have been applied to it. If there are any, you need to file a reconsideration request to have Google lift those penalties.
- Audit your existing pages:
Before you make the switch, it’s a good idea to make an inventory of your existing pages. You should know exactly what content you have and how to set up your architecture. Auditing your existing pages will help you preserve your content as you move to a new domain name.
Even if you don’t plan to use that old content, you may need to closely replicate what you had before, especially the fonts and headers. Google bots have been crawling and indexing your old content for years, which means you’ve already built domain authority with that content. If you ignore those pages, you will lose what you have gained.
- Over-communicate with customers/followers:
One of the hardest things to do is to convert a visitor to a customer or follower, so why lose them over something as simple as changing your domain name?
Before you make the switch, create a communication outline on how to inform your audience of your plan to switch to another domain name and how it will impact them. It’s easier for people to adapt to a change when they know about it ahead of time. You don’t want your customers to be confused because that will stop them from buying things.
- Migrate the site to your new domain:
Now that you know exactly what’s on your site, it’s time to move everything to the new destination. If you’re keeping all of your old content, all you need to do is simply move it to your new server. Don’t forget to test it to be sure everything is working properly before you move to the next step.
- Set up 301 redirects:
You need to redirect every page on your old domain to the new one and to do this, you will need to first gather old URLs using tools like Google Analytics, XML sitemaps, or crawling apps. There are different ways to set up a 301 redirect on your old pages:
- Add redirects at the server level
- Add redirects through your domain registrar
- Add redirects via Cloudflare
- Add redirects with your host
- Update listings and links:
Once your site is redirected, it’s time to let other sites know that you’ve moved permanently. First, you will want to inform Google by changing your address in the Search Console. Next, you can update your social media profiles with the new domain name. From there, you will want to notify other sites that are linked to your old domain and ask them to link to the new one.
- Monitor your analytics:
After everything is done, you will still need to pay attention to your analytics to monitor unusual changes in traffic. If it doesn’t look like anything has changed for a month, then you have successfully moved to a new domain without any issues. Congratulations!
Changing your domain name can be scary but knowing what to do can go a long way to making the switch easier and risk-free. Having read this far, all your fears about rebranding and losing your domain authority should be dissolved, and you should be confident to change your domain name without hassles.