It might be happening that you want to change the domain name of your website in the future. Moving to a new domain is easy as you only need to backup the site and transfer all the contents, but switching to a new domain name without affecting SEO is not a simple task that requires a strategic practice. In the following, we’d like to tell you how to move to new domain intelligently by making use of some powerful tools, without the possibilities of losing Google ranking and affecting your website SEO.
Before the Domain Transfer
Many webmasters have dozens of reasons of why they move their mature website to a new domain. For instance, they may want to rebrand their sites or they find the domain they currently use is too narrow-focused. However, few of them realize that this practice can have a negative impact on their search engine rankings. If you fail to carry out the migration carefully, you might be losing all the authority and popularity you have built on the site permanently.
Generally, search engines utilize some special metrics and characteristics to determine the overall ranking of a website. All of these statistics are linked to your domain. In this case, if you switch to a new one, the data will be reset to zero, thus affecting your rankings as search engines need time to adjust to the changes.
In fact, this impact is normal, happening to all the sites changing the domain name. Thus, there is no need to worry about this, but the core is to decrease the negative SEO effects and keep the effects temporarily within a short period of time.
Steps of Moving to A New Domain
Frankly speaking, the process of moving to a new domain is not difficult. However, if you are a newbie, this may take you some time and energy. In the following, we have listed the detailed steps for doing so.
Step 1 – Choose and Purchase a New Domain Name
To begin with, you need to decide a proper domain name for your website. And then, you should purchase this domain from a reliable domain registrar. This requires you to think about the charges, server configurations, needed space and many more.
Personally speaking, we recommend you to register the domain with your current web hosting company. This way, the service provider may give you the utmost convenience to finish the transfer practice. However, if you make sure that you may change the domain one more time in the future, you’d better choose the third party providers to avoid the potential penalty and complications.
Step 2 – Make the Full Backup of Your Website
To entirely move your website to a new domain, you surely have to make a full backup of all the content, files and data of your site.
If your website is a WordPress based one, you can consider the utilization of WordPress backup plugins. BackWPup, for instance, is a widely used tool to make the full or the partial backup files manually or based on your planned schedule.
When starting the new backup job, you can decide whether to make the backup for database and files. Surely, for the full migration, you should choose everything related to your website. In this case, when you move to the DB Backup tab and the Files tab to choose which database tables and file folders to backup, you should tick the checkbox for everything.
Even, you can store the backup file to your wanted location for the afterwards steps.
When all the settings are decided, the backup process will start automatically.
It is possible that you cannot use the WordPress plugins to finish the backup process. If so, you can use your control panel. Here, we take the cPanel as an example.
- Click the MySQL Database Wizard icon under the Database section.
- Hit the Backup button in the next screen and choose the Full Backup option.
- Download the backup file to your hard drive or computer.
Even, you can use phpMyAdmin to backup your database and the FTP for your website files.
Step 3 – Finish the DNS Setup
Now, you should finish the DNS setup and wait to propagate. Here, you can ask your hosting provider to do this for you. Most web hosts offer this service. In this case, you just need to contact the support team and ask for help.
Step 4 – Import Your Backup File
Once the DNS setup is finished properly, you should upload your backup file into the new environment. Surely, you can do this easily if you run a WordPress website. For this, you simply need to leverage the Duplicator plugin to move and transfer your full site. We have already introduced how to use Duplicator for content moving.
If you need to do this manually, you can follow the below steps.
- Enter MySQL Database Wizard from your control panel to create a new database.
- Create the database user with the proper username and password. Do not forget to specify the privileges.
- Open and edit your wp-config.php file. After finding the DB_User, DB_Name and DB_PASSWORD options, you should change the value with your new database information.
- Enter the Backup Wizard from the control panel Files section.
- Click the Restore button and upload your backup file.
- The last two steps can be replaced with the utilization of your FTP clients and phpMyAdmin.
As everything is done, you can open your website to check whether there are any missing contents or broken links.
Minimize SEO Impacts with the 301 Redirection
You have moved your whole site from the old domain to the new one successfully. And the next thing to do is setting up permanent 301 redirects to lead visitors and search engines to your current website. This step is very important as it tell everyone that your site has permanently moved.
In fact, the HTTP response status code of 301 is used for permanent redirection, meaning that the current links included in your site should be updated to the new ones. Honestly speaking, from the SEO perspective of view, the 301 redirects are capable of passing through the link juice of any links, pointing to the old domain to the new domain, without losing the search engine rankings.
The 301 redirects can be added through the .htaccess file if you are using a Linux server. The needed lines of code are as following.
If you are the user of a Windows server, you can do this through the web.config file or IIS. Whatever the server you are using, the core is that you need to ensure that every page of the old site is directed to the corresponding one on the new site.
You can check this post of how to create the 301 redirect for WordPress sites with some alternative methods.
Inform Search Engines and Visitors of the Migration
In fact, you now can be lead to your new domain automatically if you enter the old domain name. However, you still need to notify the changes to both search engines and visitors manually.
- To search engines – There is a Google tool available called Google Webmaster Tools. This tool can tell search engines you have moved to a new domain. You can do this using its Change of Address feature.
- To visitors – You can notify your visitors by making a public announcement. For instance, you can create a standard blog post on the new site explaining that you have moved to a new domain. Or, you can create a switching page with the migration message attached.