Time for a change

How to complete an effective domain migration

Changing your domain name

- 3 minute read

Businesses change their name for a wide variety of reasons, the business has changed direction, has rebranded due to market research, has been through a merger, or simply the business is looking for a fresh start.

So you’ve decided you’re going to change your business name, maybe even got as far as thinking about the new branding. Now, what about your domain name?

When businesses first set up the most common approach is to buy a domain name that matches the business name. Nothing wrong in that at all, that’s what we did. The trick is that domains come in two parts, the name you decide upon and the extension (or Top Level Domain, also known as TLD), that’s the .nz, .co.nz, .com etc part.

While all extensions are technically equal they command authority very differently. For example, is company.biz as authoritative as company.nz or company.com? What about regional differences, for example in New Zealand .nz and .co.nz are well respected, and sure there are plenty of .com’s out there too, but we’re very tuned into the .nz extension.

Head across the ditch and you’ll see a lot more .com’s and of course .au’s, but not too much in the way of .nz's. Head further afield to the states and .com and .net are everywhere, in the UK .com, .co.uk and .net are all highly popular. So how do you go about choosing?

Its worth taking time to think about your market, where is your customer base now and where are you looking to go as the business grows as this can affect your choice of extensions.

Ok, so you’ve decided on a name and a few extensions. Before you reach for the credit card lets think about the domain name history. Has it been used before and if so what is that history, or more importantly, what is its reputation. Rather like a used car you want to know the domain hasn’t been thrashed so badly the engine is about to fall out. This is important because if the reputation of a domain is poor this could seriously hurt your search engine rankings. One of the most effective ways to find out is to check the backlinks for the domain, if they are low ranking or spam links this could cause ranking problems. Fortunately there are ways of cleaning bad backlinks up, but you’ll want to ensure you do this before you move your website to your new domain, and if there are more than a couple you’ll need to set aside time to deal with this. If the reputation is extremely poor it may be more prudent to look at other options.

Your next job is to update your website and get your content ready to go. Get this done before you launch your new domain as this will reduce any negative impact on your SEO. Now is also a good time to think about your URL redirects to ensure visitors to your old site get appropriately directed to your new site. This is vital because it will move all your SEO from your old site to your new site.

Great, you’ve migrated to your new domain and everything looks awesome. Just before you grab that beer make sure you tell Google about the change - do this from the dashboard of Google Webmaster Tools.

While you’re there whip up a new XML sitemap. Of course you’ll already have one for your old website which means over time you will see the old domain being de-indexed and the new domain taking over.

Happy days, you’ve just migrated to a new domain name.



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