Transferring your website to a new domain can be a tedious task. Whether you are rebranding, want a more defined digital presence (such as a .tech or .org domain), or consolidating multiple existing sites into one, ensuring that the transition goes smoothly is essential to maintaining search engine rankings and providing a good customer experience. To learn what is needed to move your data to a new domain effectively, read on.
Planning A Migration
So, you’ve finally decided that domain migration for your business is an ideal choice. To ensure that the process goes smoothly, the next step is to establish a step-by-step plan. Before you decide to launch, collecting the information you will need will put your business in an ideal position to succeed.
Step 1: Research your new domain history
This should go without saying, but on the potential new domain name, you should do some research. Check whether there are any backlinks circulating that reference that domain. Is there any context that is indexed? This could lead to potential problems in the future if it does not coincide with the message of your business.
Step 2: Verify through Google Search Console
Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools, is an accumulation of SEO tools and reporting features from Google. This resource will provide you with direct insight into how your website is perceived by the search engine. Verifying ownership of your site with Google will provide a secure information exchange channel for your company and Google. For many reasons, this is beneficial, such as analysing the search queries of your visitors to the site.
Step 3: Create a list of all your URL addresses
First, scan your website using a web crawler (sometimes called a spider) to set up your current website for success. This systematically browses the web for your website-related information, finding all the URLs that Google will see. If you have a CMS, collect all Google Analytics data as well as external tools that show what other websites your company is associated with. Use this list to measure the optimization and performance of the site’s redirects.
Step 4: Upload a holding page for the new domain
When a parked domain becomes active, this tactic should be carried out to notify Google. With the transfer of your search rankings, this phase alleviates any potential delays. It will make it easier for anyone searching for you to update any contact data and any relevant information you might have. You should have hosting for the old and new domains for the short term, so that the redirection can be as seamless as possible. In order to determine when the old domain stops receiving traffic, monitor the server log files.
Step 5: Benchmark your website’s current rankings
To evaluate the migration of your website, you should have a clear idea of how well your site is doing in real-time. This means knowing the appearance of your current domain, what it is ranked for, and how much traffic it experiences. Search ranking software like The Hoth, SEMrush, Google Search Console, and Google Analytics can all be very helpful. Consolidating this information in a spreadsheet is a great way to analyse your visits, conversions, sessions, and bounce rates of recorded data, plus any other relevant data for each URL from your website. Note which particular URLs receive the most rankings and traffic while you’re at it.
Step 6: Map your redirects
An important step is to map your existing URLs to your new ones. Your URLs will most likely remain the same, but instead of the old, with the new domain. This step will help you create XML sitemaps for the new domain later on.
Step 7: Create and test redirects
301 redirects are instructions that have been added to your server that inform anyone requesting an old page that it has been relocated and show them where to go. This step also instructs search engines to give the current one the authority associated with the prior URL. Between old and new URLs, there should only be a single one-to-one redirect. Don’t forget to check the internal links on the new domain page. This process can be helped by a crawler tool.
Step 8: Check Google Analytics tagging
You should now make sure that Google Analytics (or any analytics version) tagging on your new domain is seamless and fully retained. Any discrepancies are covered by checking the site’s development version before launching. You want to be sure that important elements have been preserved, even though it is the same website.
Going Live with Your New Domain
The launch process involves implementing several important elements. To ensure a smooth migration, completing these steps in a steady, deliberate way will help you spot anything that is wrong.
Step 1: Launch your new domain
Publish your website on its new domain. This should simulate your current site, but now with the internal links updated.
Step 2: Open the new Business Domain
Remove password protection, meta robots, index tags, and anything else that prevents the robots.txt file from being accessed. It will now be possible for search engines to browse the site and view your content.
Step 3: Implement redirects
Any old URLs will now directly target the new domain rather than the old domain. Sometimes 1:1 redirect are not possible, and the whole domain will need to be redirected to the new domain. While this is not the best way to do so, it will still be functional in most cases.
Step 4: Use the Change of Address tool for Google
The Google Search Console “Address Change” tool informs Google that your domain has been moved. Note: to use this feature, you must have both domains verified.
Step 5: Instruct Google to analyse the new domain for you
Use Fetch in your Google Search Console to analyse your website and the most important URLs. Ensure that the page is rendered correctly (i.e. Google views your pages like real visitors would). Use the Submit to Index option for that URL to request that a page be indexed accurately.
Step 6: Submit your XML sitemaps
During the few days after migration, the number of indexed pages should increase. In addition, submit the XML sitemap that you have created for your old domain, allowing search engines to crawl your previous URLs, view the 301 redirects, and visit the new domain.
Step 7: Test your redirects
To enter a list of all URLs from your old domain and crawl them, the crawling tool you used during the testing phase should be used. Make sure every URL is properly redirected to the new domain within the crawler software. Before finally landing on the intended URL, check to see how many redirects each request is sent through. As the goal is to have as few redirects as possible.
Step 8: Verify with Google Analytics
Use Real-Time reports from your Google Analytics profile to make sure that your analytics are working properly. Add an annotation to verify when the migration has been initiated, allowing you to see what kind of impact it has on your traffic and if necessary, rename the views and profiles.
Step 9: Update external links
You should update all of the external links that point to your old domain at this point. In order to see if they can update their backlinks, contact site owners where links to your old site appear and explain your situation. Any other links that you can change, such as social profiles and blog reviews, should be updated at this time as well. Don’t forget to make sure your new domain is now being used by any sharing buttons throughout your site.
Monitoring Your Migration
From both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, submit your XML sitemap, which will allow both of them to crawl the URLs in it so that it can be scored.
Create fresh backlinks to the new domain
It’s essential to motivate search engines to crawl through your new domain. Create new data for your website to do this, so that Google has new links to find and crawl. This step will draw attention from search engines to the new site while improving your branding.
Constantly check on your indexation numbers
To check regularly how many of your URLs are indexed by Google, use Sitemaps and Index Status tools within Google’s Search Console. You can also verify the number of pages that they have added to their index if you have set up Bing Webmaster Tools as well.
Crawl the new website for errors
For any problems or errors that visitors or search engines may encounter, check your new domain frequently. For the first few weeks, crawl error reports in the Google Search Console should be checked daily to see if Google identifies any problems that you can fix. This data gives you a great perspective on who can also enhance your SEO abilities.
Verify your rankings and visibility
In the planning stage, the benchmarks used will allow you to monitor how well the new domain is doing for your particular keywords in the ranking. If all goes well as the new domain replaces the old, you will see a cross-over in your charts. You can also compare rankings at the URL level by monitoring when new versions replace the most visible URLs from the old domain.
Check your new traffic and sales
Traffic and transactions are your number one indicator of success. Pay attention to the individual URLs that performed best before the migration and ensure that the new URLs achieve similar performance. If not, an error may occur somewhere.
Maintain your redirects
Keep in place your redirects until all activity on the old domain ceases, so be patient, this process can take many months. You should consider removing them once the old site stops receiving links, social attention, and traffic. Analyzing your server logs is a great way to check it. You can turn off your redirects or edit them to a general redirect platform once you are able to see that Google is no longer visiting your old domain name. To ensure that all visitors continue to be sent to the correct location, it is recommended to keep your redirects in place permanently.
Even if the content of your new website domain remains the same, Google will view it for what appears to be a completely new website. You’re likely to experience some hiccups and changes in your ranking, which affects traffic, but it’s only temporary, not discouraged. The optimal choice to protect the investment you’ve made in your site is still a strategic migration and redirection strategy.
Try implementing this change over a few months to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible (and to make it seem less overwhelming). The migration will be complete before you know it without a huge deterrence in operations.