There may come a time in your digital journey when, for one reason or another, you will want to know how to change domain name.
Whether it is because you discovered a better serving URL or due to a rebranding, changing domains is a hard decision to make.
What makes the decision difficult is the fact that your current Google rankings are most likely going to suffer, at least for the short term.
Therefore, in this blog post, we will analyze the steps that need to be taken to update your domain name and avoid getting SEO problems.
How To Migrate Site To New Domain (The Tech Part)
Switching domains sounds like an easy thing to do. In fact, it is not hard, but there are several technical steps that need to be taken. We will analyze them below.
The first and most important step is to backup every aspect of your website. If you are hosting your website on WordPress, this step is mandatory.
You can use plugins to complete the backup process and save yourself some time and headaches.
However, it’s better to do everything manually. Use an FTP program, such as Transmit, add it to your website and copy all of the files under your website’s directory to a folder in your computer.
Also, copy the .htaccess file that is usually hidden. With the help of your FTP program, display those hidden files and add these to the folder of your copies.
Depending on the size of the media uploads on your website, the copying process may take some time.
Perform An Audit
Before you change domains, it is a good idea to create an overview of all your statistics.
This will not only help you understand how your website is performing, but it will also guide you as a benchmark after the domain name change is completed.
A great way to start is with a backlink audit, which we will talk about in detail, in a later chapter.
You also want to use Google Search Console to do an audit on the top keywords that drive people to your website. You can follow this guide to learn how to do this.
301 Redirect Everything
When you change your domain, your audience will in many instances still visit your old website. To make everything transit smoothly, you can redirect this traffic to your new domain through 301 redirects.
Setting up a 301 redirect will not only help users find the correct page; it also informs search engines that your website has been transferred to a new location.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to go through each and every page manually. You can input a “wild card” redirect in your .htaccess file which will transfer everything on a domain level.
What this means is that a wild card automatically turns all your old domain URLs into 301 redirects, which lead to your new domain.
Even if you decide to go with the automatic process, it is still very important to set some time aside to go through everything manually. If time is pressing you, consider using a tool like 301 checker.
Keep The Same URL Structure
You may want to consider keeping the same URL structure while going through the domain name change process.
The process is already lengthy and puzzling enough on how it is. Consider waiting for a few months after the domain transfer.
When the moving process has completed and the traffic is back to normal levels, you can think about your URL changes again.
In Google Search Console, you can submit an official change of address.
To do this, log into your Google Search Console Account, and click the site you want to move from.
Click on the little gear icon, and select Change of Address.
Google will automatically update the domain in their engine so your listings are up to date.
You can learn more about this tool here.
Migrating Site And Keeping Google Rankings
In order to maintain your Google rankings, you will need to maintain an overview and monitor your existing backlinks.
Using a tool like Linkody will make this process fast and easy, ensuring that your new website maintains its ranking. Here is how you connect your domain.
STEP 1: After creating an account, connect Linkody with your Google Analytics
STEP 2: Add your (old) domain so that Linkody finds all your existing backlinks
STEP 3: You can add known competitors so you can explore their backlink strategy
STEP 4: If you are using Ahrefs, you will be able to connect it with Linkody
Find Backlinks for Your OLD Domain
As described in the previous chapters, before changing your domain, you need to perform an audit.
The most important part of your audit and the one we will analyze further below are your backlinks. This step is very important for your SEO, will help you maintain clarity and minimize ranking problems.
In order to perform a really good audit, you will need the best backlink checker. Linkody not only has the best performing tool, but also has many free tools.
STEP 1: Add your domain
Make sure to allow Linkody to discover backlinks automatically.
STEP 2: Finding your old backlinks
Once your domain has been loaded, which may take a few minutes, you will be able to see a number of links leading to your website on the right side.
Click on your domain and Linkody’s Dashboard will open. Click on Backlinks, from the options on the top of the menu.
STEP 3: Create a copy of your existing backlinks
Next, go through and review all the links, looking for the best-quality ones and highlighting them.
With Linkody’s free tool you can do so for up to 500 links. If you want to check more links, all of which can be downloaded as a CSV file, you will need to acquire the premium version.
If you have the premium version, you can click on Export in CSV, from the right side of the backlink overview.
The download will start immediately.
Migrating Backlinks To The NEW Domain
After creating a copy of your existing backlinks, you have to inform Linkody about your new domain.
Linkody will not look for new links to your old domain but this functionality helps to check when manually added or imported links have been added to the new domain.
So, it’s quite useful
STEP 1: Add the new domain
Click on ADD NEW DOMAIN and add your new website.
STEP 2: Go to Settings and add your old domain.
Hover over the tab that includes your new website and on the far right side you will see the Settings button. Click on it and select Configure.
On the box under Old (redirected) Domain, add the URL of your old website.
Save the changes and you are all set. Linkody will use this information to manually cross-check added or imported links.
Getting Old Backlinks Back
Now, let’s import some backlinks to your new website.
STEP 1: On the homepage of Linkody, click on click on your new domain, go to the Backlinks tab and find a button on the upper left corner called ADD LINKS.
STEP 2: You can either choose to upload a single link or import a CSV file. We will go for the CSV Import so we can import the list we previously downloaded.
STEP 3: Select the CSV file you want to upload and click on import links.
Once added, Linkody will recognize your backlinks since they were on your old domain as well.
It will take a few minutes to upload and, once done, you will be able to see all the links in the backlinks area of your new domain.
You will now have the complete overview of your existing backlinks, who are however still linking to your old domain.
If, however, you implemented the 301 redirects, all old backlinks will automatically lead the traffic to your new domain.
After completing the transition, your new website is ready and we have to trust that Google will do its part also.
In the meantime, it is important to stay on top of your SEO activities, monitor your backlinks and analyze existing data.
The first and most important thing to do when reviewing your existing backlinks is to see which links are broken and reach out to the webmasters to fix the issue.
STEP 1: When checking your backlinks, hover over Status and check all buttons that indicate broken or inactive links.
STEP 2: Once you click on Filter, you will only be able to see the links that are broken or not active.
STEP 3: Now, export the list in .pdf or .csv and start contacting all the websites manually or through an Email Outreach tool.
In this way, you will be able to see all the webmasters who still haven’t updated your domain from the old to new.
So, you can contact these site owners to send them a friendly reminder that your domain name has changed and they should link with the new domain name instead.
Remember to schedule a follow-up email in case you don’t get a reply on your first email.
And if you are looking for a guide on how to automate the outreach part – here’s the ultimate guide.
Now that you know how to migrate your backlinks to a new domain, let’s have a quick recap. Here is the process you will have to go through, once your new website is ready:
- STEP 1: Add your old domain to Linkody.
- STEP 2: Find your backlinks and download a copy in .csv format.
- STEP 3: Add your new domain on Linkody.
- STEP 4: Import the .csv file with your old backlinks in the new domain’s dashboard.
- STEP 5: Find which backlinks have been removed or are broken, by filtering out all the ones that are OK.
- STEP 6: Contact the websites which removed your link and find a way to get your link back.
In case you want to learn more about link monitoring – head over here. Our guide will help you become a pro in no time.