What Happens if I Change My Domain Name?

What Happens if I Change My Domain Name?

Posted on January 23, 2020 Mary Merritt

When it comes to domain names, think of it like this: the longer your domain has been around, the longer it has been building TRUST with Google and other search engines that try to shadow Google's "rithmics." However, all of the changes in Google continue to show everyone that they are just looking for great brands. That leads me to believe that as long as the domain change improves your company's branding on the web, it can't hurt in the long run. Let's explore a bit.

Keyword-rich TLDs (top level domains) don't matter anymore.

If you've been marketing on the web since the early 2000s, you remember the days of the "domain land rush." Back when using keywords in your top level domain actually mattered to Google, people would buy up domains with good keywords in them to rank. It was just one of many, many ways that a person could game Google. Soon the engineering team at Google started getting annoyed when the SERPs (search engine result pages) were showing 40 variations of "www cottonsocks com." Because of this, they decided that buying a domain name shouldn't hold weight in your positioning.

Changing your domain name can be a good idea, and a bad idea.

It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the change.

We had a client last year that had a VERY generic domain name (for the sake of anonymity, let's just pretend they sold cotton socks, and their domain name was "www cottonsocks com"). It had a lot of history and authority behind it, but it was very generic. There was also a competitor in the search engines that had almost the exact domain name (singular instead of plural, so imagine "www cottonsock com" floating around them in the search engine result pages). When they asked me if they should change their domain to their company name, I told them two things:

  1. Google is looking for awesome brands that stand out and offer a great experience. Changing your domain name to your company name is a great idea for long-term branding effect.
  2. You will see a dip in organic search traffic (more on that below).

So, we decided to launch the new website on the new domain, and there was a very slight dip in traffic from organic sources at first. This particular client panicked, but we understood. If you've been ranking for a keyword for 10 years and then all of a sudden you're not found for it, that's scary! However, instead of looking at what was LOST, perhaps focusing on what was GAINED would help. This client in particular got a lot of new rankings - in January of 2019, they were ranking for around 82 keywords (organic traffic only). In January of 2020 (6 months after launch), they are ranking for around 145 organic keywords (and growing). Plus, the NEW keywords that they rank for are lower volume but much more relevant to their products. That means less competition, and a better user experience overall. We launched the site about 6 months ago from the date of this post, and it just goes to show that it takes time to build your authority back up after a domain change. But does that mean you shouldn't do it? Again, it all goes back to WHY you are thinking of changing your domain name.

In this particular case, the decision to change the domain name was a good one. Long term, it was a good idea. Why? Because being generic on the web these days is just not good practice. Especially with the direction that Google is taking.

What's a good strategy when it comes to changing my domain name?

Without going into too much detail - there are some important steps to follow when you are about to embark on rebuilding your authority under a new address on the web.

  1. Redirects - Just do them. A series of 301 redirects will show Google that you are committed to the switch. Plus, if any of your clients have your website bookmarked, they won't run into confusing 404 errors (page not found). Redirects are pretty technical - let us know if you have any questions!
  2. On-Page Optimization - This is the foundation of your new building. Is it the BIG ANSWER? No. Will it get you all the traffic in the world? Heck no. Is it important for proper search engine theming? Yes. We always try to encourage our clients to keep their websites breezy and simple. Find a balance between structuring the navigation for keyword landscape AND offering a simple user experience.
  3. Content Marketing - Hit it HARD right away. Obviously you ported all of your old blog articles over from your old website to your new website (and new domain) and redirected them properly as well. But once you launch your new website on your new domain - try to post a quality article every week for a couple of months. You can chill out on the frequency a bit after that if you want, or you can keep hitting it hard. Remember, quality over quantity! As long as quality doesn't suffer because you're rushing to push articles and content out there, this can be a great tactic.
  4. Paid Search - While your organic traffic is building back up and Google is re-learning why you exist, set up some relevant paid search campaigns that are targeted around the same keywords that you used for on-page optimization. This will allow you to have top placement while your new rankings are starting to grow.
  5. Resubmit to Google Search Console - If your navigation and experience has changed (and you have a new keyword targeting strategy), resubmit your sitemap to Google's Search Console to make them understand that you want fresh indexing. Remember to check this a few times in the first week to make sure your URLs are being discovered.

So, should I change my domain name?

Yes. No. Maybe...it's definitely worth a conversation. Personally, I think anything that shines a light on your brand and how you are unique is a good thing. It's the same philosophy that made me use www.nerdymind.com for my domain name instead of www seo-agency com. If you have any questions, never hesitate to reach out!