Under ideal circumstances, the domain name that you use for any given website will never change. However, there may come a time when it’s advantageous or necessary to move to a new domain. Such site migrations can hurt your visibility in the SERPs if not done properly. Do the following to ensure that Google knows about your move.
Lay the Groundwork Beforehand
Before you enable the new domain name, it’s crucial that you guarantee a smooth transition. This mostly comes down to configuring 301 redirects within your .htaccess file so that followers trying to visit the old URLs don’t see a 404. Once your new domain is live, you can ditch the old one.
Verify the New Site with Google
If you don’t have a Google account, it’s time to get one. Once you’ve signed up for a service like Gmail, you get access to a slew of helpful SEO tools. Go to your Google Search Console a.k.a Webmaster Tools panel, add the new domain and verify that you own it.
Submit a Change of Address Request
Within your Search Console or Webmaster Tools panel, you’ll find a Change of Address tool. When you click on the “Change of Address” tab, you’ll be prompted to enter your information and answer a few questions such as whether or not you’re keeping the same URL structure and sitemap.
Monitor and Rectify URL Errors
If all goes well, Google will update your domain change without a lot of fuss. That means that they’ll simply assign the same clout and authority that your old pages had to the new ones under the new URL. Use the Fetch as Google tool to re-crawl pages after you’ve fixed a page throwing errors.
Check for Drops in SERPs Rankings
Keeping an eye on site and page traffic is necessary during the first few days and weeks after a migration. Look at where your most popular pages are appearing in the SERPs for specific keyword phrases. If your rankings do dip significantly, contact Google support staff for further guidance.
Simple Tips for an Easier Move
If you’re moving a site to a new domain, hold off on major modifications. Keeping the same URL structure is recommended if you want to save on legwork. Don’t go from HTTP to HTTPS by default until a week or two after the switch. Avoid major UI redesigns for a while to avoid confusing visitors.