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Why Do You Need to Change Your Domain?
You have planned and been able to succeed in creating the website as you have envisioned it to launch fresh online!
It went live to business and is running online as you have expected. The primary content, design structure, configuration, sitemap, navigation, and all other aspects that you think will stand out to your users are all set on your website. You can connect the dots into one excellent website design, SEO, and organic traffic that your site has been able to generate for quite a while. Suddenly, the ever-changing customer environment has presented you factors that cause you to rationalize your ideas for website migration. Reasons that trigger you to think of changing your domain. Such as a change in the domain name, move to a new, more manageable CMS, more stable framework or server, migrate part of the website, cope with the trend on unique user experience, a brand change or rebranding, issues on tons of bugs to fix, cost-efficacy and security.
You, as well as many others, have gone through exploring the possibility of changing your domain! Imagine at the time you are registering your website. As frequently as it happens, you realize that your domain seems to lose its connection to your brand, and your users. It is dropping search visibility or the need to add value-adding functions, the vulnerability to hackers, have a website that loads faster, and even the trend of having a mobile version of your website. Yes, these are circumstances that require you to consider getting your website’s old domain or expired domain with new fresh pages, a new domain name that goes along with your growing brand, and the essential web content that needs complete webpage redesign structure or website migration from your old domain to a new domain. These are the reasons why you need to change your domain.
Domain migration can be complicated, and to help you in such a challenging process, we have prepared you with a domain migration checklist that comprises essential ways you can use as your guide when you are changing your domain. It is mainly based on our learning experience on reasons and issues faced with domain migrations and how to manage problems that can occur in the process. This checklist can help you to ease the certainty of your domain migration without suffering significant losses or impairment. Instead, gears you up towards the protection of your website investment and engage more users:
1. Domain-Based Licenses
The first step would include the need to think about your domain-based licenses, as well as any third-party scripts or plugins that you are using. Some of these may require registration or a license that supports product licenses for the commercial or intended use. Your domain-based licenses would provide information associated with your domain use, and it functions without enforcing hard user limitations as you have signed and as described in your user license agreement. For instance, if you use adobe fonts from TypeKit.com and will have to update your “Kit” to work with your new domain. Typekit’s function, among other third-party scripts, provides secure web font hosting with unlimited great quality fonts at your fingertips, and subscription license that is cleared for personal and commercial use. There are a lot more than these scripts that bring a variety of licensed functionalities, which you can embed in your webpages, such as ads, analytics, widgets, free images, free video and other scripts or plugins that enable a responsive website. You would want these to be one significant component of your new website when you are done with the domain migration, and your new website goes live.
2. Update Backlinks
You need to contact the webmasters of the websites that were linking to your old domain and request to have them link to the new one. In most cases changing your domain can be simple, but it needs you to be diligent enough to review your existing backlinks as well as the destination domain to ensure it has a clean past. Otherwise, it may cause you with a negative effect on the search engine optimization (SEO) performance of your site. Your website SEO ensures visibility and traffic of your site among search engine result pages (SERP). And the more important benefit of reviewing your backlinks, you would want to identify and keep an update of your most significant external links. This will also determine the type of web sources that are referring to your domain, as well as discover the strong links of your competitor and check which of these are links that can be your trusted web resources. Surely you would not want to lose these success essentials of your new website.
3. Sitemap The Old Domain
Create a sitemap for your old domain to ensure all of your URLs are listed, accessible for testing, and better search queries by search engine crawlers such as Google and Bing. You can use Google Search Console or GSC (formerly Webmaster Tools) to create your sitemap for Google to place a formatted XML file with a sitemap on your webserver. Once you have created your XML sitemap, it will allow (google) search engine crawlers to understand the full content and site configuration of your old domain that will form part of your domain migration process and the launching success of your new domain. Your old domain sitemap provides an organized way to identify the URLs and the data on every section for a faster and efficient search query. From this, the crawlers will have a better index of your site to provide it with the most relevant search query results useful for the domain migration.
So, better ensure that your old domain would have an error-free sitemap and that you have a text sitemap too for a plain and easy listing of all your pages. Also, check xml-sitemaps.com on how to generate your sitemap online.
4. Check SERPs
Monitor search engine results to make sure the new domain is being properly indexed. SERP or Search Engine Result Pages will put your website ranking higher to enable more searchers to click on your website. When search engines respond to a query made by a user, it displays SERP. These pages are unique and list the results in response to a different search or keyword queries used when a searcher is searching for their results. You can use google ads keyword planner, ahrefs.com, and other SERP Checkers for your new domain. The advantage when you use Ahrefs you can get an in-depth look at the profile or search traffic of your new domain and how the search engines (google, bing, youtube, amazon, yahoo, etc.), are ranking your website. See to it that you have a couple of SERP checkers listed in your domain migration checklist.
5. Test 301 Redirects
To know and check the status of your website links and analyze their path, you need to test the redirects from the old domain to the new domain. It is essential that when your user clicks any URL, they know where they are sent. So, ideally, this will be a 1:1 redirect (www.example-old-site.com/category/sexy-mustaches.html to www.example-new-site.com/category/sexy-mustaches.html). It allows you to test these webpages one-is-to-one to check your landing pages.
To check the URLs and correct any redirect chains, you need to download a list of all internal pages and redirects of your old domain. This will effectively perform the testing of all redirects from your old domain to the new one. There are Test Redirects tools such as Google Optimize that you can use but make it as simple as you can to visualize your redirect path, determine your cookie alert or suspicious links, or identify the need for the full redesign of one of your webpage, or just to discover how many redirects your domain migration would undoubtedly have. You might see too many redirects to use.
6. Change Internal Links
Make sure you take special care of the quality and not only on the number of your internal links when you change your domain as it will affect the strength of your new domain and the performance of your landing pages. Do not forget to change the internal links of your new domain to point them to the correct elements or URLs. Same with your external links, the URLs of your internal links are of relevance too, check that you are not carelessly omitting each URL. And that these links all pointing correctly deep down to your target webpage. Your internal links connect the content of your website. Thus, it provides an idea to Google of the structure of your new domain. When you have correctly checked and updated your internal links, it is easy for your new domain to boost its SEO and emphasize the most important contents and webpages of your website.
Bear in mind that internal links are your tool to keep users in the same tab, as it helps them better understand the navigation structure of your website and stay quite long in navigating the entire website. So, maintain your internal links to serve this purpose and point it to the element, usually further down or up your webpage, and that element you are linking to opens within the same tab that the user is on. Ahrefs.com can be useful in checking how your internal links intersect and changing these internal links to point to the URLs,
7. Update Local Citations
Update Any Listings You Have in Business Directories or other local site citations. Crawlers would find any instance anywhere online, such as a citation of your Name, Address, and Phone (NAP). Local citations are the best options when you would want your new domain to get the attention of search engines or your potential customers. Citation building takes some time, but it effectively lasts long, though. Better make sure 100% accuracy of your NAP or your business information as a whole as this will be the launch-pad of your local citations.
Make no mistake, and once your information goes out across the internet, authentic information performs better than those erroneously built business information as it affects the level of authority for your desired citation. And having said that, authenticity gets a vantage point in citations. You need to eliminate duplicates with those businesses that already exist (some may have closed already, yet it contains similar business information that you also have), which will make all your local citations meaningless. A content audit is essential to make it right the first time before you do the actual submission or registrations to relevant directories.
8. The New Domain Sitemap
Creating and submitting a new sitemap to the search engines will indicate any new URL that is not present in the old domain. Building a list that will show the hierarchical order of all your site pages (including images, videos, and other assets) is one way to create the sitemap for your new site. Ensure to re-create your XML sitemap for your new domain, and test both your old and new sitemap thoroughly before submitting it to Google. Do each URL in your old sitemap correctly with a 301 redirect to your new domain pages. Once you are sure that both of the old and new sitemaps have no errors, you submit both to Google Search Console (GSC). You can also create your sitemaps in WordPress.
9. Don’t Move and Redesign at the Same Time
There are plenty of notions why you choose to change your domain. These can be reasons such as the need for a website rebranding or website redesign. You may want to indicate in your domain migration checklist, to do this big step in two phases. First, move your site; and Second, launch your redesign. Domain migration can manage the extent of change variables that your users see at any time in these phases, and make it smoother. Keeping the variables to a minimum will also make it easier to troubleshoot any unexpected behavior of your user preferences.
Indeed, migrating your domain while at the same time making other significant changes would not benefit you at all. Instead, it would cause you difficulties to both complete the domain migration and the redesign work. Add to these difficulties; troubleshooting would be another pain in the migration process, especially in spotting what is causing any issues in the domain migration. It would be best not to try these significant changes at all while doing the domain migration – changing your content management system or similar content software you are using, editing your website design or content, and the reconfiguration of your website structure. Check with Google Search Console on domain migration tools.
10. Create Content
Create content such as contact information, description of your company, an indication of plans, and something that is link-worthy for your new domain. Start building your links early. When carrying out the domain migration of your old domain to the new domain site, make sure that everything is working and are diligently checked before you launch your website. Ensure that all of its design works, utilities are working; nothing may pose an issue, especially your content or nothing will make your website fall apart while your customers are inside your new domain. Diligently assess your old website before you automatically create your new website content.
It makes sense, so you will not end up in duplicate content issues that may penalize your new domain. Hiring a Content Writing Expert to check for content issues such as plagiarized and low-quality content or pages will be a handy move. Improve your content titles, headlines, paragraphs, grammar, tone, features, scannability, clarity, engagement, and keywords enrichment are vital factors you should ensure in creating your content to benefit with higher ranking results. If you have spammy indicators, search engine features with search result pages that are “no-indexed,” a consolidated main page for each of your services or products, and self-canonicalizing content pages will all assure you of a content-issue free domain.
11. Update Your Ads
Don’t forget to update your AdWords or Google Ads, Microsoft ads center, and other integrated toolsets for a smooth domain migration and simplified task restructuring in your new domain or active directory domain services. When you migrate your old domain to your new domain, your site’s URL structure should change too. This change will need you to update all your ads to send this to the new URLs and prevent your website from sending traffic to non-existent URLs “404s,” which is a violation of the Google Ad Grant policy. Such violations may stop your ads campaign that can jeopardize your new domain. There is another way, though, and you can either have a “temporary fix” by setting-up 301redirects for all URLs that are changing.
These 301 redirects may not be an ideal solution because they are not allowed by Google Ads policy, but it can be an excellent remedy for that time. It is unlikely to get flagged by Google Ads, or you can do the “right long-term” solution by manually updating all ads URLs to the new URLs. You can use Google Analytics to pull a list of all the final URLs that are in use in the Google Ads account. Once done, you can log into Google Ads and modify in batches any ads that are sending to the same URL so you will not do it one-by-one. Finally, make sure that you are looking at all campaigns, click the “Ads” drop-down tab to pull-up a list of all of the ads in the account. Then ensure that you enable the “All ads” tab to make sure swapping-out old URLs even for paused or deleted ads to re-enable them in the future. A backup plan is crucial to be visible for those terms necessary for the new website to help make up for any shortfall. Thus, making one would be a great help.
12. Recrawl The Old Domain
Submit your old sitemap to the search engines such as Google and Bing. You can check the submission pages in Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools), and other search engines to enable them to crawl your old URLs. It will check that there are 301 redirects so that Google or Bing are all able to re-index it accordingly. Crawling may take long, from a few days to a few weeks which requires your patience and close monitoring as it progresses using the Index Status report or the URL Inspection tool. There might be different ways and means, such as the use of WordPress plugins to recrawl your old site. You just have to see to it that your new website’s listing in the search engine is updated until it is time the crawlers were able to complete the recrawling of your old domain to properly re-index it.
13. Going Live
Set up the new website and make it live to mark the exciting bit of your domain migration efforts and when your diligent planning comes together into work. In the launch process, you pay attention to several details that you need to implement. Rolling it out steadily and deliberately will ensure you cover all elements and easily spot anything that can go wrong, which makes you smoothly anticipate total control in launching your new domain. Make sure you created a shared virtual disk before launch.
After you have set all your pre-live domain migration steps, you need to ensure that you can migrate any recently added, modified, or new content by running a delta bridge. Usually, a delta bridge is much faster than an initial migration, make sure you are using the same bridge to migrate the domain data. The delta bridge can identify and migrate to the new domain any new content and skip-over objects that have migrated from the old domain. You have to publish your website on its new domain that will look the same to the old site, but this time with added features and updated internal links. Open your newly migrated domain for business by removing the password protection, meta robots, no index tags, and the line that disallows access in robots.txt file. You are now live, search engines can crawl your new site, and customers can now see your content.
14. Migration 404s
Create a custom 404 page or “page not found” for the old domain, which suggests visiting your new domain. Using Google Search Console, double-check for 40