There are numerous websites that get their start on WordPress and then relocate to a new domain as they grow. WordPress is a phenomenal starting point for online entrepreneurs, however, some find it time to either rebrand or find a fantastic deal on a premium new domain that is too good to pass up.
The good news is making the transition from WordPress to a new domain is straightforward. However, doing so without losing crucial SEO ranking is a little more complicated. Yet it is possible to maintain strong SEO from all your hard work in the past while transferring to a new domain, here is how:
Before you take any step you should always create a full backup of the previous WordPress site. Can you imagine all the pain and frustration from losing vital data during the transfer? Most people don’t even want to think about this possibility, so the best advice is also the simplest: make sure you create a full backup of the WordPress website before moving forward.
VaultPress, BackupBuddy, BackWPup or the WordPress backup to Dropbox plugins are all quick and easy to use means for a website backup.
Steps to Switch a Domain
Switching a WordPress site to a new domain is very simple with the Duplicator plugin. It involves a few easy to follow steps:
1- Install Duplicator and create a new package
2- Create a new MySQL database for the site
3- Upload the installer and archive files to a new domain
4- Run the Duplicator install
It is as easy as 1-2-3-4. Duplicator does most of the leg work and walks you through the steps with the only recommendation being that you are familiar with FTP going into the process.
Now if you only want to switch the domains and don’t really care about transferring SEO as well, your work here is done. But for most people on the web they want to also transfer their SEO rankings which is where the real fun begins.
Here is How to Keep Your SEO Rankings
In order not to lose all your hard work on getting ranked higher in Google for SEO purposes after a domain switch you need to
A.) set up 301 redirects and
B.) inform Google about your domain name change.
Step 1: Create 301 Redirects
301 redirects send all traffic and links from your old domain to a new domain. The best way to think of 301 redirects is like a sign posted in a physical storefront that tells people ‘We have moved to a new location’. It informs web browsers (and most importantly search engines) that your site has permanently relocated.
While people rely more on search engines than ever before, 301 redirects can also immediately transfer web users that type in your old domain name to the new domain.
301 redirects are vital to maintaining strong SEO rankings because:
● They preserve all your traffic, serving as a reroute for individuals that typed in the old domain name.
● Maintain the SEO value of links that were previously directed to the old domain.
301 redirects are very easy to establish. The one drawback? You will have to keep paying for the old domain name. Why? Because the moment you stop leasing a domain the second it hits the market again and is no longer yours. And that means you no longer own it, so the redirects are inactive in the event someone else purchases the domain.
Thankfully, at between $10 and $20 a year, keeping an old domain is a tiny price to pay for maintaining a strong SEO ranking.
How to setup a permanent 301 redirect:
1- Connect to your old site using FTP and edit the .htaccess file.
2- Open the .htaccess file and paste the following code at the top of the file:
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.newsite.com/$1 [R=301,L]
*NOTE: Replace the ‘newsite.com’ with your actual domain name.
Once you have applied the coding change in FTP, test out the redirect. Visit your old site by typing in the old domain. Does it automatically redirect you to the new domain? Good, you have successfully established a permanent 301 redirect.
Step 2: Notify Google that your domain has been changed
Google has made this process a lot easier by providing a form that you can fill out to inform the search engine about the change. Please note that you need to already have an account established with Google Search Console. You can sign up for an account by visiting: https://search.google.com/search-console/about
After you log-in, click on the website and scan the left menu under configuration. You can get step-by-step directions here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/83106?hl=en
Continue Monitoring SEO after a Domain Change
The reality is your SEO will take a momentarily hit because of a domain change. The magnitude of a change like this is comparable to a physical storefront moving to a new location. It’s going to take people (and more appropriately search engines) time to adjust to the change. It’s completely normal so patience is a virtue.
The good news is this negative effect is very short term if you properly notify Google and also setup 301 redirects. You can make the transition much less impactful by following the above easy tricks for moving a WordPress site to a new domain.
Additionally, you may want to consider emailing the people that link to you and ask them to update the links to the new domain, create a new Google Analytics account, and update all your social media. It is also a very good idea to create a new post at the top of your old site and new site, informing readers about the transition. The public notice about the migration serves two purposes:
A) it helps remind regular visitors about the new domain and
B) allows them to be patient about bugs that may occur as a result of the domain migration.
It’s not a bad idea to provide a method of contact in the public notice so visitors can contact you if they spot anything on the new site acting unusual.