How To Change Domain Names While Keeping Your Google Ranking

If you’re revamping your business, then you’ll need to change domain names. 

The problem is, your current website would’ve built up hundreds if not thousands of high-quality backlinks.  

Google will notice these links, whether it’s in blog posts or directories, and by changing your domain name, you don’t want to lose all that goodness you worked hard for over the years.

There’s a slight learning curve, and you’ll need to pay attention to many details along the way, but the process is straightforward.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a 9-step process that’ll allow you to change domain names without losing your Google rankings. So when people visit a page on your old website, they’ll land on the appropriate page on your new website.

Step 1: Check If Your New Domain Is Clean

This step doesn’t apply if you bought a brand new domain name. But if you purchased a domain at a domain auction or from someone else, then it’s essential to first check its history. 

It’s almost like buying a used car. You must make sure the previous owner took care of it and that it isn’t damaged.

If you buy a domain name that’s known for promoting spam or low-quality content, then your SEO score will suffer. Google is more likely to view your marketing efforts as spam and it’ll be harder to rank high-quality content.

Luckily, you can solve this problem by heading over to archive.org and typing in the domain name you intend to buy. This free tool gives you a detailed history of the domain name and notifies you of any spam.

You can also use Ahrefs Backlink Checker since it shows the domain name’s overall history.

Once you’re happy with your results, it’s time to review existing backlinks.

Step 2: Review Existing Backlinks And Search Performance

Alongside Google Analytics, Google Search Console is one of the most essential tools that all website owners must use. 

When switching domain names, we’re going to use Google Search Console to check how many sites link back to your current website. We can use this information for a before and after comparison once the entire process is complete.

Using Google Search Console, you can also check:

  • Your website’s performance
  • How Google is indexing your web pages
  • If your site is compatible with mobile devices
  • Which websites are linking back to you

Once you get a good idea of how well your website is performing, we can start replacing your old domain name with a new one.

Step 3: Point Your New Domain To Your Web Hosting Account

Now that you’ve bought a new domain, you need to point it to your current web hosting account.

Regardless of which web hosting provider you’re using, the process is the same. 

Add a new website to your hosting account and click manage. You’ll see two nameservers that start with “ns.1” and “ns.2”. Copy both and head over to your domain name provider.

Go to the domains tab, and change your current nameservers by pasting your new ones.

Step 4: Create An Addon Domain

Next, go to your control panel, and add your new domain as an addon domain on the account of your old domain. 

It’s like a secondary domain on the existing account.

You’ll get an option to make your secondary domain the primary domain, but we’ll do that later.

Step 5: Change Your Domain Name In Your Database

To change your domain name inside your database, go to the control panel of your web hosting account and search for phpMyAdmin. 

Once you log in, you’ll see a huge database that holds the core data for your website.

On the left-hand sidebar, click on the options table. It’ll look something like “wp_options.”

Select this tab and change all references of the old domain name to your new one.

Now, in a new tab, search for your new domain, and if you did it correctly, you’d see that most buttons and pages link to your new domain name. However, some won’t change, and that’s why you’ll need to install a WordPress plugin called “Better Search Replace.”

This plugin will search for all references and change them to another. 

Once the plugin is installed, head over to the “Search For” tab and enter your old domain name. Next, enter your new domain name in the “Replace With” section.

But before you search and replace old references, remember to select all tables. You’ll now see that all old references are replaced with new ones, and if you click on “View Tables,” you can see the before and after results.

Last, go back to the account of your old domain inside the control panel, and make your new website the primary domain.

Now we’ve changed our domain name, but all our backlinks are still pointing to the old website.

Step 6: Keep All Your Old Backlinks

To ensure that you keep all your backlinks, head over to your file manager in your control panel. Here you’ll find a public HTML folder.

If you changed domain names successfully, your public HTML folder would only contain a few blank files. Now it’s time to create a new file and name it .htaccess.

In this blank file, paste the following lines of code:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} !^myothersite\.co\.uk$ [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.newsitename.co.uk/$1?ref=oldwebsite [R=301,L]

This redirects anyone who visits the old website to your new website, regardless of what URL they type in or click on.

For example, if someone visits myoldwebsite.co.uk/blog, then they’ll land on mynewsite.co.uk/blog.

Now everyone who clicks on one of our backlinks will automatically be redirected to our new website.

Step 7: Tell Google About The Domain Name Change

The best way to tell Google about your name change is to use the “change of address” feature on Google Search Console. This notifies Google about your domain change. 

Google Search Console also allows you to check if your 301 permanent redirects are working correctly. This is helpful if you’re not sure whether you covered your bases.

Step 8: Double Check Everything

Once you’ve changed your domain name, it’s time to test and double-check that everything is working perfectly. The easiest way to do this is to type your old domain name into Google and see if it redirects to your new website.

However, here are 3 additional ways to ensure that your website is set up correctly:

  1. Get feedback from followers
  2. Check if Google Analytics is tracking your site correctly
  3. Use Google Search Console to find minor errors

First, notify all your followers about the domain change so they can message you regarding any errors. You could send out an automated email to your email subscribers or post on your social media business page.

This allows you to utilize the help of your followers to catch errors you missed.

Second, check Google Analytics to see if it’s tracking your site correctly. Log in to Google Analytics, and head over to real-time overview. In a private tab, load your website.

If Google Analytics fails to track your visit, then something is wrong, and you’ll need to go back and check if you missed any small details.

Last, Google Search Console is one of the best tools for checking the health of your website. Not only will they notify you of any errors via email, but you can head over to the coverage report to stay up-to-date regarding the health of your site.

Step 9: Update All Previous Mentions Of Your Old Domain Name

Once you’ve double-checked everything, the last step is to update all previous mentions of your old domain. 

This means changing your email address. For example, if your email address is [email protected], you’ll need to change it to [email protected] This is more professional and gives your business a consistent look.

It’s also essential to change the email destination for contact forms on your website. 

You’d want to change old mentions of your website in places like:

  • Your email signature
  • Social media profiles
  • Other online accounts
  • Business cards
  • Google My Business listing
  • Ad campaigns

Last, write a blog post about your domain change since it’ll improve your relationships with customers and prospects.

Final Word On Changing Your Domain Name 

Changing your domain name without losing your Google ranking can seem like a technical and frustrating process. However, if you follow the steps laid out in this blog post, you’ll be able to change domain names, keep your Google ranking, and check if your website is working correctly, all within a few hours.

Yaseen Sadan

Yaseen Sadan

Yaseen Sadan is a digital marketer turned professional writer and he’s obsessed with everything entrepreneurship and marketing related. If he isn’t busy writing articles to help others reach their goals, then you can find him cooking heathy meals or spending time with friends and family.

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