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I made a new site for a client that is a huge improvement in terms of asset optimisation, page loads, on-page SEO etc. Rather than use the existing domain that has decent authority he wants to move to a new domain that better reflects the direction his business is moving in. We registered the domain very recently so it has no presence, no authority whatsoever.

Frankly, I'm concerned that hitting the button on this is going to really slow his business for weeks, possibly months. In the long-term I'm confident he's going to see significant improvement but how can I avoid causing him harm in the short-term?

My strategy is to have both sites live simultaneously while the new site is indexed and then 301 re-direct each URL on the existing domain to the most relevant page on the new site. I'm also trying to update as many existing backlinks as possible with the new domain - for example those backlinks that are from directory sites rather than blogs etc.

I'm also thinking this is the best time to push a backlinking strategy to mitigate any damage while things sort themselves out, but I have concerns that if I approach that too aggressively it could have the opposite effect and compound the issue.

I've had decent success with SEO in the past but this is new to me, any advice would be appreciated. Aside from my professional reputation I really like this client and want to look after him.

  • 2
    Are you aware of Google's change of address tool? – Stephen Ostermiller Feb 6 '18 at 21:25
  • Hi Stephen. Yes I should have been clear, when I said "hit the button" I meant complete the change of address process through Search Console. Google says some quite reassuring things about how following that process will minimize impact on page ranking but then I read elsewhere to expect a significant impact when moving to a domain with no authority. – ColossalYouth Feb 6 '18 at 23:50
  • Changing domain names is a serious disruption and generally not advised. Domain names have less influence on search performance these days so much so that I would not suggest going down this path. I would make sure your client understands this. Redirects aside, changing domain names is essentially starting over and throwing away all the previously hard earned gains. What people have to remember is that redirects are temporarily regardless of intent. Only a well executed link strategy can over come this, however, this is slow going. Plan on a year. Just a warning. Cheers!! – closetnoc Feb 7 '18 at 1:19
  • Well that's my fear and I have expressed that, but I can understand why he wants to make the change: the original domain includes reference to a service and a geographical area that are no longer relevant to his business. I'd have to agree that it doesn't reflect the direction he's moving in and the brand identity that's been developed for his company. What makes it worse is that before he made this decision I worked to improve his ranking and his page authority improved significantly over a few months - I'd have been much happier if I was making the switch in November before those gains! – ColossalYouth Feb 7 '18 at 11:39
  • Cheers mate!! You haven't empathy! People forget that the most critical part of a site is picking the right domain name from the start. What drives me nuts are locations included into a domain name. That was never a good idea! And you are right. There are valid reasons to change the domain name. It is just costly that's all! – closetnoc Feb 7 '18 at 16:42
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In your situation, were no manual or algorithm penalty has been given to the old domain I would suggest keeping both websites only if there are important backlinks you can not transfer to the new site.

Having two websites online will payoff if you handle the old one as a lead generation website. Instead of having a content split mindset think it of as a way to segment the old website audience within a mature customer life cycle or sales funnel. You can also split the backlink profile in terms of the segmented sales funnel.

Remove any processing operations from the old domain and leave it just to collect contact information up in the conversion funnel. Any processing operation (payment, data, CRM, Marketing automation) leave it to the new domain.

The business is moving into a new direction? perfect, the old website will serve well those customer that will be later carried over the new business flow.

I will not recommend implementing a short term backlink strategy (aka PBNs) on a new domain, they simply won’t be working as expected and will probably harm your new website credibility.

If you decide to get rid of the old domain, 301s Redirect it’s obviously your best option. Here you can create the redirects by sections of the old website to test and measure the impact and to have a better idea of the risk involved in changing domains.

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Switching to the new domain could bring troubles to the new domain only if the previous domain is under penalty.

If not:

  • switch,
  • don't forget clean redirect policy,
  • make some afforts to re-point external backlinks delivering the most referral traffic from the old domain to the new one.

Thats pretty all - in some weeks, after Google recognizes all redirects and backlinks rankings will come again and rise higher than they were with the old domain.

Massive errors or lack of redirects from the old to the new domain could make the process of removing ratings for Google much longer - don't fail on it, check redirects twice before going live.

Re-pointing of backlinks from the old domain to the new could substantially speed up the re-arranging of ratings from the old to the new domain. If Google will not be forced to go through redirect, like backlink → old domain → redirect to the new domain - instead it goes the direct way: backlink → new domain, it will save up a jump and return the favor.

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How to SEO-relaunch:

  1. Make a Link-DeTox Audit, where you will find hurting backlinks, pointing to the old domain.
  2. Clean the backlinks (Disavow)
  3. Both Versions should be live
  4. Implement 1:1 redirects, or topical relevant redirects - if possible all URLs.
  5. Wait some days, check "site:olddomain.tld" from time to time, are all redirects correctly redirecting?
  6. The pages of your old domain should disappear slowly in the G-index

I would not suggest to keep the old domain as lead collector. This can be irritating for customers and you will waste your linkjuice/seopower/however you name it.

And regarding backlink-strategy: Do not do any shitlinking cheap stuff. Make some healthy, topic-related content on other sites. IF you want to keep your customer - quality counts!

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Your client can switch domains and 301 redirect all of his ranked pages to the new domain as you said. As long as you are doing example.com/page.html 301 redirects to example.org/page.html and not 301 redirecting to the root example.org

301 redirects retain 95-99% of the link juice that was originally passed. So your client should not lose much ranking in doing it this way.

If you leave both sites up for too long, google will see this as a duplicate content issue and may not know which site to rank on its SERPs, thus diluting his ranking between 2 pages. It is imperative that you quickly 301 redirect before this becomes a factor.

You can also choose to use the rel=canonical tag if you want to leave both sites up for a while, and this should show Google that you are moving the site to the new domain.

Overall, it can be unwise to change domains unless necessary. But if the domain has a much better name than it may be worth it. Moz-dot-com changed their website's domain years ago, shortening it to Moz. It was a wise decision. They 301 redirected all of their pages onto to the new domain and retained their rankings. And Moz is one of the most trusted sources in SEO information on the web.

  • I think that the moz dot com example is different in that they did not update the website, just moved it to a new domain. The impact is not the same than creating a new site with new content. I did the moz thing and it works, I have not tried what the OP is asking and that probably has a much stronger impact. – Alexis Wilke Mar 19 '18 at 0:36

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