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Change Site Domain Name – Keep the Traffic
I am changing my business name and the website domain name. How do I keep search engine traffic? What do I do for search engine optimization so that I don’t throw away my past SEO efforts? How do I redirect traffic from other websites and marketing to the new website?
If you are in this situation, there are two things to consider:
- people’s perception of the name change
- technical aspects of the name change for search engines and internet traffic
Name Change Perception
At the very least, I expect you will inform your current and potential customers and that the name will be changing before it happens. For example, I plan to change my business name from GLiD to Blend. The name change has been long overdue.
People may want to know why and what to expect? Will services change under the new name? Is management changing? For example, GLiD will be changing to Blend.
For GLiD, the core services have evolved from industrial design, to graphic design, to search engine optimization and internet marketing. GLiD initially was created for Greg Lee Industrial Design. Keeping the same name, the acronym transitioned to Greg Lee I.D. (for identity) and later to Greg Lee Intelligent Design (encompassing identity, print and web development). Since 2004, SEO and internet marketing slowly infused deeper into the services while providing extensive graphic design and website development while working in tandem with an influential internet marketer in Charleston, South Carolina.
The internet evolved and GLiD did too. Learning from experts in internet marketing and SEO, GLiD knowledge base grew. In January 2009, I moved the GLiD office to Atlanta, a hub for the internet marketing and SEO community. By January 2010, I began serving as the search engine optimization research and development department for the Atlanta internet marketing firm, Medium Blue. In summer of 2011, GLiD will transition to Blend, dropping industrial design to completely focus on SEO, website development and graphic design.
During the transition period, www.GLiD.us will be co-branded with banners advertising the name change to Blend. After the transition to Blend, there will still be prominent messages showing formerly GLiD, to address traffic from old links that promote GLiD.
Website Redirect for SEO and Traffic
OK, here’s the tricky part. Even the experts get this wrong sometimes. I watched a seasoned SEO webmaster use the wrong redirect and cause a business to disappear from search results. On a day to day basis, I catch errors made by big name brands that create duplicate content and abandon thousands of back links when they attempt to switch domain names for a website. To illustrate how to correctly make the switch, I will use the GLiD to Blend example.
The website www.GLiD.us will switch to www.BlendSEO.com. This is the process to correctly redirect all your traffic, back links and search engine authority (i.e. Google PageRank) to the new domain name. Most online articles tell you to 301 redirect www.GliD.us to www.BlendSEO.com. This sounds simpler than it really is.
Many times, the web developer will create a 301 redirect from http://www.glid.us to http://blendseo.com. The result is that the homepage of the old website redirects to the homepage of the new website, but all the interior pages are not affected. This is WRONG! Thousands of back links to interior pages still go to those pages on the old website. Search engine results for interior pages still send traffic to the old website. What is required is a global redirect.
Since this is only a domain name change, the website will remain the same except for the new domain name. The files will continue to be hosted on the same server.
First, any internal links using absolute paths will need to be update to use relative paths. Now, pointing the new domain www.BlendSEO.com at the website will allow the homepage and any static pages to work. As long as there are no back links using the new URL, search engines will not know about it yet.
Next to get the blog working, the settings will need to be changes to indicate the new absolute path to the blog.
Finally, a global rewrite rule must be added to the .htaccess file. I will use a rewrite rule (which uses Follow SymLinks and RewriteEngine On), instead of a redirect (which only uses Rewrite Engine On) because both domain names will be pointed to the same set of files. Using a typical 301 rewrite from every page of the website to the new domain in this situation would create an infinite loop any time the new domain is requested. The rewrite rule will allow me to take any URL from www.glid.us and rewrite it to the same path on www.blendseo.com. All links will continue to work when the new domain name is switched out.