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How to move to a new gTLD like a champ without hurting your SEO

By Alexandra Gavril - April 14, 2014

With fantastic new generic Top-Level domains like .london, .tech, .ninja, .plumbing having been launched or being released soon, it may be time to change domain names and get a new one that is more relevant to your business.

Why move to a new domain?

If the domain you have now is not the one you wanted – if it’s long, with hyphens and says nothing about your brand – then you might consider registering a new domain name that’s not only catchier but also more relevant to your brand.

Something like affordable-plumbing-repairs-24h.com may describe your business but wouldn’t a 24h.plumbing or plumber.london be a better fit? Definitely! In addition, if you have a local business in London, for example, and want to build trust and raise awareness on your brand, a .london domain would be the best choice for you.

Why? Because 1. it’s instantly recognisable, telling customers you’re open for business in the UK’s capital city and 2. it can help your site rank higher for people searching for businesses located in London since lately search engines have started focusing more on local search. Find out more about the benefits of owning .london domains.

Now, moving a site to a new domain can be daunting. The fear of dropping in Google’s search results is enough to keep many business owners, including you, awake at night during the migration process.

So, let’s see what you can do to minimise the impact on SEO and organic traffic.

1. Register your new domain

The first thing you need to do is to register or pre-order a new domain. There are over 1,400 new domains coming soon to the Internet so it’s impossible not to find one that’s short, memorable and relevant to your industry. For example, if you have a catering business, wouldn’t a yourbusinessname.food or yourbusinessname.london work better than a domain on .com that’s very long, difficult to remember and… weird?

If you’re concerned about domain age, you shouldn’t, as this ranking factor is not as important as it used to be. In this video, Matt Cutts states that you shouldn’t worry about domain age very much but instead focus on creating great quality content as this is an important ranking factor.

2. Upload a “coming soon” page

Create a ‘coming soon’ page on your new domain a few weeks before moving everything from your old domain to the new one to allow search engines to crawl and index your new website.

Google’s Matt Cutts explains how placing some content on your new site helps search engines understand that your new domain is a real website and not a parked domain.

3. Upload your pages to the new domain

Now you need to upload all the files from your old website to your new one. You can set a 302 redirect from the old site to the new one, although this is not compulsory, it’s just to be safe and make sure all the redirects are going to the right place; if the ranks don’t drop, then do a 301 redirect.

To summarise, 302 redirects are temporary. So what you are doing is telling search engines to read and use the content on the new page but to keep checking the original URL first as it will ultimately be re-established. 301 redirects are permanent redirects from an old URL to a new one. These redirects tell search engines that the old URL is to be removed from their index and replaced with a new location. So, it’s the most search engine friendly way to redirect traffic and engines from an old to a new website.

4. 301 Redirect to keep rankings

A search engine friendly 301 Redirect (Moved Permanently) will not only send visitors to the correct page but will also tell search engines that the page has permanently moved. A 301 direct will thus transfer domain authority, visitors and also your rankings in Google, and can be used to consolidate link equity content within a site to provide a better end user experience.

These 301 redirects should be done for individual pages meaning that each page on the old site should be redirected to the new URL on the new domain. Here’s how to do a redirect on any platform. You can also use these two automatic redirect generators: htaccessredirect.net and rapidtables.com/web/tools/redirect-generator.htm

I cannot stress just how important it is to take your time and ensure every single page is redirected properly. You can even use a 301 checker to ensure that everything has been transferred properly.

5. Tell Google you moved

Another important thing you need to do is let Google know that your old website has been transferred to a new web address. To do that, you can use the Change of Address tool in Google Webmaster Console. This works at site level, letting Google know that you’ve transferred the entire domain and not just certain pages. Watch the video below to find out more about the benefits of using this tool in addition to setting up the required 301 redirects to your new website. Don’t forget it’s also very important to renew the change of address every 180 days.

6. Update your backlinks

Now you should also update the backlinks from authority sites that point to your old website. I’m not referring to all the backlinks you have but the ones that come from reputable sources. So, it’s recommended that you contact the webmasters of these sites and ask them to update the links and replace the old ones with your new address.

Google’s Matt Cutts explains the important of updating your backlinks in the video below:

Keep in mind that your work doesn’t stop here. After you’ve moved to a new gTLD, you need to monitor everything to ensure you’ve redirected everything properly so you don’t lose any referring traffic or PageRank that’s coming from old backlinks. Now, if you have your eye on a great new .london domain or any other domain, don’t wait until it’s taken – pre-order your favourite gTLD now.

Got any other advice for moving to a new domain without losing rankings? Don’t keep it to yourself, share it in a comment below.