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Search Engines and a Change of Domain Name

What will happen to my rankings if I change my URL?

You may wish to move your website to a new URL (domain name) if say, your business name has changed. As you transition to your new website, your rankings are likely to be negatively impacted if this process is not managed correctly as the search engines will continue to attempt to visit your old website pages for a period of time before removing references from their index. Websites that create broken links that are found when search engines crawl domains may find that their rankings will drop due to a penalty for these errors.

Redirect your old URL addresses to your new URL addresses

When changing your domain name you will need to redirect search engines (and your visitors!) from where the old page was located to the new URL. Search engines, links from other websites and personal bookmarks may point to your old URL and will result in a bad user experience and a 404 error if this is not completed (not to mention a loss of your previous website rankings and value).

The best method for you to complete these redirects successfully is to use a 301 server redirect. This tells the browser or search engine your site has permanently moved to a new URL. Good search engines such as Google will respond by transferring what it knows about the old URL to the new one, so any SEO work done in the past is not lost. This process is an extremely important part of your Google optimization strategy and we recommend you take the time to do this correctly. If you require advice and consultation on either your current search engine optimisation strategy or migrating your business to a new URL, call our expert search marketing team at roi.com.au for more information or a free consultation.
 
It's important that if your website structure and URL names have changed from the old site to the new site that a redirect is put in place for each of these page changes if possible. Find a page that is similar to the old one and redirect your visitors to its equivalent. If there is no equivalent the home page will be fine.

If you have any internal links or external links pointing to old domain names it's a good idea to change these so they aren't being redirected and point directly to the new version of the page – this way any value you already have isn't being filtered through a 301 redirect.

Search Engines will go through a transition process as they follow your 301 redirects and slowly remove your old URL's completely from their records and replace the new URL's. You may notice that your rankings move up and down during this period – but if you have provided similar rich content and keywords on the new site and have covered off your old URL's with redirects  you should come out roughly the same – if not higher in Google than you did before.

Remember this process can take up to 2 months for the search engines to complete the transition so be prepared for some unstable rankings for at least part of this time! To help speed up this process install a Google Webmaster Tools account on your old and new domain names and select in the interface that you are changing domain names. It's best to give Google as much information as possible for the transition to be completed in a short period of time.