A Plan for when
Changing your Domain Name
launching a new site design, changing your directory
structure, or - gasp - changing your domain name, your
site traffic and search engine rankings will, in one way
or other, be affected.
The most significant of these changes is changing
a site's domain name. I'm not going to write about whether
you should or shouldn't - that's an article in itself
- but will write under the presumption that you have already
decided to go ahead with this change.
The key to performing this change is preparation.
A carefully thought through plan of action will, in the
end, make the difference between a successful changeover
and one that, well, crashes.
Short Term Plan:
Redirecting Your Old Traffic
Changing a domain
name is in essence changing your address. Just like
you'd inform both the postal services and your correspondents
of a change in postal address, the same applies on the
Net. Failing to do this will land your current and new
visitors on an error 404 (page not found) page. Think
of it as an immediate "return to sender" action.
To prevent this
from happening, a redirect 301 (otherwise known as
a "moved permanently" command) should be added
to the old site when the new domain goes live. This code
is sent to a browser or bot, telling it that the file
being requested has permanently moved and, as such, will
redirect all traffic from the old domain to the new domain.
This is also the way of informing the search engines that
your files have permanently moved. Good!
How to Add a Redirect
The 301 derivative should be added to your old site's
.htaccess file. I'll point out two common types of off
Redirecting a site
with many directory folders to a new domain with a similar
structure should be done using: redirect 301 /old/old.htm
http://www.new.com/new.htm /old/old.htm (this is the original
folder path and file name)
is the original folder path and file name)
(this represents the new path and file name)
If you are using
the same paths and filenames, but only the domain
name has changed, then a simple way to perform a site
redirect is: redirect 301 / http://www.new-domain-name.com/
the 301) indicates that everything from the top level
of the site down will be redirected to the new URL.
When changing domain
names and/or folder names that contain large numbers of
files, there are more powerful commands using the Apache
mod_rewrite module. But the above are the most common
and easiest ways to perform a domain changeover for most
A new domain needs to get indexed on the search engines.
The best but most time consuming way to do this is to
engage in a thorough link changeover campaign. This is
especially important to compensate for the initial loss
of search engine traffic.
The first place
to start is your website's stats to find out where
your current traffic is coming from. This will give you
a list of sites that currently generate most of your traffic.
These sites will urgently need to be informed of your
The next step is
to identify all the inbound links to your site. Remember
that all these inbound links from other sites are of no
use now because the URL they point to no longer exist.
All search engines
use link popularity as one of their criterion for
rankings. Making contact with all your link partners requesting
them to change the URL pointing to your new site is a
lengthy but very important task. The sooner this is done,
the sooner the new site will get indexed and start ranking
At the same time,
the new site should be submitted to as many new industry-specific
portals and directories.
A clever but sometimes overlooked method of generating
site traffic in the early days of the changeover is publishing
an online press release informing the online community
of this changeover.
This could be done
on press release sites such as PRWeb.com or high-traffic,
industry-related authority sites. Whatever press release
your issue, remember to include a link to your new website.
Unfortunately nothing on the Net is permanent. In order
to stay ahead of technology and user behaviour, a site
needs to be maintained. This is both on and off page.
Here are the best ways of insuring this:
* Continue to
create useful, high quality pages.
* Write articles relating to your service and of
interest to your target market that will get published
on third-party websites. These will further aid in obtaining
links to your site.
* Monitor and target keywords that are specific
enough to produce targeted traffic to your site. These
keywords should be checked every three months and, if
need be, changed to reflect the change in user behaviour.
* On a monthly basis, continue to solicit links
from high quality sites whose content is related to your
own and submit your site to directories particular to
But again, remember...
It will take significant time and effort for the search
engines to crawl and rank your new domain; be prepared
to initially lose search engine rankings during that time.
But with a plan in place, there's no reason why it shouldn't
the Authour: PGallianno Cosme is the SEM Captain
at Quirk, a full-service eMarketing company offering
tailor-made, innovative and cost-effective eMarketing
solutions. Go to Quirk.co.za for more information.
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