Will Changing My Website Domain Hurt SEO

By on 08/7/2013

We have had the same domain name for nine years, and for nine years people have read it incorrectly. Like many other businesses, we purchased our name to us as our domain name. We quickly learned that spaces make a big difference in readability. For example our domain name was blackbeardesign.com and our name is Black Dear Design. I can’t tell you how many times we have been called Black Beard Design, and I even had one prospects say they almost didn’t call because they thought we specialized in Pirates.

We generally have good position in the search engines for the terms that we were targeting. As a small business, I did not want to disrupt our rankings because much of our business comes from online searches. And as other small businesses know, when you’re paying rent and payroll, you don’t want any disruption in cash flow or sales.

Recently, we’ve refined our service offerings and really defined a focus for what we do best. Ironically, what we do best, we were not ranked that well for in search engines. So this new focus gave me the courage to make a change I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, change our domain name. This will be one of my biggest SEO experiments that I have undertaken.

I’ll have an update on this post in a few weeks, as soon as Google crawls my site. I did a full crawl on my current site and all the keywords that we’re targeting and have a good baseline report. In a few weeks, as soon as I am certain Google has crawled my site, I’ll run another report on the new domain for the same keywords and see if it has affected my placements.

 Just in case anyone’s wondering, how do I change my domain name without affecting my search engine rankings, here is a list of steps that I took in my experiment.

  • Spent some time setting up my domain name correctly, including name spaces, DNS, A records and CNAMES.  I parked these right over top of my current domain with all the files still in exact same place.
  • My site is WordPress, so I changed the domain name on the  general settings tab. Then I used the search and replace plug-in and searched through my entire database for my domain name, and replaced it with the new domain name.
  • Next I put a 301 redirect in my htaccess file, so any page that has a link to it or that is currently indexed in a search engine, will automatically redirect to the same page on the new domain.
  • Set up the new domain name in Google, verified it, and then requested a domain name change through Webmaster tools.
  • I submitted my new URL to several search engines through software that we own.
  • Change the links on my social networks.

Currently I am playing the site and wait game. Im waiting for Google to crawl my site so I can run test and see just how this domain name change affected my website search engine rankings.  Stay tuned for more information.

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3 responses to “Will Changing My Website Domain Hurt SEO”

  1. Vanessa Perrin says:

    Very interesting Joel.
    Thank you for this piece and keep us posted!

  2. Jonathan says:

    Does the lack of followup article and same domain name indicate that the experiment failed miserably?

  3. Joel Black says:

    Jonathan, I actually saw an impressive jump in rankings, then a dip. I freaked out a little with the dip and changed it back. I think changing it back so quickly actually made it worse and I saw an additional dip in rankings. The new domain was also confusing customers, so I left it as is. The lesson is, get your domain name right the first time because it is difficult to change from the perspective of search rankings and branding.

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