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Changing Domain Name - Best Practices?

 5:00 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

(I searched WebmasterWorld for this topic and could not find something. If this has been discussed at length before, please point me to it! thanks)

We need to change one of our domain names primarily for branding purposes. We would really not have to do this, but in the long term it should be well worth it.

Our current domain is something like: BRANDWIDGETS.com

We are changing to: BRAND.com

My questions are:

- Should we keep the domain on the same IP address it is on now. It is on a static/dedicated IP, no other website are using the specific IP.
- Or do we move to a new IP for some reason with the new domain name?
- In general, what are the best practices for switching domain names and retaining as much search engine rankings etc.. as possible?
- What is the best way to set-up the 301 redirect from the old domain to the new domain? Is there some special way to handle this when moving an entire domain?



 6:19 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

The more informative and detailed forums for this type of question here might be the Google Forum and the Apache Forum. I don't have any links handy, but you should return quite a few results through your favorite SE with site:webmasterworld.com/google/ or /apache/ depending on if your looking for 'best practices' or 'how to' at the time.

The biggest thing I can probably say is: Get the 301s right the first time, and get visitors from example-old.com/page.html to example-new.com/page.html in a single redirect. It sounds like you're already set on making the move, but I wonder if you don't really have to if you might be better off waiting a bit and establishing a new site on brand.com and/or using the two sites combined in some manner rather than moving the established site?

Anyway, that's really for you to decide, and single 301 redirects (in a row) do transfer link weight, but not full weight, so it's good to get the links you can to point from 'old-domain' to 'new-domain', and AFAIK link weight is not transferred through multiple redirects (also referred to as 'stacked' or 'chained' redirects either of which should return ample reading material using your favorite SE), so make sure when you redirect you go directly to the landing page. IOW: DO NOT go from example-old.com/page.html to example-new.com/page.html then to www.example-new.com/page.html go directly to www.example-new.com/page.html if that's where the new location of the content is.


 6:35 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

MadScientist offers good advice... I dealt with this some time back with a client (who actually listened to me). This brandwidgets.com site was working okay but, like you, thought brand.com would have more legs. I suggested run in parallel for six months/year to see what happens.

Turned out that brandwidget (the already established site) did better. And did even better after a strong backlink campaign. Could have gone the other way, of course, but client still ended up with benefit: After determining which domain was the producer, the less productive was 301'd to the production site and... it's all good. YMMV.


 6:56 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

TheMadScientist, thanks for the advice. I had not considered the multiple redirect issue or stacked/chain redirects as you had referred. I'll definitely search around and see what else I can uncover...

Part of our reasoning for the domain change:

BRANDWIDGETS.COM deals with a specific type of widget. Our business is ready to move on to BRAND.COM and other related widgets, but those widgets would not make sense (at all) on the current BRANDWIDGETS.COM domain.

We could build out BRAND.COM as an entirely new website, but then we'd be dealing with two websites of the same brand and the additional management of another site etc... For the sake of our business, we're thinking 1 core website at BRAND.COM may be the way to go. A lot to consider here I suppose.

We're taking search engines and link weight into account, but at the end of day we are not going to not move domains if the only reason is that we'll lose some backlink juice and suffer with worse search rankings for a while.

Any other thoughts on this subject greatly appreciated!


 7:32 am on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yeah, see mine earlier: Two sites are like that double flavor gum. No harm (and not much more work). Run two (base costs are minimal, it is the time and personnel that cost) in parallel. You won't lose anything, and you might grow the desired domain at a faster pace (via back link from the older site). When ready to migrate in full the pipe is already established. Six months to a year...


 6:25 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

tangor, thank you also for the ideas. I don't think we had seriously considered running 2 websites, but it could be possible that the two sites together would be better than 1.

The only thing is our current website took a good 1.5-2 years before we got a decent amount of links, content, and search rankings. If we did a new site, I don't know if we could be so patient again. That is why it is tempting to just change names and 301 redirect the old site. Sure, we'll lose some of the work thus far, but it would be a considerable head-start vs. starting fresh.

Any other ideas?


 6:57 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Another question: If we do decide to move to a new domain...

Do we keep the site on the same IP or go to a new IP?


 9:00 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

IP Address is basically irrelevant AFAIK. IOW: I haven't seen anything indicating it's a factor, unless possibly it by being shared with a bunch of spam sites.

I don't think we had seriously considered running 2 websites, but it could be possible that the two sites together would be better than 1.

The only thing is our current website took a good 1.5-2 years before we got a decent amount of links, content, and search rankings. If we did a new site, I don't know if we could be so patient again.

Stop and think traffic for a second, because IMO tangor gave you some really good insight and advice... If you move your current site you will most likely lose some traffic in the transfer, at the very least initially. If you build a new site and leave the original where it is you keep all the original traffic and every single visit to the new site is growth...

One way you are about guaranteed of taking a step back at least for a period of time, but the other way you promote new traffic growth without the loss. I would not duplicate the old site's products on the new one unless you move it or find a way to keep them for visitors only, but you could definitely link the two together for visitors (using nofollow in one direction if you need to), or you could use some other 'creative' way to show the products from the original site on both without removing or redirecting the original. (In this situation, the original site could very easily and realistically be setup and managed as an 'extension' or 'category' of the new one, if done correctly.)


 9:18 pm on Apr 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

TheMadScientist, you make some good points and some interesting ideas. Tangor, thanks for the ideas also. I will definitely chew on this a while before making a decision.

Regarding the IP: the site is on a dedicated server with just 1 other site (on its own separate IP) - and there is nothing spammy at all about either sites or the server.

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