Will changing your website hurt your search engine rankings?

shutterstock_197697644As with most SEO questions, the answer is “it depends.” The first step is to determine what “change” means. You could change your domain name, your content, or your host. Companies change different aspects of their online presence all the time to fit their offline business. If you do so, the second step is to create a plan to ensure your online marketing effort isn’t being wasted. It is mandatory to create redirects and updates to keep what you’ve built. The third step is to execute your plan, so you can continue to benefit from online traffic.

What Happens When You Change Domain Names?

Changing domain names is not uncommon. Companies change their domain names for various legitimate reasons. Some reasons include rebranding your business, acquiring a better-matching name, or simply starting from scratch.

What Should You do if You Indeed Decide to Change Domain Names?

The simple answer is: 301 redirects.

These redirects are like submitting a change of address form to the USPS when you move to a new home. You let the post office know you’ll be moving on this date, and that you need your mail forwarded.

301 redirects work the same way for search engines and users. When you move your site to a new domain, or even redesign a website and place it on a new domain, you’ll need to let search engines know where all your new content is located.

Here’s a three-tiered example of how 301s work:

Home page 1 (www.mydomain.com) redirects to Home page 2 (www.yourdomain.com).

This let’s users and search engines know that if they ever visit: www.mydomain.com, they are redirected to: www.yourdomain.com.

The same goes for any sub-folders on your site.

Here’s the second-tier example:

Service page 1 (www.mydomain.com/services) redirects to Service page 2 (www.yourdomain.com/services).

This redirect essentially builds a bridge from the old page to the new page. Why is this important? Any SEO effort you’ve put into the old page needs to be redirected to the new page. Without the redirect in place, that effort will be 100 percent lost.

Here’s the third tier:

Specific page 1 (www.mydomain.com/services/seo) redirects to Specific page 2 (www.yourdomain.com/services/seo).

A redirect on any level or tier basically sends the user or search engine from the old, non-existent page to the new, updated page. What does this do for your SEO? It doesn’t do much in adding value, but it does maintain the value you created prior to the move/change. If you intend to change domains, it’s best to let your SEO company know as soon as possible, so they can make the proper adjustments prior to, during, and after the change.

What Happens When You Change Content?

Search engines do their best to return results that are relevant and useful. Your content tells search engines what your website is about. As search engines crawl your content, specifically your copy, they use it to determine whether or not your business or practice is an appropriate result for the user’s query.

If you decide to change your copy, it will change where you’re ranked. This is why a copy change is a serious action. You need to make an informed decision regarding where you want to show up, and where you don’t want to show up, in the search results.

For example, duplicate content is harmful to your website ranking. If you have a site with duplicate content, it’s nearly impossible to show up in search results. A copy change would resolve this issue, if you do not have any pending penalties.

What if You’re Simply Updating Copy?

Make sure you are aware of what you’re adding and/or eliminating, so if and when your rankings change, you know why. Updating copy is great. It can add value to a user’s experience on your site. However, you want to be keenly aware of how it affects your online presence. Content optimization is essential in any online SEO strategy.

Summary

If you decide to change domain names, make sure you have a solid redirect plan in place. Your SEO team or website manager should be able to help with this. If you’re simply updating content, be aware of what you’re gaining and losing because of it. If you decide to update your content and change domain names, determine where the old pages and content will be redirected, prior to the change. This way, when the change is occurring you won’t lose your SEO efforts.

Want to talk more about changing your domain name? Not sure if your content, domain, or website in general, is properly optimized? Call MDPM Consulting with your questions: (972) 781-8861, or email us at: [email protected]