After I was recently featured on DomainWire.com there seemed to be a lot of follow up on the topic of switching domain names, so I decided to take some time and write this article detailing our recent domain name switch from an SEO perspective. Switching domain names is no easy task, but with the right approach, it can be done seamlessly and without much negative SEO impact, if any at all.
Are The New TLDs Worth It?
There are ton of options available for someone looking to purchase a new domain name – but are these new options worth it?
Several months ago I got an email about all of these new, fancy TLDs (top level domains) available on the market. Scrolling through the .ninjas and .gurus made me excited to see all of these new options available.
However, the SEO in me was skeptical. “Jeff, will these things even rank!?”. I turned to Google and searched for information on the topic of switching to these new domain names. However, since these domain extensions were still a relatively new thing, there wasn’t really anything out there as a valuable proof-point.
So I decided to make ourselves the test subject.
Why Huemor.rocks? Why not .agency, .design, or anything else?
I saw the domain name “huemor.rocks” available and fell in love with it.
We’ve changed our methodologies and processes, added services and really focused on “who we are,” as a company. “Huemor.rocks” aligned very closely with how we feel, and how we want every client we work with to feel too. We’re honest, we’re hard working, we’re excited to do what we do, we’re not intimidated by challenges, we’re Huemor, and we rock.
So with the branding play behind us, and a new website design under way, we figured it was a good enough reason to take the risk and switch over from huemordesigns.com.
How We Planned For The Domain Name Switch
We Started With A Reverse Redirect
By reverse redirect, I mean we started out by pointing huemor.rocks to huemordesigns.com. The intention of this was, while we worked on other aspects of this plan we could actively build links to huemor.rocks instead of huemordesigns.com. It’s uncertain if this helped, but it’s also a possibility that this immediately helped link the two sites together, even though it was in the opposite direction from what our final intentions would be.
In addition to the new links we were building to huemor.rocks, we also mapped out all of the external links that were pointing to huemordesigns.com. Social media platforms, local citations, external portfolio links, publications, industry ranking sites etc.
Slowly, we started to update these links to specify “https://huemor.rocks/” which at the time, was re-directing to “huemordesigns.com”
We took a slightly different approach to how we routed redirects for this website. Rather than just writing a blanketed 301 redirect from huemordesigns.com to huemor.rocks, we mapped out full path redirects for every individual page. We achieved this by maintaining a host for “huemordesigns.com” and adding in an .htaccess file that specified re-directs such as: /work/ to https://huemor.rocks/work/.
By doing this, we were able to maintain the individual page authority transfers, rather than just directing the entire domain and letting Google redistribute the wealth themselves (this little trick allowed all of our pages to show up re-indexed a lot faster).
Micro Data / Schema
We wrote fresh structured data that established our brand info (company name, phone number, email, address, social media platforms) and linked it to our .rocks domain. We believe this was key in getting search engines to quickly recognize our new name.
Optimizing The Home Page
We made sure that our home page referenced our brand name in it’s meta-title and description. A small, and possibly obvious step but one we took nonetheless.
Having a properly configured webmaster tools account helps Google (or Bing, if you’re into that) apply changes to your websites quicker. What we were majorly concerned about was:
- Establishing properties for all variants of huemor.rocks (https vs http, www. vs non-www.)
- Preparing the notation in our huemordesigns.com variations to let them know huemordesigns.com is now huemor.rocks
- Adding a new sitemap to our primary website variation (https://huemor.rocks/)
Google Analytics Properties
Not really linked to SEO goals specifically, but part of our overall marketing strategy. We created a brand new property for the .rocks domain, and reconfigured the necessary filters and goals that come along with it.
Purchasing Variations to the Name
Again, this wasn’t directly linked to the SEO goals of the website, but more of a usability concern. We wanted to make sure that individuals who might be confused by our name could still find us on a direct visit. We bought stuff like “huemorrocks.com”, “huemor.com”, “humorrocks.com” etc and made sure it was pointed at our .rocks domain.
So after all of those boxes were checked off, we made the switch.
What did we see happen to our rankings? Initially nothing. That was awesome! No-post launch dip, no SERP dance, nothing. It was as if nothing ever happened.
Here’s an example of our organic traffic prior to launch and an example of it immediately after launch. Over time, however, we noticed that our organic traffic was rising. We began to rank for more and more keywords. Things have continued to trend that way.
Post Launch Update – 2 Years Later
Two years since our switch to huemor.rocks, and our traffic has steadily increases month-over-month, year-over-year. It's also continued to be a differentiator and talking point for our firm. Further goes to show that the TLD you choose doesn't directly impact SEO in any way.
What Did We Learn?
Don’t be afraid to switch domains
If you need to switch to a new domain name, don’t be afraid, be cautious instead. Think about how all the aspects the switch will affect and how you can minimize any negative effects. Ultimately, if you take the time to do it right, you’re not going to see a disturbing drop off in traffic. In our case, we saw literally zero change in our traffic.
Your TLD doesn’t matter to search engines
Your TLD doesn’t matter in the eyes of Google and Bing. They’re concerned with your content, and your signals. I believe that .com dominating SERPs is related more to their commonality, and relative age compared to newer TLDs. Independent of site optimization, an older domain has been proven to be a positive ranking signal. Moreover, most top websites have been optimized on .com domains over the course of years, resulting in more of them to float to the top. As time moves forward, I believe you’ll see (good) variations of TLDs on more frequently.
Your TLD matters to some email providers
Email providers, and more specifically, spam filters, are still touch and go on non-.com TLDs. Make sure when switching you verify your domain name, and also, add proper SPF records to combat email spam. Even then, depending on your customer base you might want to maintain a .com TLD for email correspondence. I’m a pretty firm believer this will get better once adoption increases.
If you're interested in learning more, check out the "Changing Your Website’s Domain Name" podcast!