If you have had a website for any period of time, the decision to change its website address (domain name) is a major one, and should not be taken lightly. If you are considering this change, there are different approaches, and this guide helps you choose the best one.
Once a website is launched, it is known to the world, and especially to search engines like Google, by its "www" website address, which is effectively the same thing as its domain name. All "good standing" in the eyes of Google, and all the optimisation which WebHealer carries out on your behalf over months and years is built upon that domain name.
For this reason, those of us in the support team at WebHealer are occasionally inclined to cry out "ouch!" when a client decides to change a domain name, and throw all that away. Sometimes a client might have a good quality domain name, which has built up good standing (technically called "PageRank" by Google) over say 2 or more years, and we know that when they start again with a new domain name, this will all be lost and it will be a long time before they are doing as well on search engines again - probably longer than the first time in fact, as the web gets more competitive by the day.
Having said all that, there are times when a change of domain name is unavoidable, so the purpose of this guide is to help you choose whether you really need to change, and if so, how best to do it. The best course of action really depends on why you are changing. The typical reasons are:
One reason often cited by clients wishing to change domain name is that they have changed their focus of activity and so, perhaps for search engine purposes, they want to change their website address accordingly. Another reason is that, after research or getting advice from others, they feel a different name would give them an extra advantage on search engines. Hopefully in the latter scenario you will also by now appreciate the downside of such a change. In fact the contribution of a website address alone to your search engine position can be very minor, so before changing it would be wise to check how you are doing already, just to appreciate what you might be giving up.
With regard to change of focus, unless the change of focus is significant, to the point of being confusing to website searchers, then changing your domain is often not necessary. For example if you change focus from counselling to therapy then your keywords and searchMAX phrases we use for optimisation in all areas can be changed accordingly. The old website address, perhaps www.counsellingleeds.co.uk will still retain all its good standing with Google, and will still be considered a high quality website worthy of top placement, but now it will just be for some different phrases.
Keeping the old domain name will keep Google happy and keep you happy in terms of gaining visitors by search, but it won't necessarily be the website address you want to put on your new business cards and stationary. There is a solution to this though, as you can run a secondary website address which will also point to your website. Now you would have two website addresses:
If you have changed focus in this way, and are wondering how your website will look in Google search, remember that the website address is actually only a small part of the listing. So, say you have changed focus from counselling to therapy your new website listing might look something like this in Google.
Therapy and Emotional Freedom Technique in Leeds
Note that the new area of focus is clear and very prominent whilst the website address is actually a rather small part of the listing. It is important though that the website address doesn't look completely wrong or confusing.
If you choose the option of a secondary website address there is a small additional ongoing cost, which the support team will advise you about.
In the above example the change of focus did not make the old website address substantially wrong, even though the client, if starting anew, might have chosen a different name. There are however situations where a change is unavoidable, and even though it will cost a period of months (and sometimes years) to regain the same standing on Google, it is best to just bite the bullet and make the change without incurring any more delay. Situations for this might be:
In this case, please ask the WebHealer support team to help you make the change without delay. If you choose this option there is a one off cost for search engine rework of £25+vat.
If a new website address is looking unavoidable, but you are now reluctant to lose all that hard won Google reputation, there is a variation to the new domain option outlined in scenario B, which is worth considering in many cases. This is to change the focus of your existing website so that we can re-optimise it for your new area of focus, and simply to accept that for a temporary period the website address is not ideal. At the same time as this, launch a second website with a new address and run that alongside the old one for a period of perhaps 6-12 months, or until you are comfortable that the new website is performing as well as the old one. Obviously this is not the cheapest option but if you have made a big investment of time in your old website and you don't want to lose the business coming from search engines, it may well be worth it.