Changing a website’s primary domain name isn’t uncommon.
Dealerships have several valid reasons to do this which, while intimidating to consider, ultimately prove advantageous to the business’s digital marketing. For example, dealerships may need to change domain names to re-brand the company following a purchase of another business, or to switch to an OEM website as a primary digital presence. Other times, the acquisition of a more suitable URL, or in an attempt to recover from a search engine penalization, may drive the change.
Changing a domain name should be a carefully calculated decision, but dealerships shouldn’t fear re-branding because of potential traffic or performance losses. After all, Google will re-index a site within a few days or less, and there are many ways to retain organic search traffic. Read more about what dealerships should consider when making a domain name change, and the best time of the week to have the website updated and ready for customers.
The Inherent Risks of Changing a Domain Name
Although there are potential challenges any business must consider when changing a domain name, most are temporary and can be mitigated. Risks and challenges may include:
– A temporary dip in traffic, and subsequent performance, while search engine algorithms re-index your site.
– Brand awareness – dealerships will need to get the word out that their domain has changed.
– Existing offsite citations that become inaccurate.
Best Practices for Changing a URL
Google will re-index a site within a few days, and often much sooner. Domain name changes may result in a minimal and temporary loss of traffic, which may even be unnoticeable. The following four tips are a sampling of strategies that will help minimize the risk to dealer website performance, and accelerate the return to, and possibly overtaking of, pre-domain name change performance:
1. Implement a search-friendly “301 redirect” from the old domain name to the new one. A 301 redirect indicates that the domain has permanently changed.
2. Notify Google of domain change via Google Webmaster Tools to speed re-indexing.
3. NAP (Name Address Phone) alignment: update external citations to include the new domain.
4. Build new links/citations to reinforce change with Google’s algorithm.
Changing a domain should be a business decision based on branding needs or best practices, and should never be influenced by a fear of lost performance. In most cases, measures can be taken to retain organic search traffic, so perceived visibility and traffic losses shouldn’t trump the decision to re-brand.
David Pye is the director of digital marketing at Dealer.com