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Domain Migration SEO Checklist & Steps

SEO Domain Migration Strategy without Losing Rankings

James Gibbons
Domain Migration SEO

There is no denying that migrating from one domain to another is tedious, time-consuming, and resource-intensive. In addition, migrating a domain between domains or registrars can be challenging and frustrating. As a result, things go wrong even if you have the best intentions.

In its index, Google likes to see sites with a single URL that does not point to different places. This helps them identify what a site is about, not where its various pages are stored. When you migrate your domain from one provider to another, you can encounter problems if the domain has more than one address pointing to the same page. Thus, ensuring the successful migration of your domain helps you avoid any negative impact on your brand and website traffic.

This blog guides you through the domain migration process, focusing on SEO. Learn about the technical aspects you must consider, potential pitfalls to watch out for, and the recommended best practices for successful domain migration. 

Alternatively watch our video guide that summarizes the blog contents.

Domain Migration SEO Explained

Domain Migration is the process of moving from one domain address to the other. You may need to move to a new or different domain address for multiple reasons.

1. Rebranding - Moving to a domain address that reflects your company’s new branding better. You have been acquired or bought by another company.

2. Consolidation - Merging multiple domain addresses into one to make managing your website more accessible.

3. Expansion - Increasing the reach of your website by purchasing a domain address in another language or country. 

4. Improvement - Replacing an existing domain address with one that is more attractive or memorable.

5. Safety - Moving to a more secure domain address like .org or .edu to prevent malicious attacks.

6. Changing Technologies - Switching to a more current domain address that uses a different protocol (like switching from HTTP to HTTPS).

Irrespective of the reason, domain migrations can be tricky. Think of domain migrations as shifting to new office space after using an office address for years. With this shift, you have to move all your belongings to the new office physically. You must also notify existing employees, customers, and all stakeholders of the move and let them know the new office address.

Domain migration is similar to the example above, as you need to

1. Digitally move all the content from your old domain address to the new one

2. Inform users and existing customers, as well as stakeholders, of the migration

3. Ensure search engines know that you have migrated to a new domain address

Domain Migration v/s Website Migration

Domain migration is moving your website from one domain name to another. For example, if you own the domain name and want to move to a new domain name, such as, you must perform a domain migration. Migrating your domain involves changing the DNS settings for the domain name, updating all links and redirects, and updating the website's content to use the new domain name.

Website migration is moving your website from one server to another. For example, if you have your website hosted on one server and want to transfer it to a different server, you would need to perform a website migration. Site migration involves transferring all website files and databases to the new server, configuring the new environment, and ensuring the website functions correctly. In addition, you will need to update any links and redirects and the website's content to use the new server.

The difference between website and domain migration is that domain migration involves changing the domain name, and website migration involves changing the server. Both processes involve updating links, redirects, and content. Both processes also require careful planning and testing to ensure no issues after the migration.

How To Migrate Your Domain Without Affecting SEO?

As with any drastic change, domain migration also affects your SEO. Thus, you must ensure your domain migration follows SEO best practices.

When migrating to a new domain, you must consider two key aspects from a search engine's perspective.

1. You need to delete(or redirect) your old domain from Google's index

2. Google has to re-index your new domain and all the web page URLs

While migrating your domain, you must ensure that you do no harm to your website and do not violate any of Google's webmaster guidelines.

Google has two major concerns with domain migrations.

1. When migrating a domain, you risk breaking links and causing a temporary drop in ranking. Expect traffic loss and lost conversions or sales.

2. You also risk getting penalized by Google if you are not careful with how the migration is done.

To avoid penalties and rank losses, gradually migrating your domain is the best approach. This means that both the old and new domains will work together during the migration process. This way, users can still be directed from the old domain address while all content is gradually shifted to the new address. 

If this is done correctly, search engines will automatically update their index whenever a change happens on either of the domains. There will be no penalty for having both domains live simultaneously and no loss of trust or link authority for either of the domain names. 

This gradual process can take time depending on how many pages are being migrated, but it is worth it in the end because it ensures that there are no losses from Google's and a user's points of view.

Domiain migration process can take time depending on how many pages are being migrated, but it is worth it in the end because it ensures that there are no losses from Google's point of view and a user's point of view.

This gradual shift should be planned carefully and executed correctly to achieve SEO goals without incurring any Google penalties or rank drops while migrating your website's domain name.

A well-thought-out domain migration strategy can help you maintain your current SERP rankings and move in the right direction.

Planning your Domain Migration SEO

Planning for an SEO domain migration can be complex and requires careful consideration before executing the move. Considering factors such as content updates, changing to a new CMS, and SEO analytical implications is essential. 

Before starting the process, it is essential to understand the differences between domain-only and URL path changes and which content and optimization tools you want to keep or migrate to the new domain. 

Domain migration should be done cautiously, as it can significantly impact the website’s visibility and ranking. 

However, if done correctly, domain migration can be an excellent opportunity to boost organic traffic. Let us look at the 5 critical aspects of planning for domain migration for SEO.

1. Domain-only changes v/s URL path changes:

This is an important consideration to keep in mind when migrating a domain. Domain changes refer to simply changing the domain name from to On the other hand, URL path changes refer to changes to the URL's path, such as from to Ensuring the URLs are correctly configured and redirected after the domain migration process is essential.

For URL path changes, there will be a need to do a few page-level 301 redirects. This is more cumbersome. Hence consider based on a traffic threshold and only do a URL path change if necessary.

2. Content Updates:

When migrating a domain, it is vital to decide if the content on the new domain should be the same or different than the old domain. If you want the same content, you must ensure that the content does not change during the migration process. If you want different content, plan how best to migrate the content from the old domain to the new one.

Another aspect to consider when making content updates is updating the internal links. This means updating links within the content to ensure it points to the correct path on the new domain. Common mistakes to avoid include forgetting to update the navigation and internal links. 

3. Should you shift to a new CMS as well?:

Should you shift to a new CMS is an important decision when migrating a domain. If you are changing the domain and the content, you must decide whether to keep the same CMS or use a new one. The CMS chosen should be easy to use and can accommodate the content. A good practice is to use the same CMS so that all content can be transferred easily. 

Common mistakes to avoid include having too many plugins that slow down the website or choosing the wrong CMS for the content. In case of a CMS change, remember that your new CMS supports old layouts and design systems to make your domain migration smoother.

4. SEO Tools:

Along with changing the CMS, you must decide whether to keep the same or incorporate new optimization tools. This includes analytics, tracking, auditing, and other tools used for the old website. If you keep the same tools, you must ensure that these can be used for the new domain or opt for new ones.

Update your domain changes in the old tools. Read the steps below on when and how to update your domain address in Google Search Console. Common mistakes to avoid include forgetting to set up tracking on the new domain or not updating the tools used for the old domain.

5. Auditing and Analytics:

Once the domain migration process is completed, it is essential to perform an audit to check for any broken links or pages and any other issues. This audit should also cover your analytics and tracking systems to ensure they are correctly set up. Your analytics & SEO performance may see a slight bump. However, this should return to normal after a few weeks. Common mistakes to avoid include not checking for broken links after the domain migration process or not using the right metrics to track performance.

Domain Migration SEO Checklist

Domain migration SEO and website migration process is cumbersome and should only be undertaken if only essential. Before we move into how to begin your migration process, let us discuss when not to migrate your domain.

When to Avoid a Domain Migration

Do not migrate your domain if you are:

1. Changing your CMS (content management system)

2. Editing the design of your website (the look and feel, imagery, logos, etc.)

3. Editing your content (the copy on the website)

4. Changing the site's structure, such as removing/combining sections, editing the URLs, changing the navigation, etc.

A URL redirection may help you with some of these situations. However, these are all significant changes to the site. A domain migration and these changes will make it much harder to complete the work and spot what is causing any SEO issues.

Things to Keep In Mind Before Your Domain Migration Process

Now that we know when not to migrate to a new domain, let us look at what you must remember before beginning your domain migration process.

1. Make sure you have a backup plan for your old domain name. For example, is there a way to redirect it to your new domain? You may lose some link equity from your old domain name if you do.

2. Do a quick audit to see if you need to fix any issues with your current DNS configuration before you migrate.

3. Find out if you can use your existing hosting provider or switch to one of the registrar’s domain hosting providers.

4. Review the terms of service with your current domain registrar. Find out if your current registrar offers a domain migration service.

5. Find out if you will have to pay any fees for domain migration, and if so, how much.

Once you have answers to all these questions, you can initiate your domain migration process and conduct it efficiently and confidently.

Step-by-Step Guide to Domain Migration

The domain migration process involves several key elements, and we break it down into the exact steps you should take to ensure smooth sailing.

Step 1: Plan your migration

Before initiating a domain migration, make sure you have a plan to deal with any possible downtime. Let your customers know that you are aware of the migration and that there may be a brief downtime while the migration occurs.

Set yourself up to succeed by planning and trying to avoid potential pitfalls that may lead to issues with the migration.

Step 2: Check Your New Domain

Before you do anything else, make sure you know the history of your new domain. Has it ever been used before? Does it have indexed content? Has it had content removed? Any any backlinks pointing to it?

Google’s Search Console gives you detailed and free info on what it thinks about your new site. Claim and verify your new domain in Google’s Search Console.

Step 3: Migrate Your Content

Make a complete list of URLs on your existing domain. Crawl your website like a search engine and find all the URLs in Google's index. This will only give you access to organic pages.

If you are conducting pay-per-click ads (such as Google AdWords), include any display URLs. Our goal is to have as complete a list as possible. This master list of URLs will be utilized to assess the success of your redirects and the site's performance after migration.

Once you have a list of all the URLs, make a copy of the content live on these URLs. For example, include the SEO copy (meta title and description), headings, body copy, images (with properties like alt text), links, etc.

Move all the content to the CMS associated with your new domain. DO NOT publish the content yet. We also do not want search engines to start crawling the new website (apart from maybe the home page).  

Stop crawling and indexing the new domain website using the robots.txt file and meta=noindex tags. You can also password-protect your new site.

Step 4: Survey & Setup Redirects

In this step, we will look at how redirects and internal and external links are set up on our website.

Your crawl above should have given a list of existing redirects in place. You need to decide where these will point on the new domain website. Ideally, port any existing 301 rules to the new domain. Remember to avoid too many chain redirects by introducing new 404s.

Ensure all internal links and canonicals point to the new domain as well. Any XML sitemaps are updated with new links and uploaded to the new domain via GSC.

Identify and gather all external websites pointing to your old domain address web pages. You will have to test if the redirects were successful and check if the links point to new domain pages.

Step 5: Migrate & Submit for Re-Indexing

Set up new 301 redirects from the existing domain address to the new domain. Add 301s to WWW and HTTP versions of the website to point to the new domain directly.

Use Google's change of address/domain migration tool to begin migration. While you are there, review the latest guidelines posted by Google around domain migration.

Ensure no developer copies of the old website. When left live and externally accessible, old websites are easy to copy or duplicate. Developers often add a canonical to live sites and then these can start ranking on search engines instead.

Step 6: Test Everything & Go Live

Test for SEO parity of all URLs. Check title tags, meta-descriptions, canonicals, headings, linking modules, schema markups, and whether site speed optimizations are retained. Ensure these are revised for domain changes.

Test it thoroughly and cut over everything cleanly all at once. You now want to submit the new site for indexing. Remove the indexation and crawling barriers set up before.

Once your new domain website is live, start changing all of your website's links to use your new domain name. Update your social media accounts and other places that link back to your old site.

It is not over once you've moved your website. As with our health, monitoring and maintaining your site's health is still important after successfully launching it. Track indexing of your new pages, keyword positions, and ranking. Check new web pages for performance and any user experience issues.

Domain Migration SEO with Quattr

Migrating a website to a new domain can be a daunting task. It can be challenging to know how to make the transition smoothly, so as not to hurt search engine rankings. Fortunately, Quattr’s platform is designed to help make the transition as SEO-friendly as possible.

First and foremost, Quattr ensures that all user-created content is redirected correctly. By mapping old content to the new domain, Quattr ensures that existing users can find their way to the new website. This eliminates the potential of losing users due to the website migration process. Furthermore, it helps retain existing search engine rankings by redirecting the same content to the new domain.

Quattr also provides analytics and visibility into how the migration impacts the website’s performance. By tracking website performance metrics over time, Quattr can help identify potential issues that might arise due to domain migration. This helps adjust the migration process accordingly so that users and search engine rankings are not negatively impacted.

Domain Migration SEO with Quattr
Quattr's dashboards let's you record key changes like domain migration and track performance metrics for significant changes.

In addition, Quattr can provide comprehensive advice on domain migration SEO. Our expert SEO concierge can analyze the existing website’s SEO factors and suggest ways to improve them. Thus ensure an SEO-friendly domain migration where your website’s SEO rankings do not suffer as a result.

Ensure Domain Migration SEO

Domain migration SEO can be challenging, but they are necessary from time to time. Therefore, preparing for your migration is crucial by following the domain migration SEO best practices stated above.

You want to make your domain migration process a smooth sail for you, your customer, and search engines. Follow the steps one by one and do not fasten the process. You want to be thorough since you do not get another chance at website domain migration.

First, create a comprehensive checklist to ensure every step is covered and any critical factor is not overlooked. Secondly, ensure that your new domain’s technical set-up is in order and ready for traffic to flow. Third, ensure that any redirects that need to be set up to maintain page authority and rankings are in place. This can prevent potential issues and maintain the link juice built on the old domain.

Finally, monitor key metrics like organic traffic and rankings after the migration. Regularly monitor your progress to ensure everything is going as planned and any potential errors have been quickly identified and corrected. 

Domain migrations can significantly impact your website’s performance, and if done correctly, it can enhance your SEO efforts in the long run. Doing wrong can leave much cleanup work, so be sure to get it right the first time. With the proper preparation and careful monitoring, you can ensure a successful domain migration SEO process.

Ensure Domain Migration SEO Best Practices with the Experts at Quattr

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Domain Migration FAQs

What is Domain Migration?

Domain migration is moving a domain from one server to another. This typically involves transferring the domain registration, DNS records, and website files from one server to another.

When and Why is Domain Migration SEO Necessary?

You should migrate a domain when you need to change the domain name of a website in case of a change in the company's name, ownership, or brand. You should also consider a domain migration when you have multiple domains with a few different contents and you want to merge them into one domain. SEO domain migration is necessary to maintain the website's organic visibility and retain SERP rankings.

How to do Domain Migration?

Domain migration involves transferring the domain registration, DNS records, and website files from one server to another. First, the domain must be unlocked from the current registrar and the authorization code obtained. Then, the domain must be registered with the new registrar. DNS records then need to be updated in the new registrar's control panel. Finally, website files must be uploaded to the new server and configured correctly.

About The Author

James Gibbons

James Gibbons is the Senior Customer Success Manager at Quattr. He has 10 years of experience in SEO and has worked with multiple agencies, brands, and B2B companies. He has helped clients scale organic and paid search presence to find hidden growth opportunities. James writes about all aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page, and technical SEO.

About Quattr

Quattr is an innovative and fast-growing venture-backed company based in Palo Alto, California USA. We are a Delaware corporation that has raised over $7M in venture capital. Quattr's AI-first platform evaluates like search engines to find opportunities across content, experience, and discoverability. A team of growth concierge analyze your data and recommends the top improvements to make for faster organic traffic growth. Growth-driven brands trust Quattr and are seeing sustained traffic growth.

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