Some times we are in a situation when we have to move our blog/website from one domain (URL) to another domain (URL). There could be various reasons for this migration
1- Your current Domain name is not matching with your niche or website content
2- You want to re-brand your blog/website
3- You find a better Domain Name with better keyword in its name.
While changing the domain name, there is no need to transfer the SQL database/content or files as you are just changing the Domain Name not the web hosting provider.
Issue while moving from one domain to another domain
Biggest issue is your Ranking in Search Engines. If your online business is depend upon the customer from search engine then you must be worry about your ranking while changing the Domain Name.
Why ranking affect when you move from one domain to other domain?
When you change your domain then links to your pages (or article) also get change and if someone click on your old URL then user will get a 404 (file not found) error
Search engine also crawl your website with old URL and when it will not find your page then will raise a 404 (file not found) error, if search engine continuous observe 404 error for your domain name (old domain name) then it will affect your ranking in search result page.
If you continue with your old and new domain with same content on both blog/website then it resolve your 404 (file not found) error, but then it will create a duplicate content issue for your new blog which in turn affect your ranking in search result page.
Tips to avoid 404 (file not found) error and keep your ranking un-affected
Google has suggested some guidelines to avoid 404 errors and to do a smoother transfer from one domain to another domain without hampering your search ranking.
301 redirect – To avoid 404 (file not found) error for your old links you should use 301 redirects. 301 redirects inform the search engine that your links have been moved to a new link (URL) and your visitor will be redirected to your new domain instead of 404 (file not found) page.
Suggestion- First creates the 301 redirects for a bunch of links then test whether redirect is working fine or not. Once you are sure that redirecting is working fine then redirect all the old Links to new Links.
How to test 301 redirects
1- To test whether your redirects are working fine or not, search on Google for your article, click on the link and it should re-direct you to your new domain.
2- You should wait for 4-5 days to check whether you are getting 404 (file not found) error for your re-directed old links in Webmaster tool (crawler error section) or not.
Note- You must create a 301 redirect for each old links in your blog; otherwise you will get 404 (file not found) error.
External Links – Links from other’s websites to your blog/website is known as external link (or back links). You should contact each website owner and suggest those updated links, but we know that it is not possible when you have thousands of external links. In this case you should create 301 redirects for each referenced link (external links).
Internal Links- When you mentioned one of your existing post in your other post by putting link to it then these kind of link known as ‘Internal Link’. You should update your internal links as well.
Once you have updated all the links then you should use any broken Link check utility like Xenu. This will check all the broken links in your new domain.
Suggestion- To avoid any data loss or link information you should retain your old domain and content for at least 6 months so that in case you found something wrong then you have your old blog to refer.
Note- Once you have setup your new domain and tested all the links then you should submit your new sitemap (with new domain) to your webmaster account and verify it.