If you decide you want or need to change your domain name, there are lots of things to consider to help you retain your site ranking in the various search engine results page (also known as SERP). Here's a few tips on what to check before you start the process of moving your website to another domain.
What to avoid
The whole process of moving a domain should be designed to make sure your visitors, and search engines are included in this, don't receive a 404 (File Not Found) error. Some simple tips for this process are highlighted in the Moving Your Site article in the Google Help pages and include:
- Move the site in two steps. Firstly, move the old site to the new domain to verify it works correctly and then make any changes like a site redesign on the new domain.
- Use a 301 Redirect to permanently redirect all pages on your old site to your new site.
- Check all the links on your site (both internal and external) to make sure you don't have any broken links. A tool like Xenu can help automate this process.
- Retain control of your old site for at least 180 days.
- Add your new site via the Google Webmaster Tools and make sure you verify it.
- Create a new Sitemap for your new domain and submit it.
How do I inform the search engines of my new domain?
Once you've followed all of the steps from the previous section, you can now inform Google about the new domain. The Google Webmaster Tools now come with a Change of Address section:
Once you are in this section, Google will tell you that in steps 1-3 that you need to have moved the site following the guidelines from above, implemented your 301 redirects and then verified your new site. Step 4 will then allow you to pick your new site from the list and update Google with the new domain:
Once you've submitted this new domain, you can monitor your dashboard to see when Google crawls and indexes your site. If you've done everything correctly, you should hopefully maintain your rankings in the SERP.