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Maximising SEO when you change your domain name

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On 30th September 2014 a change was made that allowed for shorter .nz domain names, for example getyourselfonline.nz rather than getyourselfonline.co.nz. This change has already seen thousands of shorter names being registered. However a question we hear often is how do we move our website from our .co.nz address to our new shorter .nz address and still perform well in online search?

We asked our friends over at PureSEO to provide some guidance that we could share about the best way to make the move and not be negatively impacted in search results.

A company choosing to make the move to a new domain needs to do so with a minimum of impact to their online visibility and appearance in SERPs (search engine results pages). In response, Pure SEO has put together a ‘best practice’ checklist in order to make this move as painless as possible.

Whilst this checklist is a great guide, it is still advisable to consult a professional in order to ensure everything has been implemented in the best manner possible and takes into account any 'unique' aspects of your website.

This process covers two different scenarios:

  • Updating your url (website address) from a .co.nz (or others) to a .nz
  • Moving from an old website to a new website, and also updating your url (website address) from a .co.nz (or others) to a .nz

Step 1 Preparing for the move:

• Ensure that the new (or current) website has everything ready including a robots.txt file and a sitemap.xml.

• Make sure that any conversion tracking, Analytics and other code snippets are copied to the new website.

• Remember if you have set up goals in Google Analytics these may need to be changed to accommodate the new urls.

Top Tip: In August 2014, Google announced that having a secure website is now a (small) ranking signal. This means that when moving your website to .nz it may be worth exploring the possibility of getting a secure certificate (https).

Top Tip: Make sure your website uses the new Universal Google Analytics code.

Step 2 URL Mapping:

Get a list of the current urls indexed in Google. There are crawler tools to do this, however, using a combination of any existing sitemap and an export of pages in Google Analytics should do in most cases.

  • Create a mapping of every single url one by one to the corresponding url on the new domain.
  • Make sure both the new and old domains are submitted to Webmaster Tools.

Step 3 The Move:

  • 301 redirect (permanent redirect) all the old urls to the corresponding new urls. Usually a website developer would do this via a htaccess file: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.htaccess
  • Submit a change of address request in Webmaster Tools: (instructions)
  • Submit a sitemap to Webmaster Tools
  • Create accustom 404 error page on the old domain redirecting users to the new domain – Just in case!

Top Tip: It would be a great time to install Google Tag Manager, this lets you take control of adding new code snippets without the need of a website developer.

Step 4 Check all is well:

  • Check Webmaster Tools for any potential errors or warnings
  • Check search engine rankings to ensure Google is indexing the new website
  • Monitor Google analytics to ensure nothing strange is happening.

Top Tip: Type site:www.yourdomain.nz into Google to see which pages it has in its index.

If you follow the checklist above your transition to the new .nz domain should be a happy one. If your website is very large or complex then getting professional help is advisable; but if your website is small and simple then whole process should be relatively smooth.  If you need some help your registrar/domain name provider should be able to get you started.