6 Reasons Why Website Traffic Dropped After a Domain Change

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Web Traffic Drop After Domain Change

Web Traffic Drop After Domain Change

Switching domains for your site is a big decision, particularly because doing so can have a negative impact on your organic traffic and compromise all of your past optimization efforts.

That being said, there are plenty of compelling reasons to want to change your domain name. Depending on your particular situation, you might find that making the shift is well worth the trouble and work.

If your traffic dropped after a domain change, there’s a good chance that the cause is a combination of different factors that need to be addressed.

Let’s look at six common reasons why your traffic might suffer after you migrate your site from one domain to another.

1. Your Audience Doesn’t Know You Changed Your Domain

Perhaps the most simple reason that your traffic dropped after a domain change is that your audience is unaware of the move.

This issue is more likely if a lot of your traffic comes from direct traffic site visitors. This means that your audience frequently types your domain name right into their browser instead of finding your site in search results. If direct traffic site visitors make up the lion’s share of your audience, you’ll have to go the extra mile to inform your audience about the domain change.

For example, let’s say that you’ve done a ton of marketing for your old domain name– website123.com. You’ve advertised the heck out of the domain with social media marketing, podcast ads, online paid advertising, radio ads, and even local TV advertisements.

This might mean that a lot of the traffic to your site comes from people simply typing in the domain they found in the advertisement to learn more about your product or service.

When they find that the site doesn’t load, they might think that you’ve gone out of business. Even if they do the work to track down your new site, the whole process can make your business seem less professional and have a negative impact on your brand image.

Audience Unaware of Domain Change

Once you’ve decided that migrating your site is the right decision despite the risks, you’ll want to advertise that you are changing your domains in every possible place. You can announce your new domain on your social media pages, in an email newsletter, through a pop-up or message on your site, through ads, and more. You’ll also want to take the time to audit all of your advertising efforts and make sure that the domain change is reflected in every corner of your marketing strategy.

If your domain change aligns with a change of physical address for your business, you’ll also want to make sure that your NAP listings are correct and consistent across the web.

2. You Didn’t Tell Google About the Change

When you move your website from one domain to another, you’ll want to inform Google. Luckily, they’ve created a tool that makes it easy to communicate the domain change.

Google Change of Address Tool

Google suggests that you use the tool before you move your website to a new domain. If you’ve already made the shift and haven’t yet let Google know about it, however, you can still use it after the fact.

Using the Change of Address Tool helps to migrate your Google search results to your new site.

3. The Search Engines Don’t Recognize the Value of Your New Domain Yet

When you change your domain name, the search engines will need to re-scan and re-index your site. Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard and fast rule for how long this takes, and it’s possible that your traffic drop is due to this part of the process.

One thing that you will want to keep in mind when changing your domain is the domain name age of your old site. Search engines like Google tend to give more weight to sites that have been around longer. If your old site is well established, you might find that your traffic suffers when you shift to a newer, younger name.

Using a Search Engine

Some site owners deal with this issue by purchasing the domain name well in advance of the intended migration. They then hold on to the domain and let it age for a while before they make the change. While this doesn’t completely eliminate the potential for losing traffic due to a name change, it can help to mitigate the risk of losing traffic due to having a young site name.

Other owners might choose to buy a premium domain name to help reduce the risk of traffic loss. These are keyword-rich, memorable, and short domains that have been previously registered. This means that search engines are already familiar with them, and they have a pre-established history of search and web traffic.

There are a number of tools out there you can use to investigate the history of premium domain names. In particular, you’ll want to make sure that the domain you choose doesn’t have a history of black hat SEO practices or spammy site traffic. Even if you purchase an old domain that has had lots of traffic in the past, these unsavory practices of previous site owners can end up hurting your rankings and traffic.

4. The SEO of Your New Site Isn’t Up to Par

Changing domains is a big decision that shouldn’t be made lightly, but it can certainly make sense in some scenarios. One of the downsides of switching your domain name after your initial site is established is that you will have to put in more SEO work to make sure you maintain the same amount of traffic or, ideally, grow the number of visitors to your site.

While there are a number of things you can do to mitigate the risks of changing domains, you will still have to put in the work to gain backlinks for your new domain and boost your SEO.

Search Engine Optimization

You might find that hiring an SEO agency is well worth the cost when migrating your site from one domain to another. They’ll be able to help ensure that your traffic isn’t negatively impacted as a result of the move.

On top of that, they’ll know about all of the tips and tricks for instituting a successful domain change. For example, many SEO experts recommend that you make the move during a time of year when you usually receive a small number of visitors, such as the holiday season.

Changing your domain name is a complicated process, and it’s ultimately best to get it right the first time. An SEO or digital marketing agency will be able to help you navigate the process and ensure that your new site is even more successful than your previous domain.

5. You Didn’t Set Up Redirect Pages

In order to successfully migrate your site from one domain to another, redirection is key. You’ll likely find that your traffic drops if you don’t deal with redirection at all, if you redirect all pages to one page, or if you choose the wrong redirects.

You can also negatively impact the value of your external links and your site’s loading time if you create redirect chains.

Website Redirect Types

If you have a large site that you’re moving to a new domain, you’ll want to prioritize the pages that rank well on SERPs, have the most backlinks, and get the highest traffic. Once you have dealt with these pages, you can move on to lower-priority pages on your site.

6. You Didn’t Do a Pre and Post-Launch Audit

One of the most important things you’ll want to do when changing domain names is audit your site both before and after launch. It’s a lot of work, but you’ll want to thoroughly go through your site to make sure that every element of your site is error-free and high-quality.

For example, you’ll need to audit the following:

  • Menu and navigation
  • Website content
  • Canonical tags
  • Metadata
  • Mobile responsiveness
  • Internal links
  • Website speed
  • Data structure and markup code
  • Photos and images

After you’ve made the move, you’ll want to look at every single component of your site to check for functionality.

Performing a Website Audit

Look for any changes in traffic, too many 404 errors, a higher number of Error Reports in your console, or a drop in visibility in search results. If you find any of these problems, something has gone wrong during the transition and needs to be addressed immediately.

A site audit before and after your domain change can help you avoid short-term negative impacts on your site’s SEO.

Is It Ever Worth Changing Domain Names?

There are a number of reasons you might feel compelled to change the domain name of an existing site. Though migrating your site from one domain to another is a big job, it can be worth the trouble in a number of situations.

For example, let’s say that you purchased a site several years ago on a tight budget. At the time, the .com version of your domain was out of your price range. Now that your site has grown, you want to move on from a less authoritative TLD to .com or .org.

Changing a Domain Name

Another obvious reason you might want to change your domain is if the name of your business changed. It certainly makes sense to have your site name line up with your business name for the sake of branding and consistency.

Other site owners might choose to change their domain name because their existing site isn’t getting the traction they desire. Maybe the original name is way too long, has too many numbers or hyphens, or simply isn’t memorable.

Another reason you might choose to change your domain is if the name doesn’t reflect your business and brand. If the name doesn’t set the right tone for your site or you need to keep up with a changing industry, you might find that switching domains is well worth the trouble.

What Are the Risks of Changing Domain Names?

As a business owner, you are well aware that everything with potential benefits also comes with its fair share of risks. Before you make a domain name change, you’ll want to learn about what could go wrong.

One major risk is one that will hit any site owner where it hurts– losing both time and money.

You don’t want to change your domain name on a whim or simply because you’ve grown tired of the old name. It’s a huge job to migrate a site between domains that will require energy, resources, and quite a bit of time. Before you make the change, you want to ensure that the benefits will outweigh the costs.

Changing Domain Name

Another risk is one we’ve been talking about at length so far– a loss of search traffic and rankings in search results. It can also have a negative impact on any backlinks that you have already established. Unfortunately, redirects on backlinks don’t have the same authority in the eyes of SEO algorithms, though keeping your redirects alive is better than nothing.

To help keep your backlinks alive, you can also choose to reach out to each of the third-party sites and give them the new link. As you might imagine, this can take quite a bit of time, but it’s likely well worth it to ensure that your traffic isn’t harmed by the site migration.

Finally, changing domains can have a negative impact on your brand image and awareness if you aren’t careful. You’ll want to be thoughtful about where your traffic has been coming from (e.g., is it coming from direct traffic site visitors or are people arriving from search results pages?) and incorporate this information into your decision to switch domains.

You’ll want to implement a redirect page from your old site to your new domain for at least four months to ensure you aren’t losing direct traffic site visitors. This way, you can rest assured that most of your direct traffic visitors are at least aware that your site has moved rather than shut down completely.

Hire a Full-Service Agency to Help With Your Site Migration

Changing domain names is a decision you don’t want to take lightly, but many business owners feel it is well worth the trouble. To help mitigate some of the risks of migrating your site from one domain to another, it’s a good idea to hire a digital marketing agency to help ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Website Migration Team

Are you looking for the right team to partner with when your site goes through this major transition? You can contact us today to discuss your domain change and what will need to be done to ensure that your traffic isn’t negatively impacted.

David Curtis
David Curtis
David Curtis is the founder and CEO of Blue Pig Media. With twenty years of successful execution in sales, marketing and operations, for both clients and vendors, he has a bottom line ROI driven mentality rooted in metrics driven performance across highly competitive global corporate initiatives.

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