I have a website. Can I change its domain name?

Here’s an interesting question we sometimes get asked:

I have a website and it has been running for a for a few years now and has a good ranking on Google. Can I change my domain name?

It is possible, but not simple to change your domain. Any domain builds up a ‘reputation’ in Google’s eyes and it will trust your site and in time give it a good ranking in its search results. If at some point in the future you decide to change your domain, Google will regard the new site as a completely different site and you basically go back to square one and will lose all ‘reputation’ and search engine ranking you may have obtained with your old domain. In addition, if you use exactly the same content, Google will think that the site has been plagiarized and may blacklist your site completely and not show it in its search results at all – which would be a disaster!

If you really want to change your domain name, there are technical measures called ‘re-directs’ which if properly set up, advise Google on what’s happening and re-directs all traffic to the new site. You redirect any visitor, including search engines using ‘301 permanent redirects’. These re-directs basically tell Google that you have moved house and tell the Google robots to visit your new domain instead.

A typical example is if you are planning a re-brand of your business, perhaps with a different domain name. You need to make sure that all your visitors are re-directed to the the new domain. Redirects must apply to every page of your site. Done properly, 301 redirects will make sure that your new domain will not start off with zero visibility to the search engines.