Google has been busy updating their Webmaster Tools recently and yesterday published an update. Tweaks have been made to different features as a result of various issues, queries and feedback from users. However the most interesting was the addition of a “change of domain” feature that allows Webmasters to notify Google about any domain changes. This effectively allows you to submit your new domain to be indexed faster by Google who states that the complete re-indexing will take 180 days.
Although, it is not advisable to make changes to your domain, it is a very useful tool should you really have to. Switching domain names will likely affect your search engine rankings and this could take months to recover from but there are some cases where a domain change is necessary. If this happens, you will need to
- Establish your new domain, ensure it works properly and that all links are correct
- Set up and verify your new domain in Webmaster Tools.
- Correctly implement permanent 301 redirects from each page on your old domain to the corresponding page on the new domain. This must be done on a page by page basis to ensure page weight is correctly and evenly distributed through the site. It will also ensure visitors reach the correct page on the new site.
- Be sure to keep your old domain pages live for a while as the foundation of the redirect (probably 2 weeks to be safe).
- You should submit a new XML site map to Webmaster Tools with your new URLs. This notifies Google directly of the new URLs to be spidered and indexed.
- You should now notify Google of the domain change using its new domain change feature.
You can then monitor the ongoing indexing of your new domain via Webmaster Tools.
There are other things you should think about doing when changing domains such as contacting publishers of external links to request their links are amended as well as looking at pushing other marketing activity to cover you for any loss in rankings (e.g. boost Paid Search advertising, boost offline marketing etc.)
However this new addition to Webmaster Tools is just an additional aid for Webmasters to make a domain change as seamless and trouble free as possible.
Good one Google