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Your domain name is the digital address of your business. Customers use your URL to find your brand and interact with it. Sometimes, a business owner decides to relocate their physical storefront or office. Likewise, digitally relocating is smart in certain cases.

To expand on the metaphor, a business owner who hastily switched storefront locations could lose customers who aren’t aware of the change or need help finding it. Now, consider that search engine bots have associated your website with its unique digital address — plus, you have a human audience online to keep in the loop.

This guide will teach you tried and tested methods to change domain names while keeping your audience and winning at search engine optimization (SEO). Let’s learn more about the SEO impact of changing domain names and how to stay on the good side of search engine algorithms.

SEO impact of changing domain names

Changing your website’s domain name has a major effect on SEO. Search engines index individual webpages and associate each with a URL. With a domain change, all your URLs will change, which means vanishing as far as search engines know. To get back on the radar, you must wait for the engine’s bots to revisit and index your webpages with new URLs.

John Mueller, senior search analyst at Google, hinted at a broad time frame of several hours to several weeks to index a single page. If you’re looking for a rule of thumb, Conductor estimates most websites with less than 500 webpages get indexed in three to four weeks.

In the meantime, the new domain typically doesn’t receive the same level of organic traffic as before the switch — this can last for a couple of months or longer.

Indexed pages get served by Google.

When should you change your domain name?

Since a domain name change means a dip in your organic traffic, your revenue could be affected. Ask yourself if the change is optimal for the future of your business. Below, you’ll consider a few examples of when choosing a new website address is your best bet.

  • Rebranding: If your business goes through a significant rebranding, including a change of brand name or overall audience, you might need a new domain name that aligns with the new branding efforts.
  • Merger: If your company merges with another company and forms a new entity, a new domain name may be part of the integration efforts.
  • Audience shift: If you want another shot at defining your target audience, renaming can be effective. If your brand started locally — and has “Denver” in the URL, for example — but now targets a national or international audience, try a new domain.

How to change a domain name with minimal SEO impact

Here’s how to start off on the right foot, maintain your online presence and reduce the SEO impact of changing domain names.

First off, understand what makes up a domain name. There are two significant parts: The top-level domain and the second-level domain. For example, in, “bluehost” is a second-level domain, and .com is a top-level domain.

Here’s the anatomy of a typical URL.

A second-level domain can be almost anything alphanumeric. You’ll choose a popular top-level domain from a list of options.

Some top-level domain options are called generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as .com, .net, .co and .info. Anyone can use these. On the other hand, some options are called country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), like .us, .uk and .ca. Only people in a corresponding country can use these. Other TLDs, like .gov and .edu, are even more reserved.

1. Opt for an evergreen domain name

By now, you know that changing your domain name is a big deal. Additionally, understand that your domain name holds immense value. Opt for a domain name that aligns with your long-term brand values, marketing goals and business direction.

Here are a few recommendations for picking great domain names:

  • Aim for .com: While there are bucket-loads of gTLDs, .com domains are 33% more memorable than URLs with other gTLDs. In fact, when trying to remember a URL, users use .com 3.8 times more than any other gTLD — surprising, but it makes sense.
  • Think long-term: Instead of basing your domain name around a specific product, trend or geographical area you could grow out of, brainstorm domain names that can support robust brand growth over the years.
  • Avoid hyphens and numbers: Tossing in a hyphen might reveal a tantalizing domain name that’s open, but hyphens and numbers are harder for website visitors to remember. Try a short string of simple words or make up a brand name that’s easy to spell.

A smart choice today will save you from the SEO impact of changing domain names again in the future.

To find your best option at an affordable price, use Bluehost’s domain registration tool. Registering your new address with Bluehost means you’ll enjoy an intuitive control panel to manage your domains and a privacy setting that keeps your personal info safe on the internet.

You can easily register a domain with Bluehost.

2. Backup your website

Before you make any major changes, always back up your website so you have a restore point in case something unexpected happens.

Bluehost clients can create a backup using the control panel; navigate to Websites > [Your Website Name] > Backups.

Where to find backups in Bluehost’s control panel.

Alternatively, you can back up a WordPress website using plugins like UpdraftPlus. However you complete this step, perform a complete backup of all your WordPress files, databases, themes and plugins.

3. Make a list of referring pages

SEO involves a lot of concepts, including keyword optimization, technical website improvements and content creation — but did you know there’s a word-of-mouth dynamic to it?

Just like you value a recommendation from your techie friend, search engines generally give higher rankings to pages considered trustworthy by authoritative websites.

To illustrate, see what Google advises its search quality raters to factor in when verifying the quality of content.

Google asks its quality raters whether people trust each website.

Webpages that receive referrals or links from authoritative websites typically appear higher on search engine result pages (SERPs).

If you change your domain name, any websites that linked to your content will now have a broken link, and you won’t gain the SEO for your new domain name. That’s why part of changing your domain name includes reaching out to people from each website and asking them to update their links with your new URL.

Making a list of referring pages is the first step and there are two ways to go about it. If you use a paid SEO tool, like Semrush or Ahrefs, go to its backlinks feature and export all the referring webpages in a CSV or Excel file.

How to export backlinks via Semrush.

Alternatively, you can head to Google Search Console, navigate to Links > Top linked pages > [Webpage] > [Referring site] and export each backlink on your top webpages.

4. Export your website’s URLs

After changing your domain name, you’ll need to direct traffic from the previous webpages to the new ones. To ensure the process goes seamlessly, you’ll first need a list of every URL your website includes.

If you have Semrush or Ahrefs, use their website audit tools to get a list of your current webpages. Alternatively, crawl up to 500 webpages per scan with the free version of Screaming Frog. If your website is on the smaller side, you can easily use it to export a list of your webpages for free.

Screaming Frog lets you export internal links from your old website.

5. Plot new URLs for existing webpages

Since switching your domain name is a big change, use the opportunity to structure your website better. Why? Implementing web structure best practices will offset the SEO impact of changing domain names.

Imagine you have a blog post on general maintenance practices. The URL used to be Before you change domains, you have an opportunity to identify an appropriate keyword and plot a better URL, such as

Plot SEO-friendly URLs for new pages using the following recommendations:

  • Use hyphens to separate words: Instead of writing “besteastbudapestrestaurants” in your URL, go with “best-east-budapest-restaurants” — hyphens are preferred by Google.
  • Keep URLs short: Limit your URL length to 70 characters to make them easier to remember and display on SERPs without truncation. In order to stay within the limit, delete stop words like “and, “or” and “for.” Still, ensure readers can assume the page’s topic based on the URL.
  • Limit subfolders: Avoid creating deep URL structures with many layers — e.g., Instead, stick to subfolders and posts —, for example.

6. Set up the new domain

Once you’re all set for the switch, configure the new domain in a new hosting environment. Bluehost clients can start in the control panel, then navigate to Hosting > Add site. Follow the intuitive steps ahead to install WordPress in a few minutes.

Here’s how you add another website in Bluehost’s control panel.

If your host doesn’t offer one-click installation for WordPress, you’ll need to install it manually.

Once that’s done, enable an SSL certificate for the new domain to encrypt communication between your host server and users’ web browsers. SSL certificates enable HTTPS usage and a secure lock icon beside your website’s URL which elicits trust from visitors.

With WordPress hosting from Bluehost, you get an SSL for free. Turn it on by navigating to Websites > [Your website] > Security. If you use another hosting provider, you may need to pay for an SSL certificate before you can secure your website.

Turn on SSL for your website in the Bluehost control panel.

7. Migrate website content

Once your WordPress website is configured, log in to your WordPress dashboard to restore the website backup. While there are several ways to do so, we recommend installing the backup plugin you used to create the backup. Then, use its restore functionality.

Once you’ve restored the website’s database, plugins, themes and other files, open the permalink settings and confirm it uses the new domain address.

8. Implement 301 redirects

Now that your website is set up on the new domain, let’s prepare to let search crawlers know you’ve changed your website address.

Use 301 redirects, an HTTP status code that tells search crawlers the requested webpage has permanently moved to another URL. As it conveys a permanent change, search engine bots react by updating their indexes.

While there are several ways to configure 301 redirects, we recommend Yoast SEO and the steps below:

  1. Install Yoast SEO on your old site.
  2. Navigate to Yoast SEO > Redirects.
  3. Select the Type dropdown, then 301 moved permanently.
  4. Enter the full path of an old URL and a new URL.
  5. Click Add Redirect.
  6. Keep adding new redirects for all the webpages you’re transferring to new URLs.
Set up redirects with Yoast SEO.

Afterward, test a couple of old domain URLs by accessing them in a web browser and verifying that they lead to the corresponding page on your new domain.

Once the 301 redirects work properly, you can be confident you’ll regain your SEO after changing domain names.

9. Change domain address in Google Search Console

Now you’re ready to tell Google and other search engines that your website has changed addresses. Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough.

  1. Open Google Search Console and click Add property.

2. Enter your new domain name.

Add a new domain to Google Search Console.

3. Open the property of the previous domain.

4. Navigate to Settings > Change of address.

Here’s where you access GSC’s change of address tool.

5. Select the property of the new domain by clicking Select new site, then click Validate & update.

Google will validate the required redirects to verify the change of address. You’ll be asked to confirm the move.

10. Update internal links

After confirming the change of address, update your internal links, which connect one of your webpages to another within your website.

If you have implemented SEO guidelines for website structure, chances are you’ll have at least one internal link on every page. To update those internal links, open each page in WordPress and edit the URLs of internal links.

While you’re at it, update the links connected to buttons in your header and footer.

After updating all your webpages, do a second pass with a website audit tool, such as Semrush or Ahrefs, to detect any internal links you missed.

11. Reach out to referring brands to update backlinks

Once you have configured the 301 redirects, backlinks using your old domain name will start granting authority to your current domain since search engines now understand that your website’s address has changed.

Still, it’s best to ask referring brands to update the links on their websites — it’s an opportunity to improve user experience, develop positive relationships with other brands and prevent lost marketing opportunities.

While it might not make sense to reach out to every website that links to you, look for the most authoritative websites on the list you prepared in the third step. Afterward, drop short but specific messages to the administrators of those websites.

12. Track SEO performance after the switch

After switching domains, your search traffic will drop since search engines take some time to re-index your webpages.

You should start to receive clicks within a week or two. On the other hand, for a couple of months, you’ll find it challenging to rival the numbers your previous domain did.

Monitor your traffic via Google Analytics to see whether anything needs your attention. For instance, if you don’t get any traffic for a significant time, you may need to fix a broken link or an incorrect 301 redirect.

A Google Analytics report on website traffic.

Changing domain names: Best practices

Following the above procedure should save your SEO while changing domain names. To go one step further, stick to the following best practices that ensure business continuity during and after the switch:

  • Plan the transition for the off-season: While you may be eager to switch your domain name as quickly as you can, it’s better to wait for months with lower business activity. This way, you’re least likely to lose valuable prospects while search engines re-index your website.
  • Update your info: To avoid confusing your customers after a domain name switch, update your domain name on all your social media accounts. If you have a Google Business Profile, update that as well. Do you have business cards or email signatures? Take a few minutes to think of every spot your old domain may be listed.
  • Inform your stakeholders: Your digital marketing team would be the first to know about the upcoming change, but make sure the news reaches the rest of your staff. Tell your stakeholders, clients and suppliers as well.

Final thoughts: Guide to changing domain name without hurting SEO

Changing your domain name is a lot like moving your business to a new address. While your products and services remain the same, the concern is whether your customer base will follow and business operations will keep flowing.

If you pick a prudent name, set up the necessary 301 redirects and thoroughly spread the news, you can quickly enjoy organic traffic on your new and improved domain.

Start off on the right foot with an affordable hosting provider that makes switching your domain name easy. Check out WordPress hosting from Bluehost, which comes with one-click WordPress installation, an intuitive control panel and 24/7 tech support.

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  • Minal Agarwal

    Minal is the Director of Brand Marketing at Bluehost. With over 15 years of business experience in the technology industry, she strives to create solutions and content that fulfill a customer's needs. She is a dog mom and a stickler for calendaring.

    Masters in Marketing Management
    Previous Experience
    Strategic Partnerships, Customer Success, Events and Community
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