Google’s John Mueller recently put a call out for feedback from SEOs, asking whether site owners should fear a loss in traffic when changing domains.
More specifically, Mueller asked three similar yet distinct questions in one tweet.
- If you’ve done a domain change, how did it go?
- Are the fears well-founded?
- Does it help to plan and follow-through systematically?
Every now and then I hear from medium-large sites that want to change domains and fear a loss in traffic. If you've worked with domain-changes recently, how did they go? Are the fears well-founded, if you plan & follow-through systematically?
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) July 8, 2018
Mueller’s tweet attracted dozens of responses from SEOs, with most agreeing that the fears are justified.
However, there were a few responses suggesting that a domain change can be done smoothly, as long as meticulous planning is involved.
I have rounded up a number of responses from both sides, which you can see in the section below.
Should Site Owners Fear Domain Changes?
For the most part, SEOs agreed that domain changes carry a lot of risk and will almost always result in a loss of traffic.
I managed to find only a few responses from those who believe there is nothing to fear as long as it’s done “right.” That means following Google’s instructions every step of the way.
Changing your domain name, while complex, can be done smoothly, especially if one follows the instructions Google provides. However, we see many examples of mismanaged migrations: pic.twitter.com/KfjeYZYDGy
— sistrix (@sistrix) July 9, 2018
I haven't seen any problems when it's done right. I've also only seen it done right a few times.
— Ian Lurie (@portentint) July 9, 2018
Popular opinion suggests that domain changes will more than likely result in a loss of traffic.
This is due to a number of reasons, most of which involve ignoring the complexities of a site audit.
Restrictions imposed by web hosting platforms may also make it difficult for site to change domains without a serious loss in traffic.
While a traffic loss is to be expected, most SEOs agree that traffic will eventually recover after a few months.
The bottom line is — if you absolutely must change your domain name, proceed with caution. It’s reasonable to expect a loss in traffic, so make this change when traffic would ordinarily be slower than usual.
Usually yes because large sites have 1. platforms restrictions for the migrations (eg: incapacity to redirect everything as it should) 2. Lots of old content in locations they are not even aware and easily overlooked (reason why it’s critical to do exhaustive audit and mapping)
— Aleyda Solis (@aleyda) July 8, 2018
I think fears and bad experiences come from ignoring the complexity of planning a migration. In mostly all occasions, something critical was ignored or forgotten! I’d say, plan well ahead; don’t leave everything for the last minute. Ask in the forums 🙂
— Pedro Dias (@pedrodias) July 8, 2018
We've worked ecommerce site migrations to @ShopifyPlus, @BigCommerce, etc. There's almost always an immediate loss in traffic before recovery+. Best advice is to team up with a solid dev (ex: @fuelmade @zakhardage @commandc @bold_commerce) who understands the importance of SEO.
— Whitecap SEO (@WhitecapSEO) July 9, 2018
Saw a 6+ month drop of 50% organic traffic… and followed suggested resources to the letter; so I’d say “well-founded”
— Matt Burgess (@therealburgo) July 8, 2018
Fears are well founded, even with 100% redirects accurately done, including resource files (images, js, etc) we still see a temp drop in traffic… granted it’s generally 30 days or less when done right. Best choice is to switch during ‘slow season’ and plan carefully
— Jake Bohall (@jakebohall) July 9, 2018
For further assistance, please see our article: How to Retain Traffic After Domain Change