This month’s question comes from Jon, owner of an ecommerce site offering hundred of different products, and many variables within those product pages equaling thousands of options. In anticipation of his impending move from his current platform to the Magento CMS (content management system), he is also considering changing his domain to one that is easier to remember from a branding standpoint, and asks the following question:
Will switching domains affect SEO?
Since Jon’s site is already a couple years old, and already has a decent foothold in search engines for a variety of targeted keywords, I would not advocate changing domains.
Jon’s site would gain nothing from an SEO standpoint. It might be advisable to forward that domain to his main one, and use it in email signatures, on business cards, etc. In the event that he did decide to change domains, in order to truly make that transition, and in order to preserve pagerank and all his SEO juice he’s achieved to this point he would need to set up 301 redirects for every URL on the old site and point them to the appropriate page on the new site.
Not only that, he would have to ensure that every link on the thousands of pages is adjusted to point to the new domain. It’s doable, but the gains are almost nothing.
If you have a site that is already receiving a significant amount of search engine traffic, changing domains would require a substantial amount of effort just to get the new site to rank as well as the old one.
About the only reason I would ever recommend starting over on a new domain is if you, as a website owner found yourself in a situation where you were dealing with a massive penalty from Google and lost a big chunk or even all of your search engine traffic.
This could happen for a variety of reasons – from purchasing links or other ‘black hat’ SEO techniques – to the consequences of cleaning up the mess of an unscrupulous or incompetent SEO consultant. In those circumstances, it could be more work than it’s worth to recover and starting over fresh might be a better option in both the short term and long term.