How to Transfer Your Site to a New Domain

The importance of a smooth domain transfer should not be underestimated, as it plays a critical role in maintaining your website’s performance, user experience, and search engine rankings. An efficient domain transfer ensures that your website remains accessible to visitors, retains its credibility, and continues to generate revenue during the transition. Furthermore, by taking the necessary precautions and following a well-planned process, you can avoid common pitfalls that could result in website downtime, loss of data, or reduced search engine visibility. A seamless domain transfer, therefore, is not only vital for your website’s continued success but also helps preserve your online reputation and the trust you’ve built with your audience over time.

Common mistakes during domain transfers can have significant consequences for your website’s functionality, user experience, and search engine rankings. Some typical errors include failing to back up the site before the transfer, leading to potential data loss, and overlooking DNS propagation time, causing unexpected downtime. Neglecting 301 redirects can also harm your site’s SEO, as search engines may not recognize the relationship between the old and new domain, resulting in reduced traffic. Additionally, not updating Google Analytics and Search Console or monitoring broken links post-transfer can cause blind spots in tracking your site’s performance and identifying issues.

Now that we have discussed the importance of domain transfer and mentioned some of the mistakes that usually happen pre, during, or post-migration, let’s dive into details on how to do the proper domain migration. Here we will discuss migrating from one domain to another.

Preparing for the Domain Transfer

The first step is to acquire the new domain. You have the option to acquire a brand new domain, an expired domain, or to purchase a domain from a reseller. In any case, make sure that you verify that the domain has no bad history. If the domain was previously owned you can see how many drops it had by using Whois Lookup service. If the domain has previous drops, it means that it was owned by someone else, but the past owner hadn’t renewed it. It is a good idea to see what was the website about using the Wayback Machine. You don’t want to buy a domain that was used for adult content and use it for kids toys. If you are buying a domain from a reseller or dropcatcher, you also want to check its domain authority and backlinks. There are a bunch of freemium tools that can be used to see that. An easy-to-use and quick option is to use the Ahref’s website authority checker and backlink checker. The free option shows the domain rating, which is a number between 0 and 100 (the higher the better). It also shows the number of linking websites (root domains), the dofollow to nofollow ratio (nofollow links don’t pass SEO juice). You can use it see the top 100 backlinks as well. If everything looks good, you can move forward with getting that domain.

The second step of the pre-transfer is to add both the old and the new domains in Google Search Console. When you add a new property, you have the option to select its type. Here my advice is to pick “Domain”. This will add all URLs including non-www, and www, as well as https and http. It requires DNS verification. It’s basically adding a TXT record to your DNS settings.

Now that you have verified the domain, you want to do a backup of your old website. Most of the hosting services nowadays already offer this service, where you have daily backups. If you don’t have one, you can manually backup your website. If it’s a SaaS solution like BigCommerce or Shopify, there are apps that can be used for that in the corresponding app marketplaces.

Technical Steps to Transfer Your Site

Update your DNS

Begin by updating the DNS settings for your new domain to ensure proper routing of traffic. Point the new domain to your existing hosting account by updating the nameservers or adding appropriate A/CNAME records. Keep in mind that DNS changes may take up to 48 hours to propagate worldwide. Don’t overlook that time. Your ISP might refresh their DNS more often and you will see the new website, but that doesn’t mean that all of the other users, nor the search engine crawlers will see it. While you wait you can do the next 2 steps below.

Move the File System and Databases

Transfer your website’s files and databases to the new domain by using an FTP client or your hosting control panel. Carefully move all your content, images, and other assets, preserving the original file structure to avoid broken links. After transferring the files, update database connection settings, such as usernames, passwords, and database names, in your website’s configuration files. Double-check to ensure that all the necessary files have been transferred and are functioning correctly on the new domain. Again, if you use a SaaS platform, there are apps that can be used for that. Just check with the corresponding platform’s app marketplace and you will find plenty of options.

Install SSL Certificate for the New Domain

To maintain website security and user trust, install an SSL certificate for the new domain. This ensures that data transmitted between your website and its users remains encrypted and secure. Many hosting providers offer free SSL certificates through services like Let’s Encrypt, while others may require purchasing a dedicated SSL certificate. After installing the SSL certificate, verify that your website is accessible via HTTPS to avoid any security warnings or blocked content for your visitors. You also want to make sure that the HTTP version redirects to the HTTPS. Otherwise, you will end up creating duplicate content in the eyes of Google and other major search engines.

Maintaining SEO Rankings after Domain Transfer

What Google and most informational sources online suggest is that you create a 301 redirect mapping plan between the old and the new domain. This basically means that you will tell Google and other search engines that the old URL moves to a new URL. The 301 redirect means that this is a permanent redirect (302 is temporary). The permanent redirect also passes the SEO juice to the new page. All that is correct, but what we have found that if you do an extra step here before implementing the 301 strategy, Google will actually de-index the old site, index the new one, and also pass the SEO and rankings a lot faster.

Setting up Canonical Tags

That extra step is setting up canonicals for the most important landing pages of your website. Cross-reference with Google Search Console and Google Analytics which are your best performing pages. These are the pages that get the most traffic and are ranking in top positions for your important keywords in Google SERP.  What you will do here is telling Google that your new page is the preferred one. Once you add the canonical tag on your old website that shows that the preferred page is on your new domain, you also want to include an actual text hyperlink in the visible part of the page. The hyperlink again goes to that same preferred URL that you have already put in the canonical tag. Now you want to wait for a couple of days, as an actual traffic (preferably from Google Chrome users) needs to flow from the old URL to the new URL.

In a best case scenario, you website already gets enough traffic, so people will organically click on that. Google will see that people are going to the preferred URL and it will index the new URL instead of the old one. Repeat that for all of your important landing pages.

After a couple of days, you can verify in Google SERP that the preferred URL is already index and the old URL is de-indexed. After that you are ready to implement the 301 redirect for the whole website. There are a couple of ways to do that.

Implement 301 Redirects

Implementing 301 redirects is a crucial aspect of maintaining SEO rankings during a domain transfer, as they signal to search engines that your website’s content has permanently moved to a new location. By setting up 301 redirects from your old domain to the new one, you can ensure that search engines continue to associate your established backlinks and domain authority with the new domain, preserving your rankings in search results. Additionally, these redirects help maintain a seamless user experience, as visitors navigating to your old domain will automatically be redirected to the corresponding pages on your new domain without encountering broken links or error pages.

To implement 301 redirects for your domain transfer, you can use one of the following methods:

  1. .htaccess file (for Apache web servers): Edit the .htaccess file located in your website’s root directory. If you don’t have one, create a new file named “.htaccess” (without quotes) and place it in the root directory.

Add the following code, replacing “” with your new domain name:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www\.)?olddomain\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

This code ensures that all requests to your old domain are redirected to the new domain with the same URL structure.

Nginx web servers: For Nginx servers, add the following code in your server block configuration file, replacing “” with your new domain name:

server {
    return 301$request_uri;

If your website is built using a CMS like WordPress, you can use plugins to handle 301 redirects. Popular plugins like “Redirection” or “Yoast SEO” allow you to manage redirects easily from your dashboard without manually editing configuration files. Shopify has its native redirection system which can be found under “Sales Channel → Navigation → View URL redirects (top right). From there you can manually create a URL redirect, or import/export the redirects in bulk.

Remember to test your 301 redirects by visiting URLs from your old domain and verifying that they redirect to the corresponding pages on the new domain. Monitoring your website’s traffic and search engine rankings after implementing 301 redirects will help you identify any potential issues that need to be addressed during the domain transfer process.

Update Internal Links

While 301 redirects help guide visitors from the old domain to the new one, updating internal links to point directly to the new domain can minimize redirect chains, improve page load speed, and reduce the risk of broken links. Use a combination of manual checks and automated tools, such as link checkers or your CMS’s search and replace functionality, to identify and update all instances of your old domain within your website’s content, images, scripts, and navigation menus. By diligently updating your internal links, you’ll optimize your site’s performance and contribute to a more enjoyable browsing experience for your visitors.

Update Sitemap and Robots.txt

Updating your sitemap and robots.txt files during a domain transfer is crucial for maintaining SEO rankings and ensuring proper indexing of your site by search engines. Your sitemap should be regenerated to reflect the new domain and include all updated URLs, ensuring search engines can efficiently crawl and index your website’s content. Most of the SaaS platforms already have a built-in functionality where you can get your XML sitemap. E.g. all Shopify stores automatically generate a sitemap.xml, which contains all of your URLs, including collections, pages, products, articles, etc. Just type in the browser bar after your domain name and you will get your XML sitemap for Shopify. For BigCommerce, the sitemap location is at If you are using WordPress, I suggest that you install Yoast SEO, which will also generate the sitemap for you. The URL for Yoast / WP is

Next, submit the updated sitemap to Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, and other search engines to expedite the indexing process. In addition, review your robots.txt file to ensure that any domain-specific directives, such as disallowing certain folders or files or specifying the location of the sitemap, are updated to match the new domain. By keeping your sitemap and robots.txt files current, you’ll facilitate optimal search engine crawling and indexing, contributing to the overall SEO success of your website on the new domain.

Inform Google: Change of Address Tool

The final step is to inform Google about the domain transfer. They have a dedicated tool called “Change of Address” which can be found under “Settings” in Google Search Console.

One thing to note here is that both of your domains have to be verified under the same domain and with the same owner. Also, if you have just added one of the domains in there, you want to wait for the verification email from Google before you proceed with the change of address request. Otherwise, Google won’t let you move forward. The email looks like that:

Similarly, for Bing Webmaster Tools, you can submit a site move request after adding and verifying your new domain. By notifying search engines about your domain transfer, you will be able to maintain your website’s visibility in search results and minimize potential disruptions in organic traffic during the transition period.

After you are done you will get the following screen that lets you know about the initiated transfer:

Keep in mind that this process can take a lot of time. We’ve seen some sites where it takes up to 6 months. But don’t worry, that won’t affect your rankings for that period as long as you follow the steps mentioned in this article.

Post-Transfer Actions

After transferring your site to the new domain, it’s essential to closely monitor its performance to ensure that everything is functioning as expected. Track key metrics such as page load time, bounce rate, and user engagement using tools like Google Analytics or similar web analytics platforms. Keep an eye on your search engine rankings and organic traffic to detect any fluctuations that might indicate an issue. By regularly monitoring your website’s performance, you’ll be able to identify and address any problems that may arise due to the domain transfer promptly.

Check for Broken Links

Post-transfer, diligently check your website for broken links that may have resulted from the domain change. Broken links can negatively impact your website’s user experience and search engine rankings. Use tools like Screaming Frog SEO Spider or your CMS’s link checker to scan your website for any broken internal or external links. Upon discovering any issues, promptly update the links or implement appropriate redirects to resolve them, ensuring that your website continues to provide a seamless browsing experience for visitors.

Update External Links

Where possible, I also suggest that you update your external links. If your website is listed in a business directory, partner website or anywhere else, you can reach out to the webmaster of that website and ask them to update your backlinks. This will minimize redirect chains, reduce the risk of broken links, and it will help preserve the link equity built up over time. Although the 301 redirects help transfer most of the link authority to your new domain this is a proactive approach to ensure that the backlinks point directly to the new domain.

By updating external links, you strengthen your website’s backlink profile, further solidifying your search engine rankings, and maintaining a cohesive brand presence across the web.

Announce the Domain Change

Finally, make sure to inform your audience, customers, and partners about the domain change to ensure they’re aware of the new website address. Use various channels, such as blog posts, email newsletters, and social media updates, to announce the domain change and explain any reasons behind the move. You can also write a press release and use a distribution service to create some traction. By proactively communicating the change, you’ll maintain trust and credibility with your audience, while also minimizing potential confusion or loss of traffic.

In conclusion, transferring your site to a new domain is like orchestrating a grand stage performance – it requires careful planning, seamless execution, and diligent post-show reviews. So, pull up your sleeves, follow our tips, and give your website the standing ovation it deserves on its new domain! Remember, even the best directors need some assistance now and then. So, if you find yourself tangled in the web of domain transfers or feeling like a lost sheep in the land of SEO, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to help you keep the show going – and trust us, we know a thing or two about encores!