The Pitfalls of Changing Your Web Address

Thinking About Changing Your Web Address (Domain Name) for Your Business?

Over the course of the last ten years, we’ve helped thousands of business owners improve their visibility in search results, as well as convert that increase in visibility to more and better qualified leads. During this time we’ve also encountered numerous challenges and interesting requests. However, there is one question that seems to come up enough that we thought it’d make sense to address it in a format we can better share with everyone... For those who have ever asked, “Can’t I just use a new web address (also known as URL or domain name) for my business?” You CAN… but it comes at a cost.

There are a variety of reasons why, as a business owner or marketing manager, you’re wanting to change the web address for your business, like…

  • Your previous web/SEO company is refusing to release your domain to you and/or another hosting provider

  • You’re changing the name of your business and you want to use a “NEW” domain that better reflects the name of that new business

  • Your current website has been hacked and is now penalized by Google due to all the spammy pages that are now associated with it

  • Or a myriad of other individual reasons

At the end of the day, regardless of the reason, if you find yourself wanting to use a NEW URL for your business, there are some very distinct downsides you need to consider, the single biggest of which is loss of rankings in search results.

Tanking Your SEO Strategy

For most business owners, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is extraordinarily frustrating. You don’t understand it, but you know you need it. And even worse, it takes a significant investment of time and money to create and implement an SEO plan that actually works. 

That being said, let’s assume your company has used the same web address for the past 10+ years. Should you decide to change that web address, the search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo!) will all necessarily need to index those changes. As a result, your website WILL experience a drop in overall traffic due to the time it takes for the search engines to recrawl and index your updated website relative to your new URL. 

Now, while there ARE ways to properly change or update a company’s web address, such as using 301 redirects and other technical tactics, there is an increased probability of an error being made that could result in a serious loss of traffic that will be incredibly difficult to overcome.

Loss of Domain Authority

We agree as defined by MOZ, “Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score [...] that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). A DA score ranges from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.” Domain Authority is a predictive ranking strength of entire domains, vs Page Authority, which measures the strength of individual pages.

Now, it’s important to note that “Domain Authority is NOT a metric used by Google in determining search rankings and has no effect on the SERPs.” However, as a comparative tool, DA provides valuable insight with regard to the ranking strength of a domain. 

As it relates to changing the URL of your company’s website, for example, a brand new domain name requires time, and lots of quality inbound links to it, to build up its Domain Authority. Without any history of a website being associated with a URL, and/or any links pointing to it from other credible resources, every new domain name necessarily starts with a DA of 0. 

Knowing that it takes time to establish and increase a domain’s respective authority, the question you have to ask as a business owner is, “Am I okay with the amount of time it will take for my website to show up in relevant SERPs, or am I further ahead to continue building up the authority my current domain already has?”

Loss of Referring Site Traffic

Over time, your current domain has likely earned several backlinks pointing to it. Whether you and/or an effective SEO strategist built these backlinks or they were naturally earned over time is irrelevant. If you change your URL, there is a chance that you will lose all the referring traffic that you’ve worked so hard to build over the years.

Aside from potentially losing all that referral traffic, you also stand to lose the trust and credibility your site has established with the search engines by virtue of the number of backlinks and referring traffic currently pointing to it. Because a huge part of how search engines determine whether pages from your website should be ranked on the first page of results is based on the links pointing to your site, changing your URL may cause those referring links to lead your visitors to broken links and/or pages that no longer exist. As a result, broken links WILL negatively impact the amount of referring traffic going to your site.

Decreased CTR (Click Through Rate) in Email Campaigns

Depending on whether you currently leverage email marketing as a part of your business’s overall marketing strategy, it’s important to know that changing your URL can also negatively impact any emails and/or newsletters you’ve already sent out. How, you ask?

In the event any of your email subscribers click on a button in your emails and/or newsletters that’s intended to drive them to a specific page of your website, if you change your URL you risk directing them to a page that no longer exists. 

Any broken links that make it into your subscriber’s inboxes can cause the number of clicks, as well as your subscriber base, to drop. If and when that happens, this risks the quality of your emails being compromised and more of your future campaigns ending up in spam filters. 

So, What’s the Takeaway When It Comes to Changing Your Company’s Web Address?

On the surface, changing to a new URL may seem like a good idea, but you need to carefully consider how it could help or hurt your bottom line.

While it is possible to do, there are numerous risks that often outweigh the perceived benefits. At the end of the day, changing a URL is NOT a decision to take lightly, as your URL is the backbone of your website and overall SEO strategy.

And if you do decide to change the URL for your company’s website, KNOW that even with a team of experienced professionals doing all the work, it can often take 9-24 months (depending on the competitiveness of your industry and the market in which you’re located) to achieve the visibility and site traffic you’re aiming for.

Chris Ditty
Director of Corporate Marketing and Client Strategy