Moving to a .UK domain name

Moving to a .UK domain name
Last updated: Saturday September 06th 2014
Reading time: 7 minutes

Moving to a .UK domain name

I have been thinking about moving my website from “laurencecaro.co.uk” to “carocreative.uk” for some time now and have finally managed to do so this weekend. Everything so far has gone well and Google has already started indexing my new domain.

I think I’ll enjoy using carocreative.uk as my domain and it leaves things open for me to make the plunge from being a freelancer to having my own agency one day. It’s also shorter which is cool and easy for people to remember. I’ll probably even switch over my email address too, leaving a catch-all and forward mail on to my existing email accounts.

How sites are positioned in search results is very important to businesses so this has been a topic I have looked into in some depth. Thanks to Brittany Sheffield of 352inc.com for her suggestions on moving domain names.

Should you move to a new .UK domain?

I have been asked whether moving to a shorter .uk will have any benefits from a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective. From what I currently understand, the search engines will not make a direct preference between a co.uk or org.uk and the shorter .uk domains. The search engines use hundreds of factors in their calculations, of which the domain extension is only one. What I do know is that they will use the .uk portion of the domain as one factor in indicating whether a site is targeted at UK consumers, however I expect co.uk and .uk to be treated in exactly the same manner in this regard.

The process for moving to your .UK domain name

1. Try and keep things simple. Although it might be tempting to restructure and rebrand your site during the move, this can add complexity to any migration.

2. If you have not done so already, install analytics tracking on your website (such as Google Analytics). This will allow you to benchmark your current site and understand visitor numbers and traffic sources. This will provide you with valuable metrics on your site’s performance, and help you to compare pre and post-migration statistics.

3. Register your site with the major search engines’ Webmaster Tools sites. This will allow you to see top level stats and spot any issues that occur when the search engines crawl your site.

4. Create a redirect strategy. This can be extremely straightforward and can be a single site-wide redirect from your existing domain to the new domain (if you want the URL format to stay the same), or a more complex page-by-page strategy (you may choose this strategy if you want to change the structure of your site during the migration).

5. You’ll also need to ensure that internal linking is changed over – your CMS may do this automatically but its best to check.

6. Transfer your hosting settings, contacting your provider if you are not familiar with these.

7. Notify the search engines that you have switched domain through their Webmaster Tools sites. This will tell them to index your new domain and replace the site’s entries in the search results (note: this doesn’t replace redirects, these always need to be in place).

8. Update both XML and user sitemaps (if applicable) so that they refer to your new domain, and submit these to Webmaster Tools.

9. Monitor your search and referral traffic through your analytics and Webmaster Tools. Look to see if there are any errors or issues that need fixing.

10. Allow the search engines time to re-index. It’s tempting to tinker with your site if you see any dips in traffic. This is can be very risky and can lead to further drops. Let the search engines fully index your site and any dips in traffic should return to normal very quickly.

Common Mistakes

When talking with the search engine providers they have said that there are some common basic mistakes that many people make when moving between domains. These are best avoided!

1. Keep things as simple as possible, don’t over-complicate your move.

2. Don’t try and run two identical sites on different domains, you are likely to get penalised for ‘duplicate content’.

3. Don’t prevent search engines from seeing your redirects or crawling your old domain.

Other Resources

For more information on search engines, SEO and changing your site’s primary domain:

About the author
Laurence

I am a 27-year-old WordPress web designer and SEO consultant based in Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK. I have designed and maintained sites with over 20,000 pages on large corporate websites, smaller small business sites, and tiny personal websites and blogs. I provide freelance WordPress web design services in my evenings and weekends and also work full time at Toast Design in Banbury. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and on Google+.