Today on The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about what to consider before changing your domain name.
There are multitudes of reasons why a startup might want to change it’s website’s domain name. This could be due to rebranding or switching to something entirely new. While this can be an exciting time for your startup, there are risks to this and it can also be one of the scariest you may ever do for your business.
In today’s episode of the show, Steli and Hiten talk about why close.io purchased the domain name close.com, risks involved when changing a domain name, things to keep in mind before changing a domain name and much more.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
00:00 About today’s topic
00:34 Why this topic was chosen.
02:13 The first reason why they purchased close.com.
03:05 The second reason why they purchased close.com.
03:46 The third reason why they purchased close.com.
04:23 Risks involved when changing a domain name.
05:37 Things to keep in mind before changing a domain name.
05:56 What typically happens when people change domain names.
06:50 The biggest thing to do when you change domain.
3 Key Points:
- We didn’t want our competition to buy it.
- We wanted to communicate to our customers that we have matured as a company.
- Make sure you have a good reason before changing domain.
Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli Efti: And today on The Startup Chat,, we’re going to talk about how to change your domain name, should you change your domain name, risks changing your domain name and benefits of changing your domain name. A lot of people have been asking me recently, why close changed from Close that Io Close.com, why we purchased that domain name and what the benefits were that we were looking for. I was surprised, I always felt like people just intuitively know, but apparently, this is still a really big interesting topic. And then we have talked about over the last couple of weeks, multiple times about how the migration to the new domain has gone for us and we’ve asked you for advice. I felt like we might give people some like, do’s and don’ts quickly for those that are in this situation. I’ll start and tell people the core reasons why we bought the domain and the benefits and risks. And then I’ll throw over to you as some like best practices on what to keep in mind when you change your domain name, especially when it pertains to not losing all your SEO juice and all your organic traffic. Does that sound cool?
Hiten Shah: Sounds great.
Steli Efti: All right. For us one of the biggest questions people ask me has been, did you buy Close.com because it’s going to bring you millions of more traffic? And the answer to that question has always been no, right? I’m sure there might be a domain name that you could purchase, that you could track, that has a ton of traffic and has relevant traffic to your product or service. Right? And then you purchasing that new domain name is an actual growth strategy or a distribution or demand strategy. But that was not the case for us. We didn’t think that close.com was getting a lot of like relevant traffic. The reasons that we bought it, where more branding and positioning and more competitive, securing than anything else. A number of things. When we launched in January 2013, we wanted Close.com as our primary home and domain for our brand and product from the get go. We just couldn’t buy it, because somebody else owned it that wasn’t interested in selling, so we had to settle to the dot io name. And then we always referred to ourselves as Close.io publicly, because we wanted to tell people how to find us and not just what the name is, right? If we had said Close, people would have not known where to go, they probably would have typed in Close.com. And then over the years, we just knew that we wanted to have that domain. A, because we felt like it communicated especially now much better to our customer base that we have grown up as a business. And we’re not a startup anymore, we’re a legitimate, fairly large company with a large customer base. And so the dot io always we felt like we’d outgrown it from a branding perspective and from a positioning and signaling perspective. It was just communicating to people that were coming to our site to check it out, that we were a fairly young upstart startup early stage, versus the dot com is communicating that this is a much more matured business. That was one reason we wanted it. The other reason was that, our customers have always referred to us as Close, so we just wanted to own all the assets out there from a branding perspective that associate with Close. And then last but not least, we didn’t want a competitor to purchase it. Right? We didn’t want any competitor to purchase Close.com and launch some product that they called close. Close is not a name that we could like protect in the space. We didn’t want somebody to come in and use all the hard work that we have put in, to build a brand and snatch a really killer domain from us and then take a lot of the shine in the branding from us, to sell some other competitive products. Those are the core reasons that we wanted to purchase the domain. And that’s what led us to buying the domain earlier this year and transition into the new home for the brand earlier this year. Now changing your domain is a big headache. There’s a lot of risk, especially if your company and your domain has been around for a long time and if you’re getting a lot of traffic from Google and a lot of people know that domain. The migrations are quite a complicated process that you have to like, make sure that you think through that process really carefully, you don’t really mess up anything. And that’s the second part of today’s episode, which I wanted to throw over to you, because you are the man when it comes to SEO. And also you’ve seen so many and helped so many companies with changing their domain names and seen it all, all the mistakes, all the things that people should avoid. From your perspective, or just from a technical and from an SEO perspective, when you migrate a domain, what are the core tips that you give founders and startups on what to keep in mind and what to get right?
Hiten Shah: Yeah. The first thing is, make sure you have really good reasons like Steli did that are business reasons to do it. Because, particularly when it comes to search traffic, it can be really tricky to make sure you get back to the levels you were at. The main reason is that historically, when domains are changed in that way, even when you do all the right things, like 301 redirects and a bunch of best practices that are out there, Google is going to take a while to give you your traffic back. And the funny thing is, and this is the biggest pitfall is that, when people do domain changes, they tend to do other types of changes that are structural to their website. Changing URLs and cleaning a bunch of the stuff up that might’ve been messy and that causes even more problems. Because now you’re telling Google, not just your domain change, but also there’s a whole bunch of other pages and things that have changed. And so Google starts like, Google’s already going to take a while to figure that out, even if you change it on your normal domain before the migration. And there you go. Like you got a pretty big issue, where you’ve changed the domain and you’ve made other changes to your site. And so your whole property, can take a dip in traffic and then it can take another dip, because of the changes you had. You’re basically taking dips on dips when you do that. And so I think the biggest thing to do if you are going to do a migration, is take the state that your website’s in, the URL structure, the design, everything and just copy and paste it over to the new domain. And then, do all your 301 directs from the old one to the new one, and then you’re going to sit there. And you’re going to sit there for like, the common timeline is about three months. And the reason for that, is now Google re indexed your site. As if it’s essentially a new site, even though you’re already getting traffic and your 301 redirected, you’re going to keep some of your traffic, but most folks see like a decent 30 ish plus percent drop in their traffic. And that’s very normal and then if you see a greater drop in traffic, you just need to wait. And so this three month period of Google, just basically picking up all your old links and scrolling your website and all this stuff, is where you have the big risk when you do a migration. You always have a dip, especially if you had obviously a lot of Google traffic. You’re basically getting a dip on Google traffic. And that’s the thing to just, like not even be careful or anything, just be aware of, that way you can know what’s coming, plan for it and basically deal with it. Then there’s other times, when like you make a migration and the dip is more than the 30% that I’m saying. And again, you can’t really do much about it except make sure that you’re not making too many changes at once. And then you go from there. Now a lot of times like there’s just like, not even a lot of times, there’s just SEO tips period, that you can look into and do that just to improve your SEO no matter what. Again, a lot of those tips I would wait til the three month period is over and then I would consider making some of those changes. That being said, there’s a lot of things that are more like on page STL like, reducing the amount of load time on your website. Those are good things to do anytime and I haven’t really seen a big risk in doing those things after a migration. They can be helpful because they’re just making your site better, from like on page, speed standpoints. This has to do with like loading of images and the most notorious are loading of third party Java scripts that tend to slow down a site.
Steli Efti: Beautiful. Yeah. Those are really good tips and I think, at the end the few things that you said there. I want to really underline this, because for a lot of founders that are not super technical and that are not like SEO experts themselves. I think many of them under estimate the technical side of SEO right? We all understand writing articles with appropriate amount of keywords and getting links to these articles and so ranking through the content perspective, but there’s a technical perspective that is increasingly important. How quickly does your site load? That is something that I think most founders wouldn’t think about as a SEO challenge or opportunity, they would think of it as more of a user experience one. But Google does range your site very differently if it’s too slow, because Google wants the internet to be super fast. There’s the technical perspective, which is going to be important when you do a domain migration, where you want to make sure that you either internally particularly that’s some expertise. If you get advice, you get it from people that have like real technical SEO expertise versus just content SEO expertise.
Hiten Shah: This is very true.
Steli Efti: Yeah. All right. That’s it for this episode on like reasons to change, well some at least in our mind, but also like some high level things to keep in mind. And expectations, I think people, really these numbers are not out there and I don’t think people really understand that they’re going to take a dip and they’re going to have to weather that storm. And is that really worth it to them at that stage? I think that those are a lot of golden nuggets to share with the audience. Right. This is it from us for this episode. If you enjoyed it, please give us a five star review on iTunes and we’ll hear all of yours soon.
Hiten Shah: Yeah.