New Domain vs. Old Domain

I’m getting SEO questions and project requests a lot lately on one theme. Here’s the question:

So let’s say a company owns two domain names – A and B. The existing company site is on domain A and has good long-term google organic indexes, traffic, etc. But the company has changed brand names and is now known as domain name B. For branding reasons, the company wants to redo the website and switch domains. Smart? Not smart for SEO? What’s the best way to do this and keep in good with Google?

My answer:
That’s actually a big question – I’ve been dealing with that exactly on another couple clients. Simple advice is not to migrate the site – you’ll lose all that SEO value and may possibly be inheriting a legacy of blackhat SEO penalties on someone else’s domain. That said, I have done that migration for a client who insisted, but it’s a lot of work to try to transfer and ensure you don’t lose SEO value. All page-level URLs should be accounted for in redirects. Backlinks should be researched and backlink sites should be notified and requested for change of domain. The new domain should be researched for blackhat history. And the new site domain of course needs to be re-canonicalized. The old domain should be forwarded to the new; no ghost domains.

And that’s the tip of the iceberg.

– Jake Aull, Zen Fires Digital Marketing