There may come a time when you feel it is imperative to switch domains. This may be because of issues with your domain, or simply that a more palatable address has become available. You should seriously consider your options before ‘moving house’, however, especially if you have a well established customer base and elaborate linking system.
That you will experience some downtime is a given; your main goal should be to make this time as short as possible, and try to seamlessly transition your ranking. You will probably experience a dip, but you can minimize it by following a few key precepts.
Choose your time wisely. Don’t switch in the middle of a seasonal rush, for example. It will probably take 2 – 6 months to recover your momentum, so if you experience high sales at Christmas, consider switching in February. If your main seasonal boom is in the summer, don’t switch until November.
Start up a strong pay per click program or alternate income generating process to help tide you through. You will want to make sure that you don’t founder while transitioning! Ramp up your advertising to get as much traffic as you can prior to your move.
As soon as you make the switch, submit your ‘new’ site to Google and provide a fresh XML sitemap. The more notice you can give them, the better. They will need time to get your new site properly indexed.
Set up a permanent redirect to your new site. That’s a 301. You have to do this so your human traffic can follow you, and the spiders will be informed that you have a permanent new location.
Your redirect will help get folks to your new location from external links, but start getting your biggest traffic producers updated if possible. This is a good time to start adding links to newer internal pages.
Use this opportunity to advertise, just like a store would it’s new location. Have a sale, set up a prize ‘drawing’ etc. Send out a huge press release alerting people to your new address. Try to draw attention to any improvements you may have implemented, such as an FAQ page or a glossary index.
If you have email addresses, they will need to be switched over to the new domain. Forward mail for a space of time, but alert sender to the new address. After a time you can delete these accounts and cut down on spam. You can use this as an opportunity to get people to sign up for an RSS feed or subscribe to a newsletter without it looking like you are spamming them!
If the worst happens, you can seek help from SEO sources or even Google engineers for help in getting back on track. It will take time, but you should be able to regain any ground lost and make an even better showing if you just plan ahead for the minimum upheaval. Your main trial will be waiting for your search engine traffic to pick back up, but you may feel it is worth it just for the .com name.