[Image via ask.com]
Considering Changing Your Domain Name or Domain Name Extension for Your Website? Think Again.
Facebook did it, they changed their domain from thefacebook.com to facebook.com. Additionally, vWorker the popular outsourcing website did it (they changed their name from rentacoder.com to vworker.com) – but does that mean that you should change your domain name and/or rebrand your website?
Indeed, there are many pressures to have a short .com address – but is their value in changing your web domain when you’ve been established for a few years? Daniel Offer, owner of the Facebook desktop application Chit Chat for Facebook investigates.
This article will outline the “pros and cons” of changing your domain name or changing your domain extension.
The advantages that can be obtained by rebranding or changing the extension of your domain name:
1. “Better” Extension – Some extensions are perceived as more desirable than others – perhaps because of the kudos (.com) attached to them or the relevance of the domain (.tv for example). It is commonly perceived that (in rank order) .com, .net and .org are better extensions than regional variations such as .de, .co.uk unless you specifically desire an exclusively national focus.
Perhaps a better extension has become available and you are considering moving to it.
2. Rebrand – It may be that there is a fancy new name that you desire your website to be called. Perhaps its shorter. Sounds better. Or, has existing brand recognition. Perhaps, your existing website domain name had a focus on a particular area and you wish to widen/narrow your focus. As a real world example, rentacoder changed their focus from being exclusively on coders to other areas such as marketing and CAD so rebranded to widen their focus to all virtual workers – vWorker.
3. Removing Unnecessary Words – For example, removing words like the, and, a that carry no SEO weight. Facebook changed their name from thefacebook to Facebook.
4. Getting Your Keywords In Your Domain Name – Getting keywords in your domain name makes it easier to rank for a particular keyword, as other sites will link in on your keywords and you get keyword points from Google in as your keywords are in your domain name.
5. Bad Reputation -Cheap and effective way to shake off a negative reputation/reviews. However, unless your business processes/software improves you’ll still have the same underlying issues.
Now, let’s consider the negatives:
1. It’s Technical – You’ll need to make use of htaccess rewrites in order to carry on link juice for each page, moreover, you’ll need to inform Google that you’ve changed website domains via Webmaster Tools.
2. Google Search – Even when you’ve done your htaccess rewrites, you’ll find that you’ll lose your organic Search engine ranking positions for your keywords to some extent. The real value of your website/business is the traffic that you generate – if a significant proportion is gathered through Google search then rebranding isn’t a great idea as you’ll lose Google search traffic.
3. Goodwill – Previous visitors and customers may know and recognise your existing domain. So changing it will result in a lack of familiarity. Gaining “goodwill” associated with your new domain will take time and cost money through lost sales/less user actions.
4. Time Cost – It’ll take time to redesign logos, banners, change links etc
Now, I must confess. I’m writing this article on branding a domain name somewhat out of a learning experience, which is often how the best lessons are learnt.
I develop, market and distribute a two year old Facebook messenger called “Chit Chat” – I was seeking to move the “home” domain of this Facebook tool from chitchat.org.uk to chitchat.im. The former, chitchat.org.uk, being a regional domain and the latter, chitchat.im, being the preferred domain as .im indicates more about the product – instant messaging and had in my view a SEO advantage. However, I discovered that the disadvantages (mainly a loss of Google search traffic) of changing a domain extension outweighed the benefits and so I moved back to my original chitchat.org.uk.
In summary, If you’re considering a domain name change, or even a change of extension – for example from a regional extension such as chitchat.org.uk to chitchat.im, think again. It’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. Free organic traffic is king.