The topic of keeping maintaining multiple domains or merging them is a difficult one. In essence, you sometimes want to keep all the domains alive to target a specific audience. Still, more often than not, the overhead of maintaining multiple domains and the marketing efforts needed for each wears you down.
So, in most cases, less is more when it comes to running websites – not only do you cut down on your operational costs, but it also helps create exceptional brand visibility to avoid confusion in your customers.
Note that besides merging content and branding, there are peculiarities to be handled when it comes to SSL certificates that were protecting each of the joined sites. Let us look at some aspects of combining domains, so you can take the necessary steps to avoid the pitfalls.
- Merging domains and SSL certificates are playing with Technical SEO
- Keep the old SSL certificates live for a while
- Keep the old domain names around
- Keep 301 redirects in place for one year or more
Merging domains and SSL certificates are playing with Technical SEO
SEO is a hard-earned position, and you want to make sure that the domain merging exercise does not result in your sites taking a hit in SERP (Search Engine Result Page) ranking.
The complex subject of merging domains and SSL certificates falls under the technical SEO expertise area, not an easy one to grasp for many. Technical SEO goes way beyond the simple optimization techniques like doing extensive keyword research and producing SEO optimized content.
For instance, how Google scores backlinks are coming from 3rd party sites and internal links on your site for SEO. When you merge multiple domains, a lot of backlinks from the websites you are combining are now going to be turned into internal links, so be prepared for some fluctuations on your SERP ranking.
Keep the old SSL certificates live for a while
As per John Mueller, the world-renowned Google Webmaster – you must keep the existing SSL certificates live for six months or more. This has to do with how major search engines like Google deal with SSL certificates when you merge multiple domains. Google typically recrawl the URLs at least every six months, so giving it one year means you get a minimum of 2 rounds, which is a pretty decent starting point to deal with big moves such as domain merges and moves.
Dr. Pete Meyers, subject matter expert and renowned marketing scientist from Moz, recommends that the website owners must not let their old SSL certificates die and should continue to pay for them so Google can comprehend the migration.
Keep the old domain names around
It is also recommended that you do not let go of the old domain names even after the migration. The reason cited by Mueller to keep the domain names to yourself is to prevent cyber squatters and spammers from picking your od domains and tarnishing your image by any unethical use of the name.
Keep 301 redirects in place for one year or more
301 redirects play a critical role in maintaining the search rankings and domain authority of a site’s domain when the URL is changed for whatever reason. It is a convenient way of sending search engines and website visitors to a new URL from the one they requested, and too without having them know the altered URL beforehand.
Note that 301 tells both web browsers and search engine robots that this is a permanent redirect. 301 redirects are needed to ensure that the website’s original domain does not lose its search authority during the move. Search engines use this information to interpret that page has changed its location – not only that, they note that there may be updated content, and the new URL should be used for the latest version. The SEO algorithms used by the search engines will carry the link weightage of the original page to the updated URL.
John Muller also recommends that you must keep 301 redirects working for more than one year after they have been set up. This is key as you will no doubt be dealing with 301 redirects to reroute the traffic from your old domains to the merged one.
Note that when you move a page from one domain to another, it takes time for the search engines to discover the presence of the 301 redirects, acknowledge them and provide credit to the new locations with the trust and rankings enjoyed by the old URLs. If your website is not crawled frequently by the search engines, or if the original URL does not resolve correctly, the whole process may get substantially lengthier.
And while you do the entire domain merging, do make sure you protect the new domain with an SSL certificate to instill confidence in your customers, protect their information exchange by encrypting the transport channel between the web browser and boosting your website’s SEO.
The cheapest and fastest way of doing so is to obtain a Domain Validated SSL Certificate, which requires minimal identity validation on the part of the Certificate Authorities (CAs) and can quickly help you cover your small business site, e-commerce store or blog. Of course, you can go for more sophisticated forms of SSL certificates based on the size of your operations and the industry you operate in.
So, here you go. These are all the main things you need to know before merging your domains. Make use of these tips, so you handle the complex issues like 301 redirects and SSL certificates without sacrificing your SEO. And don’t worry, if you do it right, you will be able to reap the benefits of consolidating your business under a single domain without hurting your SERP rankings. Good luck!