How to Upgrade to a New Top-Level Domain

2016-01-21-1453390339-3980465-JeffGapinski.pngJeff Gapinski is a husband, designer, technologist, active, nerd turned entrepreneur. He co-founded his digital agency, Huemor, with one of his best friends. Since his agency's birth, he's been proud to have had the opportunity work with brands like Live Nation, Revlon and NBC.

Several months ago I got an email about new, fancy top-level domains (TLDs) available on the market. As a designer and creative mind, scrolling through the "dot-ninjas" and "dot-gurus" made me excited, but the SEO specialist in me was wary. I turned to Google and searched for information on the topic. Because these new domain extensions are still relatively recent, there wasn't really anything out there. So I decided to give one a spin: I saw the domain name "" available and fell in love with it.

2015 has been a big year of change for our firm. We've changed our methodologies and processes, added services and really focused on who we are as a company. "" aligned very closely with how we feel, and how we want every client we work with to feel, too. With the branding play behind us and a new website design underway, we took the risk and switched over from

Here's how we planned for the switch:

We Started With a Reverse Redirect

We started out by pointing to We did this so that while we worked on other aspects of this plan, we could actively build links to instead of It's uncertain if this helped, but it's also a possibility that this immediately linked the two sites together.

We Mapped Out External Links

In addition to the new links we were building to, we also mapped out all of the external links that were pointing to on social media platforms, local citations, external portfolio links, publications, industry ranking sites, etc. Slowly, we started to update these links to specify "," which at the time, re-directed to ""

We Mapped Out Internal Redirects

We took a slightly different approach to routing redirects for this website. Rather than just writing a blanketed 301 redirect from to, we mapped out full path redirects for every individual page. We achieved this by maintaining a host for "" and adding in a .htaccess file that specified redirects such as:

By doing this, we were able to maintain the individual page authority transfers, rather than just directing the entire domain and letting Google redistribute the wealth themselves (this little trick allowed all of our pages to show up reindexed a lot faster).

We Rewrote Data

We wrote fresh structured data that established our brand info (company name, phone number, email, address, social media platforms) and linked it to our .rocks domain. We believe this was key in getting search engines to quickly recognize our new name.

We Optimized the Homepage

We made sure that our homepage referenced our brand name in its meta title and description. This is a small and possibly obvious step.

We Configured Our Webmaster Tools Account

Having a properly configured Webmaster Tools account helps Google apply changes to your websites more quickly. Our major concerns were:
  • Establishing properties for all variants of (https versus http, www. versus non-www.)
  • Preparing the notation in our variations to let them know is now
  • Adding a new sitemap to our primary website variation (
We Purchased Variations of the Name

Again, this wasn't directly linked to the SEO goals of the website; it was more of a usability concern. We wanted to make sure that individuals who might be confused by our name could still find us on a direct visit. We bought domains like "," "," "," and made sure they pointed at our .rocks domain.

We Did a Post-Launch Intake

So after all of those boxes were checked off, we made the switch. What did we see happen to our rankings? Initially, nothing: no-post launch dip, no SERP dance, nothing. Over time, however, we noticed that our organic traffic was rising. We began to rank for more and more keywords, and things have continued to trend that way.

What Did We Learn?

If you need to switch to a new domain name, don't be afraid, but be cautious. Think about all aspects the switch will affect and how you can minimize any negative outcomes. Ultimately, if you take the time to do it right, you're not going to see a disturbing dropoff in traffic. In our case, we saw literally no change.

Your TLD Doesn't Matter to Search Engines

Your TLD doesn't matter in the eyes of Google and Bing; they're more concerned with your content and your signals. I believe that dot-com dominating SERPs is related more to their commonality and relative age compared to newer TLDs. Independent of site optimization, an older domain has been proven to be a positive ranking signal. Moreover, most top websites have been optimized on dot-com domains over the course of years, resulting in more of them floating to the top. As time moves forward, you'll see (positive) variations of TLDs more frequently.

Your TLD Matters to Some Email Providers

Email providers, and more specifically spam filters, are still touch-and-go on non-dot-com TLDs. Make sure you verify your domain name and add proper sender policy framework (SPF) records to combat email spam when you switch. Even then, depending on your customer base you might want to maintain a dot-com TLD for email correspondence. I'm a pretty firm believer that these outcomes will improve once adoption increases.