We’ve been asked this question more than once this year, so it’s time to put the question and the answer in writing. How can a company decide whether or not to switch domains?

If you’re lucky you chose the best possible domain for your website and you’ve been diligently creating the best user experience and cultivating good SEO practices on your site ever since. But what if that’s not the case? What if your domain doesn’t fit the company, or you are rebranding? What if you just bought an amazing domain at auction? What if you are choosing to give up a current domain?

First you need to look at the present state of your domain. If you have Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools set up and you’re tracking your most important keywords, this should be easy. If not, reach out to a qualified SEO company and find out how you can best evaluate a domain.

What you (or your SEO company) want to determine is the current value of the domain, which pages are most valuable to the domain and how well you’re ranking. If your current domain has little or no SEO value and no meaningful rankings, start researching the new domain. If it’s ‘clean’, you can probably switch over without too much disruption.

If you’re doing even moderately well with the metrics above, you shouldn’t assume that the new domain will rank just as well or better, and you might want to try a test. Google’s own Matt Cutts lays out the best practices for testing a new domain in this video, and outlines some common scenarios.

If you’re seeing good results on your current domain, spending a little time and budget moving a subsection of the site to the new domain for a test can save you the headache of moving the entire site, only to face moving it back if you don’t like the results.

In a recent test we were able to determine that the segment moved over lost a full ten ranking positions over a few weeks. Since the client had a number of first page rankings, we advised them not to move the site, but to redirect the new domain instead. They began the conversation with big hopes for their new domain, but in the end were glad they didn’t invest in a new website which might have cost them all their hard earned rankings.

If you have difficult SEO questions or want to know more about your current performance, get in touch. We’re ready to help.