In the past, if you decided to move your site to a new domain you really had a battle on your hands. The general solution was to implement a host of redirects from the old domain to the new one. This will not be a problem now – you can tell Google of the change and let them handle the redirects.
The redirects will only be in force for 180 days (six months), which, according to Google, is plenty of time for the pages to rank independently of the old domain. Google have labeled the tool the ‘Change of Address’ tool and it is a fairly straightforward process. The tool is accessed through the Webmaster Tools interface.
Once you log in, there are two steps that need to be addressed. The first is to ensure the old domain is registered and claimed. The second is to add and verify the new domain name within Webmaster tools.
You may wonder if it is the tool is safe to use. According to Google’s article,
The change of address tool is safe, because only verified site owners can use it.
Once both domains are verified within Google you can simply follow the prompt to instigate the
‘change of address’. I do urge a little caution when using this tool. It will redirect the old to the new but only within Google’s search results.
Google is not the only search engine around so your site may disappear altogether on the Yahoo! or MSN (Bing) search results pages. You will need to work hard on your optimization efforts on the new domain to give yourself a chance of ranking in those search results.
Changing domains can be a risky business so if you are not sure how to proceed then call in an expert that works with domain names. If you try to do it yourself you run the risk of destroying all your hard work and being back at square one.