How To Change A Domain Name
You might need to change your domain name for different reasons, for example, rebranding or increasing website traffic. Changing domain names requires multiple steps, from buying a new domain name to announcing website updates. It is possible to change a domain name without losing SEO.
A domain name represents the unique address of a website. It includes the website’s name followed by a domain extension. For example, X.com became PayPal.com after a survey pointed out that the domain name X.com was too vague and possibly pornographic.
7 steps to change a domain name
It is essential to know what to expect when changing a domain name. After changing your domain, it’s normal to experience some drop in traffic and page rankings. Search engines need time to re-crawl and re-index the content under the new domain name.
But by following the steps in this article, you can reduce the risks of losing website SEO.
1. Create or update your website backup
Before changing a domain name in WordPress or other platforms, it would be best to back up your website. You can manually back up your website or use a plugin to automate the process. Check also if your web hosting plan does not include website backups.
If you are using WordPress, you have three ways to do it for free:
- from your control panel
- by using FTP
- with a WordPress plugin or software like Filezilla
You can also use a third party like Securi or pay a freelancer to back up your site.
2. Choose and Purchase the New Domain Name
Choosing a new domain name is a crucial step. You can purchase a new domain name from a domain registrar like Namecheap or your current web host. Make sure it is a precise and short domain name. Look for available options if you can afford a TLD (top-level domain).
Then, add the new domain name to your web hosting account. It will be automatic if you use a company providing domain registration and web hosting. Bluehost, Siteground, and BigScoots are my top 3 recommendations for hosting your websites.
Depending on your domain registrar and web hosting provider, it might take up to 3 days for the domain to propagate (but it usually takes less time).
3. Clone your website content [Migrate the website data]
You can use a pre-made migration plug-in or do it manually from your control panel.
If you use the new domain from different hosting services, start exporting the website files and database from the old hosting to the new hosting location. Then, point your domain to minimize downtime after fully completing the transfer.
If you use the new domain from the same hosting service, the hosting company will automatically create a new folder over your new domain. You must copy the website files (the content of your domain folder) from the old to a new folder.
4. Change the WordPress site address.
The WordPress admin dashboard is the easiest way to update the WordPress address with the new domain name. Open the WordPress dashboard, settings, and general.
Replace the current WordPress address URL and site address URL with the new domain name. And save changes.
5. Reset the URL structure
Updating the URL structure of your pages and posts after changing your WordPress URL is essential. Otherwise, your visitors might get a 404 error. Follow these steps to reset your URL structure.
Open the WordPress admin dashboard, settings, and permalinks, then select a different permalink structure. Save changes will revert to the original permalink structure and permanently redirect your old WordPress domain.
6. Add a redirect link from the old to the new domain using 301 redirects.
Now redirect the traffic to your new domain. Use the “301” redirects. It will help Google understand that you have a new website to transfer your traffic. It will automatically update the index according to the traffic.
You should not redirect the traffic to the homepage. Instead, turn the traffic according to the visited pages to make the transition more accessible and efficient for Google and the users. Just make sure you are redirecting to the correct webpage of the new domain.
The 301 redirects will redirect all URLs associated with the old domain to the new domain. It will carry over page ranking values helping to preserve your website SEO.
Keep your old domain active for a while to preserve direct traffic and help notify search engines about their redirection.
7. Spread out the word that you have shifted
Now that your transition is complete, start spreading the word. Tell your users what is your new domain name on social media platforms and business cards.
Send emails for old and new official domain email addresses from your side and invite the users to check out the transition and new exciting things you are willing to offer them.
Reasons to Change the Domain name
Your domain name signifies your website name and the website’s home address or URL. This unique home address or IP address makes your website accessible to the users out there.
Your domain is registered with a particular IP address and is recorded on DNS (Domain Name System). Therefore, they connect to your IP address whenever someone enters your domain. Indeed, it is a bit technical for a layman to understand, but it is how the domain system works.
Most people may avoid changing the domain name because their users will not be able to revisit their website and might not believe in the new name, unlike the other one. But there are some serious reasons to change the domain name, and most are beneficial. The following are two significant benefits of changing the domain name:
Most people rebrand their website when they extend their business from one specific targeted product and service to more in the same niche. Your domain name always describes what your brand offers to your users; therefore, the domain name must reflect the business’s central vision.
Thus, once you change the domain name, the entire idea behind the website and its image change. We always welcome growth and rebranding, so it is ok for you to change the domain. You can always keep the old domain name and redirect your user from the old domain name to the new one. Or you can spread the word on your social media.
Get a Shorter and more Accurate Domain Name
You might have chosen a domain name unsuitable for a Top-level Domain (TLD). Therefore you might need a different and popular suffix like .com, .net, or others. Or sometimes, it is better to have a shorter pet name of the domain that signifies your brand with a longer name. You can easily use the short domain name for social media purposes and have a TLD for more traffic and website ranking.
Risks of Changing the Domain name
Of course, changing the Domain name is risky and can lead to losing your users and audience. But Business is all about taking the risk for exposure and popularity. Let us discuss the significant risks you can face upon changing the domain name:
Waste of Money and Time
Do you remember how much you paid till now for the previous domain and how much it will cost for the new domain? You have spent much money bidding on your website’s required and old domain name. And you have spent lots of time building that website and branding it.
Once you change the domain name, you will lose all of the money invested in the old domain name, and indeed time is a constraint that you cannot measure but be sad about after losing.
Loss of Brand and Awareness among Users
Indeed, you are expanding your old brand into the new one. But this transition might get rough since your brand awareness will lack now. People who know your website can now get to write and lookup at your website on search engines or URLs.
Many people redirect their audience to the new domain by publishing a message. But keeping the new and old domains alive will cost a lot, and that cost was to be invested in the brand. So, there are many conflicts of decisions and ideas for the business.
Loss of Rankings and Traffic
Losing rank over the search engine is one of the most significant risks. All that you have worked for is now on the scale of zero since the users can’t find you on the old domain. Here, redirecting traffic from an old to a new domain is not guaranteed to be 100 percent successful for many people.
If we talk about the technique work structure, then the age of the domain is one of the main reasons for SEO ranking. Search engines like Google and Bing rank the website on the same principle unless you have enormous traffic on the new website that boasts the ranking. But again, it is not 100 percent guaranteed, as explained before.
One solution we suggest regarding this issue is buying a Premium Domain Name for the new domain. These domains are short and enriched with keywords that bring more traffic. The search engine already recognizes such domain names. But remember that they can be costly and might need expertise in SEO ranking in your favor.
Many website owners adopt this SEO strategy that requires backlinks. Black links are live likes from third-party websites sponsored on your website. It indeed needs lots of investment in building your backlinks for other websites. You will lose all of the acquisition by just changing the domain name.
You can always redirect the traffic from the old domain to the new one but never redirect the backlink to the new one. The only solution here is to reach out to the websites with your backlink and ask them to change the link to your new domain name.
Conclusion: Planning for Changing Domain Name
Changing a domain name is a big step for a webmaster. No doubt many things made you have this decision in the first place. But there are many reasons for it as well. One of the popular reasons is the rebranding, more traffic, and shorter URLs. Of course, it will need a little homework, but it is possible. Therefore, we have discussed each step in detail that will help you change the domain name accurately and successfully.
It is always best to know the risks of changing the domain name. Now you can quickly strategize your transition for the minimum loss possible. This planning can also help you preserve the SEO strategy you have applied to your previous domain name.
Following is a brief checklist that you should do your homework on first:
- Ensure that you redirect the traffic from the old to the new domain over 120 days.
- Notify the third parties of your transition for replacing the backlinks.
- Make sure to stock up on all the internal links to your new domain.
- Plan a social media campaign to spread the word about your transition to your users and audience.
- If you are a professional business owner, use the emailing system to notify your users of the transition over a month with both new and old official domain emails.
- Ensure updating the new domain’s Google Analytics and Google Search Console.