When it comes to changing a domain name, most people are skeptical as to what kind of change that will bring. Choosing and purchasing the right domain name cannot be overemphasized, a domain name can make or mar an online business.

In this article, you’ll be reading about:

Reasons people change their site’s domain name.
Things To-Do when changing a domain name.
After changing a domain name, what’s the worst that can happen?
Businesses that changed their site’s domain name and came back strong.

Usually when things are done for the first time, they are not done right, especially if there was no proper guidance, so sometimes we still make mistakes when choosing a domain name; some folks even make great efforts in choosing a creative domain, but I have seen creative domain names go south.

In cases like this, one of the options open is to change domain name.

Reasons People Change Their Site’s Domain Name.

People change domain names for various reasons, some of these reasons being:

A Better Domain Name With a Better Extension is Available

Some people change domain names because when they wanted to choose the initial domain, it wasn’t available in a .com extension (which is the most sought after domain extension), but then they discover that it is now available in their preferred extension, or perhaps there is even a better domain name with a .com extension.

Re-branding: Business Name Change

If your business name changes, or the products or services your business offers changes, then it’s only wise that you change the domain name as well. You want to be consistent with your branding cross platforms.

You Want a More User Friendly Domain

Your current domain might be too long or too difficult to remember or pronounce. Either ways, you want a shorter and smarter domain name.

You no Longer Like Your Current Domain Name

Some people just don’t like their domain name anymore, we outgrow certain things you know. So a domain name that you think is really cool today, a couple of years down the line might sound lame. One has to be careful with this though, changing a domain name is something you want to do only once.

You Simply Chose The Wrong Domain Name

I have seen domain names that are very limiting, for example a website that was created for something that happens for only a particular season, say an holiday, Christmasgifts.com, or something. That’s a very limiting domain name.

If any of the above reasons apply to you, then you can change your site’s domain name.

Changing a domain name honestly is quite stressful, but if you have a valid reason for changing it, and you go about changing it the right way, then the change will be worth your while.

Things To Do When Changing a Domain Name

Buy Your New Domain Name in Advance

There are two major reasons for you to buy your domain name ahead of the move. The first is so the new domain is prepared for the move, the other reason is for SEO purposes. The chances of having search engines crawl the new site is higher if the site is up and running earlier than the move happens. So once you purchase the new domain, write a coming soon page to let people and search engines know that a new site is coming here.

Clean Up Your New Domain

If the new domain name you purchase has been registered previously, then you might want to check to make sure it’s not under any penalties.

Backup Your Old Site

Do not try to make any major changes without backing up your site, be sure that you have a complete working backup of your files and database. If your site CMS is WordPress, you can use a plugin like BackUpWordPress to back up your site and make the move to the new domain.

Just imagine that you are in the middle of migrating to a new domain and somehow you have some issues, and just when you think you have something to fall back on, you find out that your backup is corrupted or incomplete (shivers).

Inform Your Audience You Are Changing Domain Name

Don’t make it a secret, inform your audience you are moving, let there be an awareness, if possible get them excited about the move. So inform people a new name is coming soon on your homepage, let there be an awareness of the new name across your social media platforms, send out emails to everyone on your newsletter, just inform as many people as you can reach.

Create a Sitemap Of Your Old Site

There’s a high chance that your site has a lot of pages, a site map will list out all the pages that are on your website which is needed for the migration process.

Do a Content Audit, Move Content to the New Domain

Once you have the site map ready, go through every page on your site, including links in your header and footer and every other navigation tool and check for mentions of your old domain. Update your sites texts and hyperlinks on the new site.

Setup 301 redirects

One thing that search engines are keen on is duplicate content. Google won’t automatically know that the same person that own the old site own the new one, so you have to let them know, and one way to do that is through  301 redirects. 301 redirects tells search engines that a link has been moved to another location permanently. Your sitemap will be quite important at this point, because it will inform the search engines that the new URL is for every page on your old site.

301 redirects are important for your audience as well. Because you can’t update links from external sites, old emails, or bookmarks, when someone clicks on those links, a 301 redirect will lead them to the new website page they were trying to get to under the old domain.

Update Google Webmaster

Once the new site and 301 redirects are all set up, the next most important thing for you to do as regards SEO is let Google know that you have changed your domain. It is true that your redirects will signal search engines that your content address has changed, however, it is still a great move to submit an official change of address notification. You can do this by first adding and verifying your new domain in Google webmaster tool. Once the new domain is verified, log in to your Google Webmaster search console, click on the gear icon located at the top right of the screen where you should find the change of address tool in the drop down menu. Using the change of address tool will allow Google better index your new site, reduce the impact your old site’s ranking will have in search results, and transfer all the rankings from the old links to the new ones to help you maintain the credibility you have built for your site.

Update Google Analytics

If you will be moving your old Google Analytics code to your new site, you’ll still be able to track all of your site’s data, but you might want to update your Google analytics account so you know where insights are coming from. A few things you’ll need to update are your domain URL, profile name and account name. Find out here details on how to get this done.

Keep The Old Site Live For a Little While

The day your old domain name expires should not be the day you launch the new domain name, there should be a transitioning period where people that are trying to access your old site can discover the new one. Since you have set up 301 redirects, you might as well keep the old site up until at least the domain name expires.

Make a New 404 Error For Your Old Site

A broken link is not normally something anyone would want, but there are a number of ways to use a 404 error page creatively. You can make a new 404 page for your old site that tells visitors your site has moved to a new address. This will inform people about your new domain fast.

Change Your Email Address

It is only right that when you start using your new domain, you want your email address to match the domain. More so, once your old domain name expires, then the email address that uses that domain will stop working. If you use your domain name for your email address, make sure you map them over to your new domain. During the transition, you should forward emails to your new address, or set up an auto reply informing people of the new email address.

After Changing a Domain Name, What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

If the above procedure is followed, and everything is done correctly, the worst that can happen is that your site rankings drop for a little while, your site loses some organic traffic temporarily, just for the transitioning period, and after that you bounce back strong.

Remember, no pain no gain.

Businesses That Changed Domain Names and Came Back Strong

By the time you read this list, you will be surprised at the companies that changed domain names.

Ask.com

“AskJeeves.com” was the first search engine that was able to respond to questions, not just keywords. In a bid to makee a more focused search experience, the company in 2006 decided to remove Jeeves and rename the site “Ask.com.

Perez Hilton

The celecrity gossib blogger Perez Hilton initially registered his domain as “PageSixSixSix.com” in 2004. He got sued fro trademark infrigement and unfair competition which was why he switched to PerezHilton.com.

NBCNews.com

Certain issues put an end to the relationship between Microsoft and NBC in 2012, causing the change from MSNBC.com to NBCNews.com.

PayPal

Used to be known as X.com, but during restructuring, and after surveys found X.com vague, it was renamed PayPal.

Facebook

Facebook.com was originally known as “thefacebook.com” in 2004. While redesigning in 2005, the team decided to simplify the name by removing ‘the’ from the name. The already existing domain name “facebook.com” was reportedly purchased for a whooping $200,000.

Overstock

The company rebranded to O.co to simplify and shorten its name, but there was a lot of confusion, and now they are back to Overstock.com.

Twitter

The initial domain was “Twttr.com”. In 2006 a few month after the site was launched, the co-founders decided to add vowels into the name and bought Twitter.com from an existing website.

Google

Google was originally built on the Stanford website with the domain “google.stanford.edu”. They later registered “Google.com” in 1997.

When I found these out, especially for the big G, my first thoughts were: wow, even almighty Google. Changing a domain name can be scary, and best avoided, but if your business needs it, then go ahead and do it.

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