There could be several reasons as to why you are wanting to change your domain name; from a complete rebrand to a simple brand update. We are here to help you throughout the process – starting with this article on a few vital factors to consider when changing your domain name.
Firstly, make sure you get your new domain sorted early. Before you begin the process, you need to make sure that you have a new one to change it to, you wouldn’t want to go through the whole process and then realise at the very end the name you want you can’t have! Solidifying your new domain name, will also do wonders for your search engine optimisation (SEO). Once you’ve acquired your new domain, give it a ‘coming soon’ page telling search engines (and people) that a new site will be there shortly. This will give search engines something more substantial to crawl and will also tell them that it is not a parked domain so they should pay closer attention to it.
Make sure you let people know you’re changing your domain name. Your audience, i.e., customers and clients, should be expecting (and looking forward to) your domain name change. You can announce it on your current homepage, post it on social media, pop it in a newsletter, or email clients/customers directly.
If you haven’t already and/or you have a single-serving site, it’s important to create a sitemap of your old site, which provides a list of all of the pages that are on your website, which you will need in order to complete some of the steps in the process.
Once you have done your sitemap, go to every page on your website and find any mentions of your old domain. Make sure that your site’s text and hyperlinks are updated on the new site.
Next, set up 301 redirects. Google won’t automatically know that the new site belongs to the same person that owns the old one, so you need to give them a heads up, as they really notice duplicate content. This is done through 301 redirects, which tell search engines that a link has permanently moved to another location. Your sitemap will be especially important here, which you will use to inform search engines what the new URL is for each and every page on your old site. 301 redirects are important for your visitors as well – people might click links from external sites, old emails or their bookmarks, which will not be updated to your new site. When someone heads over to one of these old links, a 301 redirect will forward them along to the page they were looking for under your new domain.
The most important thing to do for SEO is to tell Google that you have changed your domain. This can be done using the Change of Address tool in Google Webmaster, which will allow Google to better index your new site while minimising the impact that your old site’s rankings will have in search results. This will also help Google transfer all of the rankings from your old links to your new one, so you can keep all of the hard-earned credibility you’ve built for your website.
It’s worth keeping the old site open for little while, to give yourself a bit of a transition period. Once your 301 redirects have been set up, there isn’t much harm in keeping the old one around.
You can create a 404 page for your old site that tells people you’ve moved to a new location. This will teach lost visitors about your new domain quicker, because otherwise they would likely try to go to your old domain’s homepage in order to find what they are looking for.
Once you start using your new domain name, you’ll probably want your email addresses and social media handles to match that domain and maintain consistent branding throughout your business. More importantly, if you let your old domain name expire, then your email addresses that use that domain will stop working. If you use your domain for your email addresses, be sure to map them over to your new domain as well. During the transition period, you’ll also want to either forward emails to your new address or set up an autoreply informing people of your new inbox.
At Dexterous Designs, we can make this whole process easier by doing it for you! Our experts will make sure the whole process runs as smoothly and we will pick up on anything the do-it-yourself route might miss out. For more information, please get in touch with us!