There might be a time when the idea of changing your domain name crossed your mind. I had it too, and I’m gonna tell you that changing domain names is much easier than you think. However, there are several things you need to be aware of so that you won’t lose your rankings and SEO juices. What’s tricky is the part after changing your domain name, like doing 301 Redirects, rebranding your social media accounts, updating Google Webmaster, etc. But worry not, I’m gonna feed you all those steps with details and make your domain name change as hassle-free as possible.
I started my travel blog, Swing Abroad in March 2018 without knowing the ‘deeper’ meaning of the word ‘Swing’. But I went along with it because I had no money to buy a new domain name at that moment, and I thought it will make people curious about the website. However, in December 2019, I finally decided to do a rebrand on the website, changing the name to Wandering Journal. I did not hire any professional to do the website migration for me, I had to do it all by myself.
The process is short, but it took a very long time to finally let Googlebot crawl all the data and changing my URLs on search result pages to the new website. If you’re planning to do a website migration by yourself, you’re at the right place! I’ll tell you exactly what I did to change my domain name.
Enough talking, let’s start the step-by-step guide for changing your domain name!
- 1 Create a New Domain
- 2 Migrate Your Website to New Domain
- 3 How to Do 301 Redirects Correctly
- 4 Telling Google Webmaster You’ve Changed Domain Name
- 5 Connect to Google Analytics
- 6 Connect Your New Domain to Cloudflare CDN
- 7 Updating Your Social Media Accounts
- 8 Updating All Backlinks About Your Change of Domain Name
Create a New Domain
The very first step to take is to create a new domain and check if the name is taken. You should also check if the name is available in social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. I wouldn’t recommend using anything other than .com domains.
You can create your new domain under the same host of a different host. In my case, I created my new domain on Siteground because I was fed up with Bluehost due to their frequent downtime and slow loading speed. Siteground has probably the best reputation in the market and their customer service was extremely helpful too.
You can check your name availability here.
After paying for your new domain, make sure you turn on the SSL certificate and make it HTTPS first before anything else.
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Migrate Your Website to New Domain
The next step to take is to migrate everything from your old domain to your new domain. If your website is running on WordPress, you’re in luck. Siteground offers a unique Automigrator plugin that lets you transfer the domain in a few clicks.
If your website is not running on WordPress, there is a professional website migration team in Siteground that can help you with the transfer. It could cost you $30 or free depending on your purchased hosting plan.
It will take around 1-2 days to complete the migration. But if you’re using the Automigrator plugin, it will be much faster.
After the migration completes, you will have two identical websites. Now you want to get rid of your older domain. If you’re using Siteground, there will be a notice at your dashboard, telling you to point the nameservers of your old domain to the new nameservers in the new host.
Now, I would recommend going through the pages and posts in your new website to make sure the interface is working perfectly like the old one. In my case, the layout was a little off so I did some modification on them. Most of the time, you’ll not have major issues with that.
How to Do 301 Redirects Correctly
Now that you’ve changed the nameservers, it’s time for the most crucial part of the whole migration process – doing 301 Redirects. While there are a lot of articles telling you how to do it by yourself with some codes, this is what I found.
Some of the codes just don’t work, maybe I implemented them wrongly or at the wrong place. The best way to do the 301 Redirect is to contact your old host and ask them to do it for you. This way, you can rest assured that the code is implemented correctly.
After that, all your pages and posts, and basically every URL of your old domain will be automatically redirected to your new domain via 301 Redirect. You can confirm the type of redirect using the Google Chrome Extension, Redirect Path.
If you want to learn more about 301 Redirects, Ahref got a pretty good post here.
My case is a little more complicated
To be honest, I did the migration a little more complicated. Skip this part if you’re not interested.
First, I moved swingabroad.com from Bluehost to Siteground before changing the Primary Domain Name to wanderingjournal.com. What I did was to ask the professional migration team in Siteground to help me with the migration, but instead, they moved swingabroad.com to Siteground. I thought they could move the website straight into the new domain instead of making this a 2-steps process.
The easier way would be to transfer your WordPress site using the Automigrator plugin straight to the new domain.
In this case, you will need to point the nameservers from your old host to the new website in the new host. Then contact your new host’s customer support to do the 301 Redirect for you, instead of contact the customer support of your old host.
After the 301 Redirect was implemented successfully, you’ll need to make your old domain (in the new host) a Parked Domain. Most of the time, the customer support will do this for you, but just ask to confirm that.
Just remember that if you have any problems, don’t hesitate to contact the customer support. You really don’t want to mess up your new website.
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Telling Google Webmaster You’ve Changed Domain Name
The next step after implementing the 301 Redirect is to tell Google Webmaster that you’ve done changing your domain name.
Login to your Google Search Console, click on ‘Add Property’ to add your new website. Follow the step to verify your new domain.
After adding your website, click on ‘Settings’ and then ‘Change of Address’ to update it. It’ll take weeks to fully update all your posts to the new URL in the Google search result pages.
Meanwhile, there is nothing much you can do other than waiting for Google to crawl and index your new website and update the changes.
Remember to submit your new sitemap to make the indexing faster!
Connect to Google Analytics
The next step would be to connect your new website to Google Analytics. As expected, there will be no data shown in the analytics because it’s brand new. Wait for a few days and let it digest.
Connect Your New Domain to Cloudflare CDN
Most of the hosts in the market offer free Cloudflare CDN Basic plan, which is more than enough if you’re still a growing website.
If you don’t have an account yet, go and sign up for one in their website. In Siteground, if you head to the ‘Speed’ tab in your user panel, you’ll see ‘Cloudflare’ option. Click on it, and you’ll be directed for the following steps.
The tedious parts for the whole process would be to change the nameservers of your new domain to the nameservers provided by Cloudflare. The nameservers can be obtained when you visit your Cloudflare dashboard.
Different hosts have different ways to update the nameservers. If you’re using Siteground, go to ‘My Account’, ‘Services’, ‘Domains’, and select the ‘Manage’ button at your desired domain, and you’ll see the option to change the nameservers.
Updating Your Social Media Accounts
Changing Facebook page names is near impossible, which is why I decided to create a new one instead of changing the old page name. The strict rule prohibited a complete change of name unless there is an official statement from your company.
You can check for more information about that here.
What I recommend is to first try to change your page name, and see whether it’s approved or not. If only a word of your website name change, for example, Swing Abroad to Wandering Abroad, the name change might be approved. But if both words changed, it’ll be a different case.
If you decided to create a new one, remember to verify your new domain under the new Facebook page. Also, edit all the ‘About’ info and update them.
Instagram & Twitter Accounts
Instagram and Twitter account names change is effortless. You don’t have to verify anything or wait for days to get approved. But before changing domain names, make sure you check if the username is taken or not.
A Pinterest account name change can be a little tricky. Some of my blogger friends edited all the URLs in all their pins in their boards. But in my case, I find it unnecessary because the moment I change the URL, all the tracking data is gone.
So what I recommend doing, and also what Tailwind recommends, is to unclaim your old domain name in Pinterest, then claim your new domain name. Since you now have 301 Redirects from your old website to your new website, you no longer need to worry about Error 404 pages.
After that, change the claimed account in the Account Settings in Tailwind. As the customer support in Tailwind told me, you don’t need to worry about the old URL in your older pins. Just leave them be. But make sure your newer pins point to your new website.
Here is the article by Tailwind.
If you’ve ever guest posted on other websites, it’ll be wise to email each and every one of them to update the URL. However, if that sounds too tiring for you, just leave them be. According to my research, there is no longer any loss of link juice through 301 Redirects.
You can search on Google yourself too!
According to my friend who had done a domain name change, her Domain Authority of 36 bounced back to the same number in 3 months on her new website. This should be good news for you too!
Wrapping It Up
So what do you think of this article? Is it helpful in helping you with changing domain names? Let me know in the comment section below. Nevertheless, I hope your domain name change process goes well and all the best with your new brand! Check out my comprehensive guide for backpacking in Nepal or backpacking in Laos now!
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