Changing Your Domain Name – A Checklist

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There comes a stage over the course of time in running a website that you consider a rebrand. Whilst going through a rebrand costs a lot of time and a lot of money, one of the most fundamental elements of such a process is the change of a domain name.

Changing your domain name should not be taken lightly. It’s perfectly easy to do a semi-rebrand by changing your logo or colour scheme without changing your domain name entirely but if you want to go for the whole hog then unfortunately a domain name change is inevitable. I should point out that it’s not all doom and gloom. Changing to a better domain name can have a hugely positive affect on your business and if you do it right there is really not too much that can go wrong.

This article is not going to be a bulletpoint list of what you need to do to change a domain name properly. It’s more going to be a list of things to consider should a rebrand or domain change be on the horizon.

Why Rebrand?

There are numerous reasons people choose to rebrand their business/website or both. New domain name extensions are frequently becoming available. People expand to include other products and services and some just fancy a change. Rebranding is not always a positive thing but most of the time it is – if you get it right.

Backlinks Are Important

One thing that is important that people often overlook are backlinks. By backlinks I mean links back to your website. You may have bought these, you may have earned them, either way if you change your domain name they will either need updating or you’ll need to redirect your domain.

backlinks

If you have acheieved a lofty search engine ranking and you’re gaining traffic, the chances are that links back to your website will be causing this. I’m not talking about people clicking those links and arriving at your site. I’m talking about the likes of Google rewarding you with high positions because of your backlink profile.

You can make sure that all your links still count by using redirects as we’ll touch on below.

Setting Up Redirects

Redirects are the quickest and easiest way to divert traffic from one domain name to another. The most common way of doing this is by using an .htaccess file. This file works with Apache, the worlds most popular web server which is run by most of the web hosting firms you’ll find online. There is a great tutorial which can be found here on doing a htaccess redirect.

Redirects

The most common type of htaccess redirect is the 301 redirect which will send any visitor accessing olddomain.com to newdomain.com seemlessly. This will also pass on the weight associated with your backlinks too so you won’t lose any ground in the search engines etc.

The 301 direct is just one of hundreds of potential redirect options. You can even redirect specific pages or folders etc.

E-Mail Forwarding

You need to consider that your old customers will have your old e-mail addresses stored. The ones associated with your old domain name. Repeat business is very important and customer retention should be at the top of your priority list. You want your old customers to be able to get in touch with you, for whatever reason, so you should always make sure that your old e-mail address remains active.

E-Mail Forwarding

You can do this by setting up an e-mail forwarded. This, for example would redirect all incoming e-mail from info@olddomain.com to info@newdomain.com seemlessly. You can then tell your customer of your new brand and so on.

Don’t Forget Your Socials

You should also make a note of updating your social network accounts (Twitter/Facebook etc). It might seem obvious that you need to change these to reflect your new company name. But you should also make sure that you update the associated e-mail address with your accounts. You might not need this later but if you ever forget your password, you’re going to need it in order to reset.

Social network accounts

You also need to consider that your old domain name that had an associated e-mail might get snapped up by someone else when it drops because of expiry. If someone else registered your domain and you had info@yourdomain.com registered for your Twitter account, someone could reset your password on your behalf and lock you out of your account. They could also pose as you and potentially steal business. So it’s something to consider.

Conclusion

If you follow the above then not too much can go wrong in the scheme of things. Sure there are other things to consider such as actually telling people you’ve changed your domain name! But that’s something you’ll need to handle for yourselves unfortunately.

Rebranding can be a quick and relatively easy way to give your business a much needed shot in the arm but it can also be your downfall if you don’t do it right.

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