Changing domain name isn’t uncommon. Sometimes you start out with a great idea for a website/blog, but later realize the name doesn’t cover the topics you post about. It happened to me, too. I started out with “Daphne’s Day”. Oh, the shame. I decided to change my domain name. And you can, too!
Looking back at old domain names is like looking back at pictures from high school. Do you remember? It was the time you hadn’t yet found the correct foundation shade. Just admit it. I can’t be the only one. One thing we learned, though, is that it’s never too late to get on the right track.
Before I start explaining how to change a domain name, let me get into the basics first. In this post, I’m talking about self hosted websites, meaning I’m assuming you have purchased a domain name and have your hosting set up. Before you follow any of these steps, check whether your hosting plan supports multiple domains. If it doesn’t, you will need to update your hosting plan. When I decided to change my domain name, I didn’t realize I had a hosting plan that only supported 1 domain. This meant I had to set up a new hosting plan before purchasing a second domain. Typical me. Never reading fine print… Learn from my mistakes.
Before you follow any of these steps, check whether your current hosting plan supports multiple domains.
In essence, changing a domain name is fairly simple: you purchase a new domain name, you redirect the content from your old domain name to the new one, and simply let the old domain name expire. It sounds simple, and it really can be. But when I did my research for this post and Googled how to do it, I found the most confusing tutorials. No wonder people are afraid to change domain names.
This tutorial will show you how to add a domain name to your already existing hosting plan. I will then show you how to move the content that is on your old domain to your new domain. And I will finish by listing some things to think about after you have set up your new domain.
Change domain name – the steps
Make sure you have your hosting (and/or registrar) and WordPress login credentials at hand!
1. Buy a domain name (point D.N.S. to your hosting company)
Ok, so you’ve checked your hosting plan and you have purchased a new domain name at a registrar or your current hosting company. I always recommend buying a domain through your hosting company if that’s possible because then the servers will be set up correctly for you. If you purchase a domain at a different registrar than your hosing company, you will need to make sure the nameservers (DNS – domain name servers) points to your hosting company. The procedure varies per hosting company, so please check their technical support on how to do that.
Side note: it can take up to 48 hours (!!) for your domain to be set up completely. So, if you get a message that your browser can’t find the server, don’t freak out. Be patient and wait out those hours…
2. Create a new parked or addon domain
There are two ways of changing your domain name. You can do it by making the new one a parked domain or by making it an addon domain. Using a parked domain means that you want your new domain to point to your old domain. For example, you purchased www.olddomain.net and your new domain is www.newdomain.com. The content of both websites will be the same. An addon domain is a website that is separate from your old domain. So you could have www.olddomain.com and www.newdomain.com, and they run parallel to each other.
I used a parked domain at the time because I wasn’t planning on using my old domain after the move was finished. My old website has been deleted completely, and Tech in Heels is the main domain on my server now.
You can add a parked domain in the domain section on your cPanel. On hostgator, that looks something like this:
(“Aliases” is in this case parked domains). If you’re adding a parked domain, follow the steps under the Aliases tab. The steps should be fairly simple.
3. Change the domain name in WordPress
I’m assuming you’re using WordPress, so I’m going to tell you how to change your domain in there. You want WordPress to run on your new domain with the content you have on your old domain. You will not lose all the hard work you’ve put into your pages and posts!
Go to settings >> General, and enter the new domain in the WordPress Address (URL) and in the Site Address (URL). Save these settings. If all goes right, you will be logged off immediately and redirected to your new domain. Log in to WordPress again with your current (“old”) login credentials. Voila!
Yup, your old domain probably still exists, and you don’t want people to visit that site anymore. This means you will need to redirect the old domain to the new domain. This should be fairly easy. You’ve already made it through the most difficult and scary part!
Go to your cPanel again, and look for the domains section. This time, click on Redirects. The following screen will appear.
When redirecting, you’ll want to do a 301 redirect if you’re move is permanent. A 302 redirect is temporary. The most important thing to do, is click the option “wild card”. This means that all the files and links in your directory (server) will point to the new domain. For example, files such as www.olddomain.com/picture1.jpg will be redirected to www.newdomain.com/picture1.jpg.
You see that “Walk me through” button? Push it anytime you need help!
Almost there! Just a couple more things to consider and check to make sure your move went ok.
- Check all of your links to internal content. You might have links in your widgets, blogposts or pages that still contain your old domain name. Run through your site step by step. I know, it’s a tedious task, but you chose the change-domain life.
- If you’ve used Google’s Webmaster Tool, don’t forget to change your domain there as well. Google has a very easy tutorial.
- In this video, Google explains why it’s important to contact bigger websites directly to tell them you’ve changed domain name. And with big, I mean websites like Yahoo, Buzzfeed or Wikipedia. It is better for your Google ranking if traffic from those bigger sites go directly to your domain and not through a 301 redirect. (Feel free to contact other sites telling them you’e moved. It’s an opportunity to do business and introduce your new name…)
- Don’t forget to change the link in all of your social media account profiles!
- Google Analytics! You won’t loose any data since it’s not domain related, but you do have to change your profile on Analytics. Here is the Google tutorial.
- If the domain change was also a change of brand (new name, new logo, new errthing!), it might be wise to do a general launch all together (at the same time). You could throw a launch party or announce it on all social media channels.
- Another tool that is often overlooked: Mailchimp. Change the links in your templates to your new domains!