Updated February 2021
If you’ve ever wondered, “Can I change my domain name?,” we’re happy to answer with a resounding “YES!”
And you’ve come to the right place.
We’re addressing how to change a domain name in this post. Additionally, we’re going to explore reasons why you should consider changing your domain name, how to mitigate any risks that changing your domain name might incur, and touch on how a domain name supports your business and brand.
Change Your Domain Name
What’s the value in changing your domain name? Without a good reason, it’s best to leave it alone, but that’s not why you’re here.
Before we discuss how to change your website domain name, it’s wise to take a minute and consider the motivations behind that decision. Changing your domain name isn’t something to be done on a whim.
Domain names are oftentimes the first impression someone will have of your business and website so it’s important to take them seriously.
Why might you want to use a different domain name for your website? “I just don’t like it,” isn’t a good enough reason, but the motivations below are.
Reasons Why You Should Change Your Domain Name
- Your current domain name doesn’t reflect your brand and business.
- Industries shift. Perhaps your domain name is no longer relevant or helpful in distinguishing your product and business in the marketplace.
- Your domain name doesn’t set the right tone for your website.
- Maybe your original domain name is just a bit too clever and the attempt at humor isn’t the tone you want for your site.
- Your domain name isn’t getting traction.
- Too many hyphens and numbers in your domain name? Or is it super long? All of these decrease your domain name’s memorability, and if people can’t remember your domain name they can’t make it to your site.
- Pro tip: Make sure the domain name you decide to use passes the “Radio Test.” If someone were to hear your domain name spoken aloud on the radio and never see it in print, could they be reasonably expected to understand the spelling and make it to your site?
- Your business name changed.
- For the sake of uniformity and branding, try to change your domain name to match your business name.
- You want to change your domain extension.
- Maybe the .com domain name you originally desired wasn’t in your budget, so you chose a different TLD. But now, you’ve saved some money and are able to purchase the domain name you always wanted. Inversely, perhaps you bought a .com or .org, and have since discovered a TLD more relevant to your niche that you’d like to use, like .tech or .club.
Risks of Changing Your Domain Name
Risk is inherent to the nature of business. However, there’s never an excuse for exposing your business to more risk than necessary.
Changing your domain name can be a great boon for your business, but it comes with its fair share of risks. Let’s explore what those risks are and address what you can do to change your domain name with as little risk as possible.
- Wasting time and money.
- Losing traffic or search rankings that have previously built up.
- Loss of your brand awareness.
- Losing backlink traffic and rankings.
Loss of Money and Time
Want to know a really good way to waste your time and money? Go through the process of changing your domain name simply because you “don’t like it” or “feel a need for a change.”
While primary domain name registrations aren’t expensive, some premium domain names are a bigger investment. Either way, if you’re changing your domain for the sake of change, that’s money that doesn’t need to be spent and can be invested in your business in other ways.
Loss of Search Traffic and Rankings
Losing traffic or your search rankings are the biggest risks you’ll face when changing your domain name. However, there’s no guarantee that will happen and there are ways to mitigate these risks which we’re going to share with you.
When you update your domain name for your website, search engines will need to rescan your site to learn about it and re-index it. There’s no exact time frame for how long that will take, so your search traffic may be down for a while. One thing that can help in this scenario is keeping your domain name age in mind.
Domain age is an SEO ranking factor and older domain names tend to be given more credence by search engines, like Google. Consider purchasing your desired domain name and holding on to it for a while before using it. Doing this doesn’t guarantee that you won’t see any drop in search traffic, but it does help to mitigate that risk.
Another option is to purchase a premium domain name when changing your domain name. Premium domains are shorter, more memorable, and keyword-rich. Additionally, since they’ve been previously registered, they often have a history of web and search traffic, and so they’re already familiar to search engines. If you decide to go that route, look into the history of the premium name. There are domain history tools you can find with a quick online search, and they’ll help you determine if the premium name you want has ever had issues with spammy site traffic or black hat SEO practices, neither of which will help with SEO.
Loss of Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is something that you have more control over when changing your domain name. If you have frequent direct traffic site visitors (meaning they type your domain name directly into their browser vs. finding you via online search), you risk losing them when you change your domain name. They may type in your old domain and when the site doesn’t load, think that you’ve gone offline permanently.
You can mitigate this risk by using redirects and messaging. Implement a 301 redirect from your old domain to your new one for a period of at least 120 days. (It won’t harm you to keep the redirect live for an even longer period of time.)
Many site visitors will catch on and notice the new domain name, but you can’t bank on everyone being observant. Instead, think about including a message or pop-up on your site announcing your new domain name or rebrand to make sure they see it and use the new domain name moving forward.
Loss of Backlinks and Traffic
Backlinks are links on 3rd party sites that direct back to your site and they’re part of any good SEO strategy. If you’ve invested a lot of time in building your backlinks then changing your domain name will affect those links.
Keeping your redirects alive will help mitigate this risk; however, redirects on backlinks don’t carry as much weight in SEO algorithms, so you’re likely to lose some traffic. You can either reach out to these 3rd party sites, letting them know about your new domain and providing new links for them to use, or work on your backlink strategy with your updated domain name.
Planning Your Domain Name Change
As we’ve discussed, changing your domain name isn’t to be taken lightly. It should be considered a business decision and as such, it could do with some planning. So, let’s look at how to do that for your domain name change, and then we’ll review the exact steps you’ll undertake for the change.
A Pre-Change Checklist
There are really only two ways you can go about changing your domain name — you can change your domain and all associated links at once or you can make the change one section of your site at a time. Both ways risk affecting your SEO, so choose the one better for you.
Here’s a quick checklist that’ll help you plan your domain name change.
- Create redirects and keep them in place for a minimum of 120 days.
- Update Google Search Console with your new domain name.
- Update Google Analytics with your new domain name.
- Take stock of all internal links that will need to be updated to your new domain.
- Take stock of the backlinks and 3rd parties you’ll have to notify of your new domain.
- Update your custom, professional email address to match your new domain name. (Don’t forget your email signature!)
- Make a list of all company materials and communications where you’ll need to update your domain name and links.
- How will you notify your customers? Plan for email communication or on-site messaging.
- Create a custom 404 page on your previous domain name so that visitors who reach it will be notified of your new domain name.
The Steps to Change Your Website Domain Name
The exact steps to change your domain name will vary depending on where you build and host your site. The following instructions are applicable to Domain.com customers.
Change Your Domain Name on WebsiteBuilder
- Log in to your Domain.com account.
- Click “Domains” at the top of the page.
- If you haven’t purchased the domain name you plan to use, do so now by clicking the blue “Purchase Domain” button at the top right-hand side of your account. If you’ve already purchased your new domain name, skip to step 4.
- Click “Manage” under the domain name you currently use for your website.
- Click “WebsiteBuilder” in the left-hand menu.
- Click on the three dots to the right of “Settings” and click “Change Domain Name.”
- Select your new domain name from the drop-down menu.
- Click “Change.”
Creating a 301 Redirect
Creating a 301 redirect from your old domain name to your new domain is essential. Doing so helps search engines and visitors reach your site with the new domain name so that you don’t lose traffic or visibility.
If you’ve never created a 301 redirect before, we recommend working with a professional. The process can be technical, so if you need help, we’ve got you covered. If you choose to proceed on your own, use the steps below.
Domain.com web hosting customers can follow the instructions and video in this KnowledgeBase article to create a 301 redirect.
If you use Domain.com’s WebsiteBuilder for easy site design and creation, you may want to consult our professional services team for assistance. We’ll explain how to create a 301 redirect below; however, the process is technical.
To complete this process, you’ll need to use a couple of 3rd party tools, like FileZilla or any 301 code-generator tools.
Navigate to FileZilla and connect to ftp.domain.com. Every Domain.com WebsiteBuilder account receives a root FTP user and you’ll need to use this information (it’s your account username and password) to connect. After doing that, you’ll have .htacess, which you can edit with any 301 code generator tools, like this one, to create your 301 redirect(s).
Change Your Domain Name to Suit Business Needs
Having a domain name is important if you want to establish credibility with customers in the online space. It’s an easy way to signal to shoppers what you’re selling and to gain a foothold in your market. The edge you gain through landing that perfect domain name is well worth the time and money investments required.
Unfortunately, some people wind up with a domain name that accomplishes none of those things. As a result, they are forced to change the name. Fortunately, this process is simple: follow the steps listed above to land the perfect domain name.