March 28, 2022

Changing Domain / Website address - Checklist

Changing Domain / Website address - Checklist

So you've decided it's time to change domain names.  There are plenty of reasons why you might do this, including;

  • You've got hold of the perfect domain name after someone let it go or finally accepted your offer
  • You've realised your current domain name is just too long
  • People struggle to remember or spell the existing one - you didn't realise the quirks when you first brought it
  • You're changing to a new TLD (top level domain - the bit after the '.')

Whatever your reason it makes sense to get a game plan in place, and seeing as we are in the middle of doing just this for 2 of our clients we wanted to share this little checklist with you.  If it serves as a little starter that you can add to then great.

The first steps include some homework and prep.  You don't want to start all over again with Google so get ready.

URL's & Redirects

We are assuming you are simply moving your current site to its new home and as such can work with your IT Company / Marketing Company or Web Host and ensure a catch-all redirect is set up.

We'd suggest running a check to see which URL's are already crawled by Google and downloading a copy of that list.  This way once live you can run some spot checks to ensure your old pages are successfully redirected to the new pages.  Ensure these are permanent 301 redirects.

Backlinks

You should review existing backlinks and search performance, then set a plan to reach out to existing backlink sites and ask them to change the link.  It will redirect if the above is carried out correctly, but as with all SEO, the cleaner the better.

Note: This could get really time-consuming, so prioritize by traffic volume (Google Analytics > Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals).

Rankings

Make sure you log existing positions in Google and once the move has taken place monitor the domain rankings.  It's crucial to find out as soon as possible if you have made any errors, or managed to buy a domain that has some less than positive history.

Emails

Decide what you are going to do with emails.  Some people leave emails on the old domain, some like to switch them all over.  Either way, be prepared and ready.  And if you do decide to change, make sure you set up forwarders for all old email addresses with your host / email provider.

Now the changing of Domain name

  1. Before all this, you can or may have already parked and positioned your new chosen domain name on the existing hosting zone
  2. It's time to set the DNS on the new domain name to point to your hosting - 24/48 hours is the timeframe we are often told.
    1. Park old domain names on the new webspace
    2. Then set the new domain as the primary (all this is best done at the weekend or a low traffic time)
  3. Change the setting for WordPress address (and site address) - this is important
  4. Now monitor the new domain name and ensure it resolves correctly when entered and doesn't revert to the original in your browser's URL bar.

Once Launched

  1. Change Name / Verify all versions of the new domain in Google Search Console (GSC)
    1. You can do this by submitting a change of address in Google Search Console (GSC) and don't forget Bing Webmaster Tools (BWT)
    2. Run new sitemaps into GSC and force the first crawl
  2. Change any and all internal links which were hardcoded to include the https full address
  3. Set up the redirects – ideally a top-level redirect (speak to your host to hopefully set this up for you)
    1. Test all redirects
  4. Edit Google Analytics settings and add annotation(s) as to when the move was made
  5. Reconnect Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA)
  6. Review Google My Business listing(s) – Adjust them all
  7. Change any email signature links
  8. Change

Other areas

  • Any advertising in place?  Examples would be Google or Bing Ads.  Get the URL's changed for all ads.
  • Change all Social Media profiles so they point to the new address.
  • Review all other printed collateral and plan the transition.  Don't worry if you don't do it all instantly, remember those redirects will take care of it for you if they are working the way they should.

Client Messaging

  • Are you sending any notifications to clients?
  • Any phone auto-messages
  • Curate a Social Media platform update
  • Write a blog post for your website

Of course, this list could be far longer if you are changing the company name as well, but we've just considered a domain change here.

Final thought: Dont be afraid of this process, just be prepared, and once complete, be thorough with your monitoring.

 

And if you want some help complete the form below and we'll be in touch.

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