Can You Change Your Domain Name? What To Consider
So, you have a website or primary domain name for your business or for personal use but have decided to make a change, perhaps by rebranding your business, altering the name of your site or changing TLDs. The common question arises: can I change a domain name? The short answer is yes – but there are many considerations and best practices to consider that may vary depending on your situation. We should clarify, by change, we don't mean alter an existing domain name you've already registered. In this case, we're referring to changing your website domain name to another registered domain name.
In this article, we will cover what you should keep in mind when changing your domain name. Based on our overview, you should decide which of the following considerations are applicable to you. Not all the recommendations are required for all situations.
Acquire Your Domain
If you are looking to change your domain name, you’ll need a new domain to switch over to. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way that you can alter your existing registered domain names - you will need to acquire the domain you want to change to. There are multiple avenues you can pursue to acquire your new name:
Search and register your domain. If you know exactly what domain you’re interested in, just search, check if it is available, and register away. Domain names can go quickly, so make sure to not delay registering for too long. If your dream domain is taken, you can always consider an alternative TLD that fits your business or brand.
Utilize a domain name generator. If you are unsure on what domain name you want to go with or your first choice isn’t available, give our domain name suggestion tool a try. It will assist with brainstorming ideas and get you thinking outside the box.
Go to the marketplace. Perhaps your ideal domain is already registered, and it seems like you’ll need to go with a different option. It’s worth investigating that domain to see if someone else is listing it for sale or even contacting the owner to inquire about acquisition if the domain looks unused. You may be surprised to find a new opportunity to purchase it, though be prepared to enter price negotiations. Alternatively, you can visit a domain aftermarket to browse through the domains listed and acquire a domain that a may already have SEO value through existing backlinks and/or age.
Take Advantage and Review Your Site
Since you’re interested in switching domains, it may be worth auditing your existing site to look for opportunities to not only make the transition from one domain to another a seamless process, but also to make any improvements which could enhance your site's user experience. When managing a website, there are always hundreds of changes that can be made for the better, why not take advantage when changing domain names? Below are some ideas to kickstart potential upgrades.
Consider Design Changes
If you are going through the effort of rebranding and/or just changing your domain name, you should consider visual adjustments on the site. With design trends frequently changing, it’s worth reviewing opportunities to polish and modernize your website, especially if there has been long period where visual updates have not been made. This could include updating your: colour scheme, layout optimization (to prioritize showcasing specific content), or general aesthetic to keep your site clean and inviting to your audience.
Technical Improvements Galore
Along with changing your design, it’s worthwhile investigating technical issues that could be addressed while making your domain transition. Perhaps your site has slow load times on some pages, or there is room for improvement for your mobile optimization. Take time to consider any technical inefficiencies that can impact either your users or SEO and, if you have the available resources, try to resolve them.
General Site Cleanup
Beyond design and technical improvements, there may be opportunities to clean up other elements of your website. This could include: removing redundancy in your content by consolidating pages, tidying up your page URLs and meta titles/descriptions, or archiving older content that may not be relevant anymore. Evaluating your content and deciding the best action to take (whether it is combining, removing, or updating) is important for refining your site’s content and user experience. Just make sure you clearly understand a page’s value prior to making a decision by looking at it’s traffic and any associated keywords that the page may be ranking for on search engines.
Save, Backup, and Setup
Regardless of whether you decide to make site improvements, there are highly recommended actions you should consider when changing domain names. This means lining all your ducks in a row and planning important steps to prevent site errors, traffic losses, or search engine keyword ranking decreases.
Saving and Backing Up Your Website
While you’re transitioning to your new domain name, take a few extra minutes beforehand to backup your website. This simple step could prevent headaches if there are any problematic issues that arise. Things don’t always go quite as expected, and if you need to access your backup files immediately after the switch or years down the line, you’ll be happy you took the necessary precautions.
Executing Your Domain Change
The actual technical process of changing your domain name of your website can vary depending on your website hosting and your existing website setup (whether it is using a website builder, is a custom html website, or uses another content management system). Due to all the variations, you will need to investigate the exact steps required to make a smooth transition. This could require you to move all of your website files for example. If you’re using our website builder, we make it easy to switch your domain: just follow these simple steps.
Status Codes Are Critical – Use Your 301s and Watch for 404s!
Out of all the recommendations mentioned in the article, this is the most crucial step. You want to ensure your status codes are monitored and redirects are in place. As soon as your site is on your new domain name, setup 301 redirects so any users who visit your old URL are properly sent to your new domain. Perhaps just as importantly, these redirects will ensure you retain most of your SEO rankings you’ve established over time and prevent visitors from being frustrated when trying to visit your website but ending up on your old domain. Due to these factors, it’s important to test your old domain’s URLs to verify that are the redirects are properly in place. Depending on your site size, this can be a large project in itself, so plan accordingly and don’t rush through this step!
Also, keep an eye out for any pages that may have 404 errors once you’ve changed your domain. This is one of the few issues that could arise and, if a 404 occurs on one of your less prominent pages, it may go unnoticed unless you monitor it. 404 page errors not only create a bad user experience, but they can harm your website’s SEO.
Update Sitemap and Notify Search Engines
Once your new domain is up and running, you will want to make sure your website sitemap is properly setup with your new domain address. Sitemaps are frequently used by search engine crawlers to navigate through your website, so review the sitemap file to ensure all the relevant links are included. Along with this, Google has a ‘Change of Address Tool’ that notifies them that your site has moved from one domain to another. Utilize this tool to smoothen the transition from your old domain to your new one.
Mitigate Your Losses
Choosing a new domain name can be alluring depending on the reason you are considering making the switch, but there are factors that need to be considered – some of which aren’t ideal. Due to the complexity, it is worth considering hiring a professional to assist with the transition process, especially if your website includes any ecommerce elements or is a source of income. Your goal should be to mitigate issues and losses throughout the process and investing in assistance is often worthwhile. You can expect the following to occur to some degree:
Your SEO keyword rankings will take a hit. Regardless of whether you properly setup your 301 redirects, have a smooth transition of content and ensure the technical side of the site is performing better than your previous site, search engines will need to get re-acquainted with your new domain name. This can take time, and often you will see a slight drop in keyword positions on search queries as your site is being recalibrated. Anticipate this, and while there may be a lull, eventually you will hopefully be in a better position if you did take advantage of the move and reassessed your site.
Expect a decrease in site traffic. This may not be applicable to all scenarios, but often changing domains can have the side effect of creating unfamiliarity. While this can be exciting to some of your users, it can have the adverse effect of reducing incoming traffic that may not be aware of the adjustment. This is why it is of utmost importance to get the word out to your userbase to ensure a smoother transition – especially when your site generates leads or sells products/services. This brings us nicely into the next topic: awareness.
Market Your New Domain
You have your new domain name of choice and you’re ready to kick start the change. Before moving ahead, consider your existing userbase. It is critical to ask your self the following questions and create a marketing strategy to align with your domain change:
Where is my audience currently coming from (referral sites, organic traffic, paid advertising)?
How can I best communicate to my audience of this upcoming change? Consider those traffic sources mentioned above.
Once the change is made, how can I quickly re-establish my online presence so my audience associates our old domain with our new one?
There are some general marketing avenues you may want to tap into to connect with your online userbase. Use social media to speak directly to your online networks to notify them, whether it is through your YouTube channel, Twitter account or your email marketing list. Use marketing material to make it obvious to your existing audience to create familiarity with your old domain (or brand). The goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible and maintain your loyal customer base.
Changing Your Domain Name: Why?
Now that we’ve gone through the various considerations on what to do when switching domain names, let’s cover the various reasons why you would want or need to go down this path.
Rebranding / Changes in Your Business
Times change, and there are occasions where a rebrand is worth the work to re-establish your business or online identity. Whether it be changes in the market that causes a business to refocus, or moving a business to another part of the world (thus using a new ccTLD, such as .de for Germany or .us for the United States), there are various factors that could lead to this rebranding process. The actual rebranding process can vary as well. It could include just updating your brand presence by taking your existing brand and overhauling it (keeping the original name), while other times it could be completely changing brand names, logo and services/business model. In both scenarios, switching domain names may be applicable to help the rebranding process.
Alluring Domain Opportunities
Sometimes, there is an opportunity that just can’t be ignored. Perhaps there has been a domain name you’ve been eyeing but only finally had the chance to acquire it. It makes sense to capitalize on the situation, especially if the domain you’re interested in is shorter and/or more memorable. It makes sense when the change will pay off for your brand in the long run.
Regardless of why you’re changing your domain, it’s important to know that it isn’t something that should be taken lightly. You have to commit to the change and you should be 100% on board with your new choice as the process requires thought, planning, and action. If you have any questions about changing your domain name with one of your domains under Dynadot, feel free to reach out to our support team and they’d be happy to help!