How to change a domain name and keep your rankings

An essential guide for anyone looking to change their website’s domain name,

Get started by: Creating a website → | Getting a domain →

Changing a domain name can be a pivotal move for a brand, signifying growth, rebranding, or a strategic shift in direction, especially when considering how to make a website that stands out. Your website's domain name is its identity on the web, a key to unlock growth, but transitioning might seem daunting. It’s not just about the technical steps involved; it's also about safeguarding your hard-earned SEO rankings.

Maintaining your SEO rankings during and after a domain change is important to ensure that the transition does not lead to a significant drop in traffic, engagement or customer trust. This guide will walk you through the essential steps to change your domain name effectively while preserving and potentially even improving your site's SEO performance. From planning and preparation to execution and post-launch monitoring, this guide will cover everything you need to know to make this transition as smooth and successful as possible.

If you're just stepping into the domain world or looking to refresh your knowledge, begin with our domain definition.

Can you change a domain name?

Yes, changing your domain name is possible. Once a domain name is registered it cannot be changed. After purchase, it is stored in Domain Name System (DNS) databases and can no longer be modified. Existing domain names can only be transferred between different owners. To change a domain name, you will need to purchase a new one and link it to your website.

How to change a domain name in 6 steps

  1. Choose a new domain name

  2. Back up your website content

  3. Research your domain host’s features

  4. Start the migration from one domain to the other

  5. Redirect your old website to your new domain name

  6. Inform Google and other search engines about your domain name change

01. Choose a new domain name

When choosing a domain name, it's essential to consider your brand identity, business goals and SEO impact. Ideally, you want the new domain name to be as close to your old one as possible so that users can easily find and recognize your site. However, if you are rebranding or changing direction significantly, consider exploring various types of domains to find one that aligns with your new path..

Some tips for choosing a new domain name:

  • Keep it short, simple and easy to remember

  • Use keywords related to your business or industry

  • Avoid using numbers or special characters

  • Check for availability on social media platforms

  • Use a relevant domain extension

Use a domain name generator if you need help coming up with an idea. Already have an idea? Check the availability with a domain name search tool.

02. Back up your website content

Before making any changes back up your website content and download it to your computer. This ensures that if anything goes wrong during the domain change process, you can easily revert to a previous version of your site.

Choosing the right approach for backing up your website content depends on several key factors: your preferred website platform, whether your site is self-hosted or managed and who your domain provider is. Take your time to understand the process—it's crucial for safeguarding your content.

03. Research your domain host’s features

Before proceeding, check whether your current website builder or hosting website offers the flexibility to change your domain name. If this option isn't available, you can acquire a new domain name elsewhere and transition your website's content to your new domain.

Learn more about how to register a domain name and the top domain registrars.

04. Start the migration from one domain to the other

Depending on your website platform and hosting provider, the process of migrating from one domain to another may vary. Look into the knowledge base articles of your hosting platform to learn more about the process of migrating. Additionally, some hosting providers offer tutorials or support for this specific task. Some platforms have a built-in option to easily switch domains, while others may require manual steps such as updating file names or database information.

Keep both domains and hosting paid up for the entire time you are migrating.  Some migrations can take a few hours, but sometimes it can take up to five days depending on your hosting provider. 

05. Redirect your old website to your new domain name

Once your new domain is up and running, it's important to redirect your old website traffic to your new domain. This ensures that users who may have bookmarked or saved links to your old domain will still be able to reach your site with minimal disruption. This step also helps search engines understand the change in domain name and update their index accordingly.

To redirect your old website, you can set up a 301 permanent redirect in your website's hosting settings. This will automatically redirect all traffic from your old domain to your new one and avoid confusing your target audience with a HTTP 404 page not found error.

Most host providers offer detailed instructions on how to implement a 301 redirect from your old domain to your new one. You'll typically find these instructions in the help section of your host provider's website or by contacting their support team.

Learn more about how to redirect a domain.

06. Inform Google and other search engines about your domain name change

To ensure that your SEO rankings are preserved during and after the domain change, it's essential to inform Google and other search engines about your new domain. This will prompt them to update their index with your new domain name and avoid any significant drops in traffic or rankings.

Regardless of the website platform you’re using or changing to, you can do this by submitting a change of address request through Google Search Console. Read the full step-by-step instructions for doing this on the Google Search Console Help page. Additionally, you should also update your new domain name in other online directories or listings, such as social media profiles, business listings and online review sites.

Tips to keep your SEO rankings during a domain change

Changing your domain name is a significant move that requires careful planning and execution to ensure a seamless transition. Here's some tips to help you navigate the domain change process smoothly, ensuring your audience stays informed and your website continues to perform well.

Tell customers about the new domain

Be sure to inform your customers and followers about the upcoming domain change. This can be through social media, email newsletters or a blog post on your website. The more you communicate with your audience about the change, the less likely they are to be caught off guard and potentially lose trust in your brand.

Monitor traffic and rankings

Seeing a slight dip in traffic at first is normal; however, if you see a significant decrease in traffic or rankings, it is likely an indication that something is wrong. Keep an eye on your website traffic and search engine rankings before, during and after the domain change. This will allow you to quickly identify any issues that may arise and address them promptly. Wix websites come with Wix Analytics or you can use tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to track your website's performance.

Update internal links

Make sure to update all internal links on your website to reflect the new domain name. This includes links within your website's content, menus and footers. Broken or incorrect internal links can negatively impact user experience and SEO rankings.

Do an audit for backlinks

Backlinks are an essential factor in SEO rankings and they can be negatively affected during a domain change if not handled correctly. Use a backlink checker tool to identify all the websites linking to your old domain and reach out to them to update the links with your new domain name. This will help preserve the value of those backlinks for your website.

Forward emails to your new domain

If you use a custom business email address with your old domain, be sure to set up email forwarding so that any emails sent to your old address will still reach you. This ensures that you don't miss out on any important messages during the transition period.

Reasons to change a domain name

Choosing to change the domain name could be a tough decision but here are some benefits of having a relevant and catchy domain name.

Rebranding efforts

One of the most common reasons for changing your domain name is to align with a rebranding effort. A new and improved brand image can bring in more business and a catchy domain name that reflects your brand's values and personality can be a valuable asset.

For instance, consider a boutique coffee shop known as "BeanThereCoffee" deciding to broaden its appeal beyond coffee to include a wider range of beverages and baked goods. The owners decided to rebrand to "BeanThereCafe" to reflect the expanded focus. This strategic move not only aligns the domain name with the business's current operations but also sets the stage for future growth.

Business relocation or expansion

If your business is changing to a new location, it may be beneficial to change your domain name to reflect that expansion. This can make it easier for potential customers in those areas to find and remember your website.

With a variety of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) available, consider selecting the right one when moving abroad or expanding your business internationally. This choice can significantly enhance your online identity and connect more effectively with local audiences. It's a smart move for any website owner looking to make a mark in a new market.

For instance, imagine a UK-based e-commerce brand  that has successfully captured the local market and is now looking to expand its reach into Mexico. Initially operating under a domain, they decided to adopt a .mx domain for their Mexican audience.

The business has evolved

As your business grows, you may find that your current domain name no longer accurately represents what your brand has become. Changing to a more relevant and suitable domain name can help attract the right audience and better reflect your company's values and offerings.

Consider the scenario where a tech startup originally branded itself around its flagship product, a smart home device with a .net domain. As the company evolves, it shifts towards offering a wider array of smart technology products and solutions, not just home devices. To reflect this broader vision and appeal to a more global audience, the company decides to transition to a more inclusive and universal .tech domain.

This Top-Level Domain (TLD) change from ".net" to ".tech" not only signifies the company's expansion beyond home gadgets but also aligns its online presence with the tech industry at large. This strategic move can enhance brand perception, making it more relevant and attractive to potential customers and partners interested in the latest technology solutions.

Legal issues or conflicts with existing domain name

In some cases, businesses may be forced to change their domain name due to legal issues or conflicts with an existing domain name. This may be due to trademark infringement, copyright violations or a similar domain name being used by a competitor. In such cases, it's essential to take prompt action and change to a new domain name to avoid potential legal complications.

An ideal domain name is available

If you come across an ideal domain name that wasn't available when you first started building your website, it may be worth changing to it. A shorter, more memorable and relevant domain name can have a significant impact on your website's success.

Risks to change a domain name

While changing your domain name can have many benefits, there are also some risks involved. It's essential to weigh these potential risks before making a decision.

Loss of traffic and rankings

Even with proper preparation and implementation, it may take some time for search engines to recognize and index your new domain, affecting your domain history. This can result in a temporary drop in rankings and traffic, which can have a direct impact on your business's bottom line.

Confusion for customers and partners

Changing your domain name can also cause confusion for existing customers and partners who are familiar with your previous domain. They may accidentally access the old website or be unsure if they have reached the correct site. This can lead to frustration and potentially harm your brand's credibility.

Technical issues

During the transition process, technical issues may arise, such as broken links or missing pages. These can negatively impact user experience and can also affect search engine rankings. It's crucial to have a thorough plan in place for redirecting old URLs to their corresponding new ones and monitoring for any technical issues.

Potential costs

Changing your domain name may also incur additional domain name costs, such as purchasing the new domain and updating branding materials like business cards, marketing collateral and packaging. Consider these expenses before making a decision to change your domain name.

Drop in brand awareness and recognition

Your domain name is more than just a URL; it's a crucial part of your brand's identity. Changing it might lead to a temporary dip in brand recognition and awareness. This could be seen by customers as though you are starting a business anew. However, if a domain change is a must, you can maintain your business's trust and reputation by launching a powerful awareness campaign. This approach ensures your audience adjusts smoothly to the new name, keeping your brand's essence alive and well.

How to change a domain name FAQ

  • How do I get a domain name?

    You can get a domain name through a registrar, which is an organization accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to sell domain names. With Wix, for example, you can search and purchase a domain name through the platform as part of their website building services.

  • Do I need to update my branding materials after changing my domain name?

    Yes, you will need to update any branding materials that include your domain name, such as business cards, marketing collateral and packaging. This ensures consistency and helps avoid confusion for customers.

  • What is the difference between a migration and a 301 redirect?

    A migration is the process of moving your website from one domain to another. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that tells search engines and browsers that your site has moved to a new location. When properly implemented, a 301 redirect ensures that visitors are automatically directed to your new domain.

  • How long is the process to change a domain name?

    The process can vary depending on the size of your website and how complex it is. Generally, it can take a few weeks to fully transition to a new domain name. It's essential to have a detailed plan in place and allow enough time for any potential technical issues to be resolved.

  • How much will it cost to change a domain name?

    The cost can vary depending on the registrar you choose and the availability of your desired domain name. It may also include additional expenses, such as updating branding materials. Be sure to research and budget accordingly before making a decision to change your domain name.

  • Can I keep the same URL structure and change my domain name?

    Yes, it is possible to keep the same URL structure when changing your domain name. This can help minimize any potential impact on search engine rankings and user experience. However, it's essential to implement 301 redirects properly to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Will changing my domain name affect my social media presence?

    Yes, changing your domain name will affect your social media presence. You will need to update the URL on all of your social media profiles and may also need to change the handle if it includes your old domain name. It's essential to communicate this change to your followers and provide them with the new web address.

  • Can I go back to my old domain name after changing it?

    In most cases, you can revert to your old domain name if necessary. However, this may have a negative impact on search engine rankings and user trust. It's best to thoroughly consider the decision before changing your domain name.

Please Share This Post Here