You can view a website through a single domain. This Internet address also affects the perception of a website; that is, it can define a thematic area or put the name of a company or brand in the foreground.
If you are no longer satisfied with your Internet address, you can change the domain. Only the registration of a new name and its connection to the site is required. If the new domain still enjoys good search engine rankings thanks to its old one; you should also consider some SEO related aspects and ensure adequate submissions.
The Difference Between Domain Change and Transfer
There is talk of a change of domain when the address of a site is replaced. This change primarily concerns the name, so it differs between “domain change” and “domain transfer”.
With a domain transfer, a change of the provider occurs; the website is transferred to a new server. The modification and the new registration of a name represent only an additional option (it is usually possible to forward a new one to the new provider). In the change of domain, everything revolves around the modification of the website address, while the provider remains the same.
Domain transfer: the provider changes, so a domain transfer is often referred to as a domain change. The website and domain then move to a new server. How this occurs is described in more detail in this article.
Domain change: the Internet address is changed. With a domain change, an existing website is linked to a new one.
When Should a Domain Be Changed?
The reasons for looking for a new Internet address are often trivial; for example, it may happen that the web addresses available no longer appeal to the operator. Or they are no longer good for the offer of the page since it has been reorganized thematically. In these cases, the domain name is no longer good for the content of the site.
Reasons for a change of domain could also be a new brand or company name that also requires a change in the Internet address or the purchase of a more suitable one from which it is hoped to obtain a large number of visitors. Also, many of the new top-level domains meanwhile allow you to combine geographic and specific extensions of specific branches and themes to a web address. Those who want to take advantage of these possibilities but still use one of the oldest top-level domains must also change the domain.
If you already plan new content that does not adapt thematically to the site’s topic; a change of domain could be an advisable choice, even if it is not always the best solution. Sometimes it is enough to make some adaptations to the website; this depends on how much the new contents differ from the old ones. Before a change, check if it is the case. If the new content you want to offer on your site is compatible with the identity of the online site and the name; expanding it through subdomains or a subdirectory could often be a solution. As soon as you have identified a new content concept for your site and found an appropriate name, it is advisable also to change the address.
How Does a Domain Change Work?
You cannot simply replace your domain with the provider or registrar on which you registered the address. When an Internet address is stored by ICANN in the Domain Name System database; this cannot be changed in any way. Still, it is only possible to transmit it to another owner or delete it. Therefore you have to secure a new domain and connect it to your website.
Before the domain’s actual change, you need the rights to the Internet address that you want to use for your website in the future. As soon as you have found the right name and registered it; you will have to connect the new address with the new site. You will not have to make major changes to your hosting package and the web content. Since both the latter and the conditions of use of the website remain unchanged. However, some changes to the server settings are required to transfer the site to the new domain.
In some CMS, you can configure the backend settings to connect the contents of the site with the new domain. For some CMS, there are also special plug-ins that facilitate the modification of the web address. In this article, you can find information on the different possibilities and plug-ins for changing the domain of a site created with WordPress.
Even if a CMS or a plug-in can save you some steps during the modification phase; you must manually perform some internal system adaptation procedures. As in detail, the single modification of the web address depends a lot on the software used. However, there are a few procedures you should look out for:
- The server configuration must be adapted to the new domain.
- If you want to transfer the contents, you also need a new SSL certificate: ask your provider for it and install the public key on your server.
- If necessary, you must adapt the configured rewrite rules: if you change the name or Internet address of some sites through the forwarding rules, you cannot do without the relative changes in the .htaccess file.
Transfer the Search Engine Positioning of the Old Domain to the New One
Who makes the change of the domain only through the server configurations described above is faced with the following situation: the site can be reached by entering the new address, but is treated by the search engines as if it were completely a new website, or with a consequently low positioning.
If you change your domain, your link’s power, and the reliability of your old address are inevitably lost. If your site hadn’t been rated negatively by Google, Bing, and other search engines and hadn’t been penalized, but it didn’t register a good positioning, you should face the SEO aspects of a change of web address. Your website otherwise will lose the positive positioning gained with the old one.
Concerning Google, you should try to take the following measures:
- First, go to the Google Search Console site (formerly Google Webmaster Tools). Here you can verify your new domains and communicate the new web address to Google. For this, you must use the same account that you have already used for registering the old domain.
- If you have retained the rights to the old domain, you should create a new 301 redirect at the new web address. With this method, visitors who view your site using the old name are automatically forwarded to the new address. Furthermore, in this way, you can prevent the bookmarks of old site visitors and backlinks from falling on deaf ears. In this article, you can get useful information on how to configure the domain extension. Of course, you can also request the cancellation of the old name with your provider or registrar and avoid the costs related to its maintenance. However, it is advisable to wait until the new address has stabilized (about six months is recommended as a minimum period).
- Now open the Google Search Console to indicate the XML sitemap so that the Google crawler can analyze your site. As a next step, you should immediately request a new crawl of the site to register as soon as possible with the new domain in the Google index.
- To conclude, it is necessary to always keep an eye on the positioning of the domain and the site for several weeks: Google recommends extending the period for very large sites to about six months. Analysis tools like Google Search Console and other tools also help you during the monitoring phase.
What Else Is Important to Keep in Mind
An exchange of the Internet address has effects on other areas:
- Anyone wishing to change the domain and use assistance programs such as web analytics tools or CMS extensions should remember that a new Internet address must also be configured. The same if your site uses an Adserver.
- Internal links should be fully integrated into the structure (and not forwarded by redirecting yourself).
- Write to the managers of those sites that host important backlinks to your site and inform them of the new URLs of the linked posts.
- Don’t forget to set up new and domain-related e-mail addresses. Update all your e-mail contacts to modify your Internet address (for example, in the signature of the e-mail, on social networks, or business cards).
If you want to change your domain, first of all, focus on the adjustments of the server of your site, it will not be reachable through the new address. In many cases, there is the possibility of transferring the positioning on search engines to the new web address. If SEO in your old domain has brought good results, and you have received good treatment from Google, you can transfer the positioning, at least in the long term.