A 1003557

(photo: with thanks to Arnaud de Gramont)

For better or worse, I’ve decided to change the domain of this website, from “theconnectedsmallbusiness.com”, to “officetechnologyexpert”. Oh, and I do realise the risk of using “expert”, but I can always change the name again! (update 25 Jan 2015: as I indeed have, to debaffle.net!)

This post outlines the steps I took to change the domain name.

The steps only apply if the following is true:

  • You use WordPress as your website platform.
  • Your WordPress site is hosted by GoDaddy.
  • You want to re-use your existing website hosting plan, rather than setting up a new website hosting plan.
  • Both your existing and new domain names are registered with GoDaddy.

The steps show how to keep you old domain links working. If people follow search engine results, or links embedded on other websites, that use your old domain, they will be redirected seamlessly to your new domain.

I’m doing this post, as the steps I used are more straightforward to those at at Godaddy. Thus I hope others find it useful.

Disclaimer: Please read the complete instructions first. If you do not understand the logic behind the instructions, then do not proceed. It is important to note that these instructions WILL break your website for a period of time (for me, it was about 15 minutes). Alternative methods, that require a second website hosting plan, are required to prevent downtime (to be honest, this is the best approach to take!). I do not guarantee that the instructions will work for you. If you proceed, please do so at your own risk!

Step 1 – Backup your site before starting.

I recommend using VaultPress to backup your site (follow this link for setup instructions). I recommend this, as after you complete Step 2 your site will effectively be “broken” – WordPress will have the new domain information, but the Internet will not yet know about that new domain name until step 3.

While there are various ways to reverse step 2, an easy way is to just restore your site (“easy” only applies if you already have backup in place, and if you are confident in doing restores). This approach applies for sites that can be restored in a reasonable time period (you will define how long “reasonable” is, based on your last restoration test – you test your restores right!).

Step 2 – Update you new domain name in WordPress

Go to WordPress admin dashboard, “settings”, “general” and update your site details to the new domain.

For me, my existing domain details:

Wordpress-domain-name-change-before

 

And then my new domain details:

Wordpress-domain-name-change-after

You need to do this step before changing your primary domain name in GoDaddy, as once the primary domain name is changed you will no longer be able to access WordPress via your old domain until you complete step 3.

Saving this step will render your site “broken” for the reason mentioned in Step 1 – WordPress will think it is using your new domain, but the Internet will not be aware of this domain change until Step 3. Thus visitors to your old domain will get a page like the one below, and visitor to your new domain will just get a default GoDaddy “parked” page.

old-domain-broken

Thus get cracking on the steps that follow, and do the change when you are less likely to have visitors. As described at the beginning of this post, the only way to avoid downtime is to setup a second website hosting plan and effectively have both your old and new domains live at the same time with your website duplicated on both domains/hosts, and then redirect traffic. This is a fine approach, but I do not describe this here.

Step 3 – Change your primary domain name to your new domain

Login into GoDaddy, then go to hosting, and click on “launch” against your domain. Go to the “setting” section and then click on “Domain Change (Primary)”.

Godaddy-domain-change-primary

 

In the below entry screen, type the name of your new domain that is already registered with GoDaddy. The domain will “auto complete” as you type. Then click “save”. Your new domain is now being applied and will take about 15 minutes to complete, but it can take much longer. Basically the update will be replicated across the Internet so that Internet providers will know that your new domain directs to your WordPress site.

apply-new-domain-in-godaddy

 

Once the above change applies, your new domain will be working on your WordPress site.

Step 4 – Permanently redirect you old domain name to your new domain name.

This final step insures links to your old domain name redirect to your new domain name.

By completing this step, people who use your old domain, or click on a search result to your old domain, will still get to your website.

The type of redirection applied is called a “301 redirection”. This tells search engines to permanently treat your old domain as old, and your new domain as new! Thus search results with your old domain name will disappear over time and be replaced with your new domain name.

Search engines will also, in theory, apply any existing “search goodwill” from your old domain, to your new domain. This prevents search engine traffic dropping due to your “new” domain.

In your GoDaddy admin area, go to “Domains”, click on “Launch” for your old domain name, then under “Forwarding”, select “Manage” directly below “Domain”.

domain-forwarding-godaddy

 

 

 

 

 

Now forward your old domain to your new domain, in my case, to “debaffle.net”. Keep the settings as shown below.

domain-forwarding-godaddy2

This completes all steps. Your website has a new domain, your old domain redirects to your new domain, and search results to old domain links will still work. Naturally you may have some cosmetic updates to complete such as new logos etc.

What else?

If you have any FTP accounts setup, for example, as used by VaultPress backup service, then make sure they still work after your domain name change. At a minimum you will need to update FTP domain details to your new domain name. For me, I needed to recreate my FTP accounts with my host and update them into VaultPress.

Update your site title, if it identified your old domain name. In the WordPress dashboard, go to “Settings”, “General”, “Site Title”.

There is no need to update Google Analystic tracking code, if you use it.