How to Change Your Domain Name: A Step-by-Step Guide
Whether you’ve been the proud registrant of your domain for one day, a few months or even several years, a change of heart may leave you wondering, ‘How do I change the domain name of an existing website to a new one?’.
Don’t panic. We’re here to help.
Maybe your dream domain name has recently become available, or you’ve decided to rebrand your website and need to buy a domain name that’s more in line with your new look. Whatever the reason, there are steps to follow to ensure that the change won’t affect your website, or your website visitors.
If you’re a complete newbie to the world of domains or would like to brush up on your knowledge before we begin, start by reading our domain definition.
Ready? Let’s begin.
Why Change Domain Names?
There are many reasons for wanting to change, perhaps you don’t like your domain name, or maybe you’ve had feedback that your customers don’t like it.
So, what happens if a name just isn’t working for you anymore?
There are benefits of domain name changing. You might be able to get your hands on a shorter and more memorable domain name — one that’s marketable, modern, and appeals to your customers.
Let’s take a closer look at four reasons you might want to switch names.
Reason 1. You want to rebrand
Maybe your company was bought and you need to undertake a domain name change, or a brand agency recently swept you off your feet, resulting in a company name change, and therefore a pressing need to change your domain name?
Perhaps you own a company that sold blue dog collars and registered for the name billsbluecollars.co. After a short while, you start to realize that red collars are more popular. You no longer want that .co domain, you want a .com, and to revamp your domain name entirely.
It’s perfectly understandable that if a complete overhaul and fresh design are happening, you might need a new domain to match.
Reason 2. You’re relocating
Imagine you’re an actor. An exciting move from a small US town to Toronto in Canada might mean that your acting portfolio website needs to change from a .us to a .ca to reflect your availability.
Perhaps you opened a specialist German beer shop in London, but it didn’t take off as you expected, and you need to return to Germany. That .co.uk domain is no longer useful, and you need a .de domain so customers know where you’re based.
There are many country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) in existence. If you relocate and have a personal website, or open up businesses in another country, it might be wise to choose the appropriate TLD.
Reason 3. Your business has changed
As a kitchen sink connoisseur, you excitedly picked the domain name kirstyskitchensinks.co.uk. A few years down the line, you now sell electric ovens, beautiful splashback tiles, and stylish breakfast bars. Now you want to expand your business and find a domain that encompasses your whole brand, not just one product.
Or maybe you’re a software developer and want to change your .com to a .dev or .io top-level domain to give your website more focus.
Whatever your business story, the need for a better top-level domain can and does happen. That website you built using a .net or .org no longer makes sense for you.
At Namecheap, we have plenty of domain extensions for you to feast your eyes on. Keep an eye out for recently launched TLDs and check out our complete list to see what we have.
Reason 4. Your dream domain name is up for grabs
Congratulations! That perfect domain name that was taken when you originally searched is now available.
When a domain name is changed, obviously, you also change the domain name in the URL of a website. Perhaps you had a nonsensical, long name, and now you’ve got a chance to register a shorter, and memorable name that your customers will love.
Don’t forget that here at Namecheap you can check out our Marketplace to find website domains for sale, or use our Whois lookup tool to contact the owner of your dream domain name, and make an offer.
If you need some help thinking of a new domain, take look at, How to Choose the Perfect Domain or 5 Mistakes People Make When Choosing a Domain Name for some practical advice.
Wondering if it is hard to change the domain name for a business or personal blog? All will soon be revealed!
What Should My New Domain Name Be?
While we can’t tell you exactly what your new domain should be, we can give you some advice. Our article How to Choose the Best Domain covers this topic in-depth and our bulk name generator can offer suggestions, inspire you, as well as give you the chance to buy it there and then.
Here are some more tips to help you on your hunt.
Reflect on your product (and future plans)
The last thing you want to do is feel panic and regret, right after you buy a domain name. If you’re selling a product, take some time to reflect on what you’re selling, whether it’s a service or physical object. Jot down some related words and brainstorm ideas.
Try not to pigeonhole your website. For example, if you register chairs.com and later you want to start selling tables, visitors might be confused. Consider a neutral name and consider any future plans.
Describe the brand
Think about what your brand is. What do you aim to achieve? How do you want your product to be perceived? Ask focus groups, look for common words or phrases in customer feedback, emails, testimonials.
Keep it short and clear
Try to be concise when picking a domain name. Understandably, common words and popular phrases can be more expensive, but if you have the funds, a short and clear domain name will give you an advantage on long-winded, rambling ones.
They are likely to be memorable, marketable, and therefore strengthen brand recognition.
Check it’s legit
You don’t want to acquire a dodgy domain name that has recently been punished by a Google update. Use websites like Ahrefs and SEMrush to check search visibility and traffic. Look out for spammy backlinks and ask the current registrant to check Google Search Console for the presence of manual penalties
How to Buy Your New Domain
Now that you know how to decide on a new domain name, you’re less likely to change a purchased domain name later on down the line. So, let’s move on to registering your domain!
Get started and search for your domain name right here at Namecheap. And, if you’re looking to purchase website hosting and domain together, we offer an all-in-one package deal where you can save money.
Discover our dedicated page on the price of domain names, where you can take a look at our best prices for up to ten years.
Once you have your sparkly new domain name, it’s time to make sure that you’re ready to prepare all the content you’d like to take from your old website to your new one.
How to Make a Backup of a Website
To ensure a smooth process when you switch domain names, it’s sensible to make a backup of your website, in case anything should happen.
If you use our Stellar Plus and Stellar Business Shared Hosting Plans, you can take advantage of our exclusive tool AutoBackup, where your website data is (you guessed it!) automatically backed up. This means that you can download your backups locally, which means that you’ll be ready when it comes to switching domain names.
Depending on which service you used to make your website, there may be alternative ways to make a backup. Here are some articles that you may find useful:
Consider setting up automatic website backups. This will save you time and effort, should you need to restore your website in the future.
How to Make an Audit of a Site
A site audit is important for many reasons, from search engine optimization (SEO), to uncovering business potential, to ultimately having a full understanding of your website.
When it comes to moving domain names, you’ll want to check that everything is relevant and still needed, whether you’re moving because of a rebrand or moving just in name.
The content audit
Go through your website with a fine-tooth comb and see if all the pages are needed. It may be that your site has changed focus, and old articles are no longer relevant. When it comes to moving, take the time to do some research into how you can achieve the move… For example, if you have a WordPress site and you’re migrating to Namecheap, we offer a managed migration service.
The design audit
Check that you have all your assets ready. New logos, new colors, and everything design-related that you could need. Once you’ve checked, check again! You’ll need to have everything in place and ready to go.
Counters and tag audit
Without getting too technical, consider the set up of your Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Facebook pixels — anything that you use to track, measure, and analyze your website must be looked at and set up correctly. If you don’t want to lose this data, make sure you move the old counters over to your new website.
Check contact details
You want website visitors to be able to reach you! Make sure your email contact details are set up correctly with your new domain name.
How to save Your Website Traffic
It’s important to change your domain name without losing rankings and organic search traffic. Backlinks to your website are important for SEO, and there are steps to take to help you keep your audience.
Create a sitemap and set up 301 redirects
Sitemaps show the internal structure of a website. They are used to direct search engines on how to navigate the pages on your site. Once you have sitemaps for both your old and new pages, you can compare and organize, so that each old page points to the correct new page, by using 301 redirects. This permanent redirect will send your site visitors to a different (your new) URL than the one they entered into the search bar.
This is important for SEO ranking, getting your website indexed by Google, and visitor satisfaction. You can find out more on this topic by reading our Knowledgebase article, How to redirect a URL for a domain.
Use the Change of Address Tool
Connect your old and new site names with the Change of Address Tool. It tells Google about your website change, and helps the Google Search results page to understand what you have done.
Check for 404 pages
You may have come across a ‘Page Not Found’ page. This is an error page where the correct URL path is missing, and therefore you will not be shown the page you intended to visit. Check all old URLs, and if you do have 404 pages, make sure they are redirected to the new 404 page.
To help with this, the old domain should be redirected for as long as possible. We recommend at least six months, however, twelve months and longer would be better.
Communicate with Your Clients
It’s vital to prepare your clients for the change. Whether you choose to change your domain name after purchase, or months later, assess every point of contact — email, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and be sure to regularly communicate before the big switch.
Tell them why you’re changing, engage with them. This will help to calm your loyal customers and keep them trusting you as a brand.
How Long Is the Process and How Much Will It Cost?
By now you’re probably wondering, how long does it take to change a domain name? This depends entirely on each stage of the process.
You may take a short while to choose from available website names. Before you shell out on a new name you might want to do some research and get some answers to questions like ‘how much is a domain name’?.
In terms of technology, it will depend on how you’re backing up your site, including the system you’re using and how technically minded you are.
Google may take some time uniting old site signals with the new site, depending on various factors. In our experience, sometimes it can be a month or two, other times it can take as long as six months.
So how much does it cost to change a domain name? Again, this will depend on your budget and plan. Web developers, marketers, copywriters, designers — all of these roles will cost you money.
Take some time to plan and ask for estimates and prices to accurately predict the length and cost of your domain name change.
How to Change Your Domain Name with Namecheap
Here are some quick links to help you understand how to change the domain name associated with:
If you have any more questions, we’d be happy to answer them! Our Live Chat is open 24/7 and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
One Last Thing…
It’s easy to change your domain name in the early stages of building a brand and website. Customers haven’t started to build a relationship with you and won’t remember your domain name. The website isn’t ranked yet and your traffic levels are low.
For older sites, there are more risks. Everything needs to be moved over correctly, traffic needs to be rerouted from social media channels, and every page needs to be meticulously checked so as not to lose search engine ranking positions.
We strongly advise that you take some time at the start, to truly consider your domain name, and save yourself from any upheaval a future domain name change might bring.