Changing URL? Here’s what you need to know

If you are thinking about changing your blog address, there are some important considerations to make. It can be a big change to weather, especially when you are also rebranding your site dramatically.

There will be Consequences

Firstly, no matter how well you do it, you are going to have to suffer a dip in things like Domain Authority, and other rankings, but they should recover relatively quickly as long as you do the right things.

You’ll also lose some recognition when people visit your blog – if your new URL and name are quite different to your old one, it might be worth putting “previously XXX” on your blog somewhere prominent (but not overpowering!), so that people will recognise you. Not forever, but for a bit.

Try to choose a Future-Proof URL

Secondly, when you are buying your new domain, think about why you are changing it. If you want to avoid having to make another change in future then it will help to be extra careful when choosing a new one. You may have chosen a name that was limited by your circumstances – try to avoidi this.

How many blogs have you seen with “baby” in the title, or the number of children referenced – these names will only be relevant until the baby grows up, or another child comes along. By taking these things into consideration you will be more likely to choose a “future-proof” web address. Make sure you are happy with it – really happy. Changing URLs is a pain in the bum and should be avoided if possible.

Keep the old domain!

Pinterest_Badge_RedWhenever you change URL, and I cannot stress this enough, make sure you keep your old domain subscription active. You are going to need it to redirect people – and search engines – to your new site. If you get a lot of your traffic from Pinterest, it is definitely important to do this, otherwise all those pins will go nowhere.

Domains cost so little that it isn’t worth giving up this. Throw away a domain and you are throwing away a lot of the work you put into getting your site established. You’ll only recover your Domain Authority relatively quickly if the correct redirects are in place, which leads on to my next point…

Make sure your redirects are right

It is worth being careful about this. You need to try to ensure a http 301 redirect if possible. This tells computers that your site has “moved permanently” and so any authority that was assigned to the original URL is now passed on to the new URL.

Not only do you need to redirect your main site, but you’ll want to redirect your individual post links too. This can be done quite easily with a self-hosted WordPress site through your domain management panel, or a .htaccess file, but can be more complicated when you are moving a blogger blog – especially if you are also moving from blogger to WordPress. Recently I moved a site from a blogger set up with custom url, to a new url on self-hosted WordPress, and in order to use 301 redirects I had to set up hosting just for the old URL, just to host a .htaccess file that sent visitors onto the right page on the new site.

You can use a redirect checker like this one to make sure your redirects are right.

Sort out Webmaster Tools

You’ll want to get your new URL up and running with Google Webmaster Tools as quick as you can. You’ll need to add and verify your new domain with them, and then you can use the Change of Address tool to tell Google about the switch. You won’t be able to use the tool unless you’ve set up 301 redirects, so they are worth getting right.

Google Webmaster Tools

If you are on WordPress you can submit a sitemap generated by the Yoast SEO Plugin, which I recommend to all WP users, and that will help Google get your new site indexed as soon as possible. The plugin has a great guide which will help you out if you have trouble with this.

Make sure you add both the www. and non-www. versions of your site to Webmaster Tools, and tell Google which one you prefer your links to use.

Shout about it

You need to tell your readers about your change and get it in their heads that you have rebranded. Write a post on your site about it, tweet about it, post on Facebook, and so on. It might also be worth mentioning it in your posts for a week or so for the benefit of people who read via RSS who might be confused about having a new site in their feed.

Consider getting help

If all this has left you confused as scratching your head, consider getting someone in to help you out. If you are making money from your blog it is worth spending out a little to make the transition to a new URL as smooth as possible, to keep up your rankings and traffic.

I hope this post has been helpful, do get in touch or comment with any questions!

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