Once in awhile, I have clients who ask about changing their website domain name and rebranding their small business. In most situations, I wouldn’t recommend changing the domain name of an established site, particularly if the majority of your traffic is inbound via search, referrals, etc. Changing your primary domain name and rebranding your entire website (or URL) can have a significant, negative impact on your domain authority (DA), while causing a host of other issues for you and your site visitors. With that said, there are situations where changing a domain should be considered, and could potentially benefit your small business.
How do you know if a domain name change is the right move for your small business? Take a look at the points below to help you determine what the best move is for your business and your customers’ success:
Should I Change My Domain Name?
If you have a domain URL that is drawn out or overly descriptive, having a shorter or more precise domain could be worth the switch. For example, our business is primarily known as just “Cazbah”, but if you wanted to get technical, the full name is “Cazbah Total Internet Marketing Solution”. A title like that is much too long to include in a website domain, so we just have www.cazbah.net. The benefit here to having a short domain name is just that, it’s concise. The shorter a web address is, the easier it is to remember. When you’re creating and developing your small business brand, you need to quick, to the point, and memorable!
If your business’ focus has changed over the years and requires a more descriptively accurate URL, a domain change could have a positive effect on user experience and the number of visits to your site. Your domain name is a marketing tool just like anything else and needs to correctly represent your small business. In both cases that doesn’t mean you should change your domain name, it just means it’s worth discussing and evaluating the risk vs. potential reward.
How to Change Your Website Domain Name
When we build a new website for our clients, we use the WordPress platform to do it. WordPress is the most popular website creation platform out there, and is pretty user friendly too. Although it’s actually pretty simple to initiate a domain change in WordPress, I would encourage you to leave it up to your website development and design team. However, it’s still important for you as a small business owner to understand the steps of how to change your website domain name.
Here’s what you’d need to do:
1. In the backend of WordPress, navigate to the “Settings” option and then click “General” from the drop down. Update your new domain address in the “WordPress Address (URL)” and the “Site Address (URL)” sections.
2. Update your wp-config.php file to reflect the new domain changes.
3. Review all the steps and actions you took. Test out everything to make sure you new domain address is fully functional and nothing is broken, missing, or incorrect.
If you’re just looking at the steps above, a domain name change looks simple. But again, you need to proceed with caution when considering and then initiating a domain and website rebranding change. It may seem simple, but it has a major impact.
Steps You Need to Take When Undergoing a Website Domain Change
Recently, a well established client who is a global leader in their industry decided that they need to change their domain to better align with their updated business strategy. While we initially recommended against the URL change, since there would be relatively low perceived benefit, we understood the need as well. We took the time to dig deeper into the issue and looked at the business’s goals, ideal target audience, and long term plans they had.
Once it was established that the change was necessary, we took all possible steps to reduce the risk associated with a domain name change for a small business late in the game.
Here are some of the steps we took to make the domain change as easy and successful as possible:
1. We first changed the business email domain. This step can get easily overlooked. With the amount of existing traffic for this particular small business, missing it would have caused confusion for the business and web visitors if they couldn’t get in touch with each other. We updated all the contact records to the new business domain on the existing site before we completed the actual domain transition to ensure continuity after the change.
2. We took advantage of the opportunity to convert the site from a HTTP to a HTTPS. With Google Chrome’s HTTPS security update, having a HTTPS site was a necessity anyway, so it was a good time to make this change. As a modern, small business it’s important that you can guarantee safety and security to your customers, prospects, and web visitors. Having a secure HTTPS website is a definite part of that process.
3. We created appropriate server redirects. In this case, there had been a similar change years prior, so we were really changing existing records back to the way they used to be. As a final precaution, always double check your work after a major URL change. There’s nothing worse than spending valuable resources on a change that you think will benefit your company, only to out later that it’s causing harm. Even experts can make mistakes that may go unnoticed if you don’t validate and verify all the changes you made.
4. We Updated Google Search Console. Make sure you only update Google Search Console AFTER you’ve actually changed the domain URL address. Once you’re in Search Console, you need to verify your new domain name and address, and list it as a property you own.
5. We updated the tracking utilities and data platforms, and ran backup reports to review any data that couldn’t be transitioned directly. These actions include keyword rank tracking tools and any other website optimization tools like Moz, SEMRush etc.
6. We updated directory and domain links. For example, we updated the business’ Google My Business page, their social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc., and any backlinks or internal links throughout the web page content. The redirects should avoid any loading issues and keeping them updated will help avoid any brand confusion as well.
If you’re considering changing the domain name for your small business website, make sure to list out the pros and cons. Actively investigate how a URL website change will impact your website traffic, your brand identity, and your customer attraction efforts. Take a minute to review the steps we took with our client when they were considering a domain change, so you can get a jumpstart on all the important factors you need to consider and steps you need to take