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Tasks Involved in Changing the domain name
Summary
This article talks about changing the domain name of your current site. Here everything else remains the same about the site but the name.
 
Table of Contents

Research and register the new name

Forward the old domain

Figure 1. Domain Forwarding

Point the new name to the existing name servers

Take care of the rewrite

Register new site with Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask

Take care of the internal and external links

Take care of the ads and other name dependent functionality

Phase out the old name

 

Research and register the new name

Make sure going to the new name is justified. Old name might be too restrictive and doesn’t fit what your site is doing now or wants to do. Maybe the company name has been changed and hence the website domain needs to be changed as well.

Bottom line is: just not liking the name and wanting to change it is probably not worth the loss of entries and rankings in the search engine, especially if you have a solid search engine presence.

Obviously, the first step is to own your new name. Good luck finding any reasonably decent domain name.

Forward the old domain

Your domain registrar and hosting provider might be different. So, with your registrar, you will have registered the current domain, say, old-domain.com. Associated with this name will be the nameservers at the hosting company – say, ns1.hoster.com and ns2.hoster.com.

Figure 1. Domain Forwarding

Figure 1. Domain Forwarding

Your registrar might provide you with a graphical means of domain forwarding. Some seem to suggest that choose 302 first (i.e. Moved Temporarily) and then choose 301 (Moved Permanently) after the search engines have a chance to digest the information.

Depending on how much you have invested in the old domain, you might want to use 301 and move permanently.

Point the new name to the existing name servers

Associate the name servers of your old domain with the new servers. With this, whenever somebody types in the new name, they will be taken to the old location (but will have new name). And with the domain forwarding discussed above, whenever somebody types in the old name, they will be forwarded to the same old location (but with the new name).

If your registrar and hosting provider are different companies, you might have to make changes in two places.

Take care of the rewrite

This is a slightly different approach from the above domain forwarding. Here, you will actively have both the domain names; both the names will point to the same name servers. And in your code, you will look at the url and decide what to do.

This approach is useful if the old domain name still has some value for you. If you want to make a clean break from the old domain, though, you would want to use the 301 Moved Permanently.

Register new site with Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask

Let all the search engines know of your new site. I don’t think there is a way to let the search engines know that you have changed the domain name – the 301 above will take care of it over time. So, the old domain will go away slowly. Whenever somebody clicks on a link from old domain in the search results, using 301 will simply replace the old domain name with the new one. So, if a user clicks on http://www.old-domain.com/test/test1.aspx, it will be transferred to http://www.new-domain.com/test/test1.aspx.

Take care of the internal and external links

Taking care of internal links is easy (at least possible). Go through the pages and the database and convert any hard coded urls pointing to the old name.

Taking care of the external links is not easy. When somebody clicks on those links, they will be forwarded to the new name. However, obviously, it’s not possible for you to change those names; if these links are in the forums, you can put additional messages pointing to the fact that the site name has changed. If they are your partners, you can advise them to change the urls to the new name.

Take care of the ads and other name dependent functionality

Google AdSense code doesn’t have the domain name in it. So, the current code that’s in the old domain should work without any changes in the new name. If there is any other domain-name dependent ad functionality (or other functionality), you would have to update it to the new name.

Phase out the old name

You might want to phase out the old name – for example, while the project names (with the old domain name), database names, etc. might not need to be changed immediately because they are hidden from the user. However, it might be good to have everything in sync in the medium/long term.

If you have a sitemap.xml filled with links to your site (and the search engines are looking into it), you might want to change the old domain name here to the new one as well.

Good luck with your new domain name!

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