Here's a step-by-step guide
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If the internet were like real estate, then domains would be the individual lots or parcels of land where you build your buildings, which are the websites.
Up and moving a building may not be a feasible option in the real world. Luckily it’s entirely possible in the virtual world.
Whether it’s due to a business name change or just want to use a different domain, changing the settings can be scary. When your entire website is built upon the domain, considering to attempt to change your domain name yourself might seem a little out of your league.
Fear not, for we have the easy guide to change the domain name on an existing website. And on some of today’s most popular website platforms.
We will look at the domain change process on 6 of the more prominent players in the hosting platform industry.
Before we dive into the steps to take for each platform, let’s begin with a pre-flight checklist. Or rather, a pre-domain switch checklist. It is an excellent document to make and keep on file in case of emergency and also for reference.
When you make notes, it’s good to set up a document for your records with details of what you did to change the domain and when. Include the pre-domain switch checklist and make sure it is dated.
The notes are right to take in case there is an issue with switching the domain. One can backtrack if one has a trail to follow. It helps troubleshoot any possible concerns.
Whenever one intends to make any kind of significant changes to an existing website, it is essential to take a backup of the site. Make sure not to skip this step as it is your only chance to save a wholly broken website.
Download the backup you made. It is a good idea to store the backup in two locations. One right place to store the reserve is on a local home computer within a trusted network. The other should be on a USB drive and separate from the computer. These two copies allow double protection if a backup is required, and the home computer is corrupted or malfunctioning.
Another perfect idea for backing up your website is to use a cloud backup service. These services will help you backup the site to a particular online repository or even to an online cloud storage location. These sorts of cloud backups often come in the form of a plugin or addon and can regularly be synced with google drive or one drive.
In anticipation of checking to make sure things have changed appropriately, it’s good to start with a list of places where this change could affect things, for example, anywhere like Facebook or LinkedIn, where one might have a page dedicated to the site or business. These are all locations that will need to confirm that changes have been accepted and are functioning.
If one has a website hosted by WordPress.com, then there are some fairly straightforward steps to changing the domain on an existing site. Here are the steps to make the domain change. However, it is worth mentioning that these are the steps to change your WordPress domain to another WordPress domain. For example, the site might be aplestuff.wordpress.com, and you want it to read bestapplepie.wordpress.com. These are the instructions to make this change.
If you are looking for instructions to change to a custom domain for a wordpress.com hosted site, then you will need to register, transfer, map the DNS, and this sort of thing is best suited for a tech support agent. Contact WordPress support if you wish to use a custom domain.
Changing a domain name when using Bluehost is not as easy as one would hope. The best thing anyone who is not technically inclined can get in touch with Bluehost support for assistance.
If one is feeling courageous, one could attempt to change the primary domain of oneself. Although it is worth mentioning that even if one were to try this process themselves, the person will likely end up on the phone or chat with support either way.
Contacting Bluehost support is encouraged, but it is also actually a requirement for part of the process.
Due to the difficulty in the process, it is almost better to migrate a site from one domain to another and not attempt to change the primary domain.
To change a site to a new domain, simply register the new domain with Bluehost and contact support to request migrating a website.
Remember that any links out in the world and point to the old site domain will need to be updated. If not, a redirect will need to be created from the early domain and pointed at the new domain. But we’ll get into that later in this article.
Instructions on how to change your primary domain name on Blue Host
When working with GoDaddy, it is possible to change the domain name when using the Online Store’s standalone version. The following instructions are for sites using this version.
If your site is on the Wix site builder platform, there are a few options. Similar to other platforms, one can purchase domains through Wix. You can also connect an existing domain with another domain provider to the Wix platform or even transfer a domain over.
Most of the platforms offer similar options.
The instructions for assigning a domain not currently assigned are quite simple on the Wix platform.
It’s these sorts of simple solutions where Wix is superior to use for those who are not as technical as others. A platform like Wix makes it easy for anyone.
Squarespace works similarly to WordPress in the sense that one is auto-assigned a Squarespace URL when signing up. The built-in URL might be something like
If you are connecting a domain from another provider, you’ll need to find the individual instructions.
If you are just looking to change your assigned domain to a custom Squarespace domain, then these instructions are for you.
How To Change The Built-In Domain Name on Squarespace
The Shopify platform uses a similar naming system to WordPress and Squarespace. However, there are a few differences. With Shopify, it is worth mentioning that your .myshopify.com URL cannot be changed as you use it for accessing your account.
However, the primary URL, which your clients see and navigate when they come to your store, can be changed.
Similar to other platforms, domains can be purchased, transferred, and added to the Shopify account.
The following simple instructions are for setting your primary domain for your Shopify web store.
Any time an existing site changes something significant like a domain URL, there will be consequences. As we mentioned earlier, there will likely be multiple places where the links point to the old URL.
Depending on how many locations point to your old URL, changing them manually can be a tumultuous task and might even prove nearly an impossible feat.
If the site has been established for a while and has some natural backlinks pointing to it, one cannot switch the URL and expect everything to be working smoothly.
Likewise, changing URLs can cause search engines to think a new site copying the old site’s content has arrived. There could be penalties, re-ranking, and more. It could be an absolute disaster for an established site that relies on organic traffic and ad revenue.
Setting up the appropriate redirects is essential to making sure that not only human traffic, but search engine bots are able to successfully navigate the site and don’t consider it a new site and re-rank it.
Depending on which platform you are with, the process of creating 301 redirects can be tedious, especially for those who are non-technical.
With a WordPress based site, the best thing for a non-techie to do is to use a plugin designed to handle the redirect process.
If not using WordPress, the process might be more complicated. For example, if your site is using Joomla or is a static site, then the instructions will be specific to your site.
Depending on what type of hosting you have with GoDaddy, there might be a fair level of coding involved in creating 301 redirects. Find out more at GoDaddy Help – Using 301 Page Redirects.
In the Wix platform, you can manually create 301 redirects. The process has a few specifications which you can find on the Wix support page on the subject.
Here are the instructions to set up your redirect:
Squarespace is another platform that makes creating redirects fairly straightforward. Here are the instructions.
With Squarespace, it is an easy process to add redirects, but only if you are a coder. Otherwise, you will need to follow the directions to the letter. Best to keep support numbers handy.
Shopify luckily has a handy app for making multiple 301 redirects, as is the case when a store moves to a new URL. It is recommended to use the app and follow the directions for creating multiple 301 redirects. It is vital if one has an existing store with many product pages.
However, if only a small number of redirects are required, then there is a reasonably simple instruction set to accomplish this goal.
If you aren’t sure if you did things correctly, you can find more information on the Shopify support page.
Changing domain names has a lot more to it than most people are aware of. The process can seriously damage a website’s ranking efforts and can severely impact traffic if incorrectly done.
Besides ensuring that following the particular platforms instructions for changing a domain are adhered to, one must consider redirecting traffic still trying to access the original URL.
Also, there are multiple other instances where alterations are required. Social media accounts, business cards, email signatures, brochures, flyers, advertising, and even clients will need to be altered, re-printed, and notified.
Although the process of a domain URL change on a website is a complicated matter, it is at least not as costly as a business name change. However, it may seem just as complicated.