How to change your website address

Changing your website address / URL is a big decision, in this article we cover must-do’s as well as things you should consider before making the decision.

Is the change 100% necessary?

However well you follow best practice (we’ll cover this later), changing your website address is sure to have an impact on your search engine rankings, as well as your visitors’ ability to find you.

Therefore you have to first consider is the change 100% necessary. Some good reasons for switching include:

  • Changing business name (e.g. www.abcarch.co.uk recently changed from ahmdesign.co.uk)
  • Adding professionalism (i.e. switching from grapemediablog.wordpress.com to grapemedia.co.uk)

…borderline reasons include:

  • Marketing strategy (i.e. switching from myolddomainnameisfartoolong.com to shorterdomain.com)

…whilst questionable reasons include:

  • Fad domain trends (i.e. changing from .co.uk to .uk) – www.heartinternet.uk recently did this, but this falls more into ‘marketing strategy’, as they are looking push .uk domains to their customers
  • Small name tweaks (i.e. changing from grapemedia.co.uk to grapenewmedia.co.uk

Best practice

If you have made the decision to change website address, it is essential you follow best practice, especially in terms of Google. Failure to do so can mean duplicate content issues or even being lost in the wilderness.

We recommend the following process:

  1. Set-up your website on the new domain
  2. Add Google Webmaster Tools to both the old and new domains
  3. Verify ownership of the domains via Webmaster Tools – we have found it is best to do this via the TXT record method, as once the old website is redirecting to the new one (see #4) other methods such as a meta tag stop working. This causes problems when using the Google change of address tool (see #5).
  4. Redirect your old website to your new website – this needs to be done with a permanent 301 redirect
  5. Tell Google of the change of website address using their tool – see the guide on Google Webmaster Answers

What next?

Once the change has been submitted, Google takes several months to re-index your website, which can have a huge impact on traffic.

You can speed up this process and limit impact by switching any backlinks from your old URL to the new one, as well as building new ones and actively publicising the change through social media.

Good luck with your new domain!