6 lessons from changing a website domain

When I started Alliance Coffee back in 2014 and needed to build our website, I couldn’t figure out how to buy domains ending with .sg or .com.sg and had to settle for a .net domain.

And that had been on my mind for a while.

Fast forward a couple of years, I managed to buy the .sg domain. Then hit another brick wall – I had to figure out how to change the website domain without breaking anything.

As business picked up, this issue was left on its own in some dark, dusty room at the back of my mind. I simple redirected the .sg to the .net site. Lately I received the renewal notice for alliancecoffee.sg. I had been paying for the domain for 5 years without using it 😕 So, it was time to do something.

Turns out, the technicalities of shifting a domain has been drastically simplified these days. I’m using SiteGround as my host and they had all the tools and an accessible support team in place. I simply needed to click a few buttons and its done!

Well…in theory.

2 things I wish I knew before making the domain shift:

1. time the change during non peak hours

The website will go down for a couple of hours, regardless of what the support team says. It will go down.

Check your web analytics, determine your off peak hours. Time your shift during the off peak to minimise disruption.

2. turn off any site wide 404 redirects

if not your entire site might redirect to your home page post shift and that’ll will cause some confusion for the users.

4 basic things you should when changing your domain name

1. Update Google Search Console

I’m sure Google can pick up the change if you give it enough time. But time isn’t on your side, you’ll want the change to be as seamless as possible if you have key landing pages that rank well and are bringing leads.

Notify Google of the shift within Google Search Console. Here’s how:

  1. go to Google Search Console
  2. Click on the hamburger menu (top left), click on Settings
  3. Click on “Change of address”
  4. follow the instructions on the Change of Address page

2. Update Google Analytics

Within SiteGround, all I needed to do was to change my primary domain.

This meant that I didn’t have to update my Google Analytics 4 set up as the tags were already in place. All I had to do was to make sure that traffic was still being picked up after the site is back up.

Your process might vary depending on your web host.

3. check all internal links

Make sure your internal links redirect to the correct page within your site if you’re doing this via a plugin.

If your site is small, you can choose to do this manually.

Post change, keep an eye for broken links or pages via Google Search Console.

4. Monitor traffic thereafter

Traffic dropped for 1.5 weeks before slowly recovering

Even if you have executed the shift perfectly, there’s no knowing what’s going to happen to your traffic.

Keep an eye and look out for abnormal web traffic.

If you notice a drop, that’s a warning sign to look for issues causing the drop (you should constantly be looking out for this, even if you have not made any key technical changes to your site).

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