Three Options for Changing the Domain Name of Your Blog

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Changing the domain name of your blog can be painful. I did it twice in two years on the same blog, and would not wish the headache on my very worst enemy. There are a million moving parts and if you overlook one, you could be in big trouble.

What I’ve learned is that there are options … it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and you can do yourself a huge favor if you explore the options before diving in.

Here are three of the options I considered when I decided that my blog needed a new domain.

Option 1: The Whole Shebang, Move Everything

This option involves exporting all of your content from your existing domain, importing it to your new domain and then setting up URL redirection to move all incoming traffic over to your new blog. Sounds simple, right? It’s not; that’s a grossly oversimplified explanation of what has to happen. It’s much more intense than that.

I went this route for my first migration, mainly because I was also moving from Typepad to WordPress. It’s a bit easier to stay within the same blog platform, but moving the entire blog from any platform to any platform requires that you take a number of very specific steps.

My advice is to first backup your database. Then, do your research and read through all of the tutorials you can find. While there are a number of good resources out there, many have different steps, and you’ll want to know everything there is to know before you start. And lastly, don’t start the migration unless you have a solid block of time (I’d shoot for at least two hours) to troubleshoot and fine-tune after the move, unless you don’t care if things are broken.

Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Option 2: Piecemeal, Take the Most Important Stuff Only

This option takes just a handful of your posts and content and requires a somewhat manual move to your new domain. This is what I did for my second blog move, just last week. This is an option if you don’t have thousands of posts you want to move over, you are taking a somewhat new approach on your new blog, and/or you intend to keep your old blog up, at least for a little while.

My goal last week was to bring over the best posts, then set up the old blog to quietly exist and gently move traffic to the new blog. I started by following some of the same process described above to export posts and comments from my old blog, and then imported them into my new blog.

After the initial content move, I did a number of little things to smooth out the rough edges. Here’s an overview of some of the steps I took that worked for my blog migration:

  • I uploaded all post images manually.
  • I used a post-specific redirection plugin on my old blog to redirect traffic to the new blog post (Quick Page/Post Redirect Plugin).
  • I changed my Feedburner source to the new blog (and the updated any reference to the feed on the old blog to point to the new blog).
  • I added a “We Moved” notification on the old blog, directing visitors to the new blog.
  • I removed comment functionality from the old blog.

It’s not a perfect solution; you will probably lose some readership. But it can be a good option for some.

Option 3: Start Fresh, Just Walk Away

If you haven’t been blogging for that long, don’t get a lot of traffic on your blog, are changing the overall topic of your blog, and/or it’s really not worth the hassle of moving your blog to a new domain, just start over.

You can take some of the steps in the piecemeal option above to capture some of your existing traffic, but it might make more sense to have a fresh start. Sometimes, the easiest option really is the best option.

Have you ever changed the domain of your blog? What process did you take? Do you wish you did it differently?

Image credit (empty box): Ambrozjo

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  • NilsNH

    I wanted to go from having http://www.thunki.com, to simply having thunki.com. So, I didn’t change domain, but it still proved to be a hassle when trying to move a WordPress installation from simply one folder to another while still keeping a proper connection to the WP database.
    From before I had already made a backup of my posts, so I ended up with Option 3: Doing a fresh install. But I didn’t bother including my previous posts since I wasn’t satisfied with them and it wasn’t a whole lot of posts anyway.
    Really need to get a hold on the whole process of migrating WP installations, so thanks for the link!

  • Ann M

    Thanks for posting!
    Very useful :)

  • Tommy

    Wow, this must be the move obvious post ever.

  • Janet Barclay

    I’ve tried various approaches as well. Janetbarclay.com originally pointed to a free site that didn’t have an exporting option, so I installed WordPress on a hosting account and moved the domain name without worrying about the old content. There were a couple of valuable posts that I updated and posted to the new blog later on. When moving from WordPress.com or Blogger to self-hosted WordPress, I do the full import/export thing whenever possible, but there have been a couple of sites where I had to copy and paste everything over – fortunately the clients had fewer than 50 posts in each case.

  • Mark

    Hm, setting up a 403 direct is not that difficult. Also if you are unable to change the domain name of your web site without moving any files at all I’m wondering what kind of web host you are using. Most allow you to have multiple domains on the same account now – so changing a url is roughly as simple as buying a domain name and hitting refresh for 30 minutes to see when it comes up.

  • ivana

    cool stuff :) http://www.nme.mk/

  • goldfidget

    301 permanent redirects are easy enough if your URL schema stays the same, but I imagine that migrating from Typepad to WordPress as Alyssa was doing would introduce some specific problems requiring either some clever regex, or, more likely, a great long list of hand coded redirects.

    Google Webmaster Tools is wildly useful here. The last thing your search engine ranking needs is a bunch of 404s popping up across your domain. GWT will give you a list of crawl errors, discovered from inbound links, which you can go and fix one by one.

    I migrated higgidy.co.uk to a new URL schema a couple of months ago and I still get inbound 404s to the old URL scheme cropping up.

  • Radiant

    I am planning to move inspirationsunlimited.co.in to inspirationsunlimited.in or to a completely new domain, however this post is really useful. I hope 301 redirect would work if I just change TLD.

  • Admec India

    Thanks for this post its a very useful to us.
    http://www.admecindia.co.in

  • Anonymous

    Actually i do not find it hard moving wordpress to a new domain at all. You can use this link

    http://web-kreation.com/tutorials/migrating-a-wordpress-site-ftp-phpmyadmin-and-sql-queries/

    You have to do a backup but if you have cpanel or something like that you can just go into that and then just back it up. I would use the queries on link above to do the changes in database. You just import your old database in the new database. Then in the new database run those queries. Sometimes you will use the http://www.newdomain.com or without the www. Just make sure when you run the query it actually gives a number of changes. If none then go ahead and run it without the www.

    Then after you run those queries log into your new backend. Then download velvet urls

    http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/velvet-blues-update-urls/

    then do the first option. Then run again and do the second option. Then your image urls will be updated. I have got this down to a science now. The only thing you have to do first is make database. Then move files to new host , sometimes just move over your plugins and theme folder only. Just depends on how you setup. I always install new wordpress but you can move it all over. Then grab our wp-config file. Then go ahead and move databases over. This works well and if you have any questions just let me know . Also if you want to put the new old database in the best utility to use would be a script called big dump. Makes it painless. You just have to modify the settings and upload it to your server and just go to the url. It is made to handle big databases. I just use it on all of them as it is great.

    hope this helps. Maybe one day i will get to a video tutorial on this.

    Any questions mmoore5553 at gmail if you need help or advise on moving .

    Cheers