Moving a website is a big job and as you might now be aware of, I recently moved my website to another domain name. This one you are on now! I had a pumping website with 20,000 Alexa and Page 4, but I decided that the move was the best idea for my business to move forward. You can see my reasons in this article about this website being ready for a change.
The process of actually moving to another domain was not as hard as I thought but it did require a lot of detailed jobs to be completed.
How to Move a Website to a New Domain
This is just a guideline and is not set down in stone. As every website is different, they require different tasks to be completed in order to accommodate the move.
There are options to clone a WordPress website using WPTwin but in this case I have manually moved my website to a new domain.
WARNING: This is a detailed list, but not as long as others I have made.
#1. Write a List of Links You Can Change
This is something I have thought about long and hard and I am sure I have missed some possible link changes. Make sure you do this before you go moving the website because you will need to start changing the links as soon as possible.
- Contact websites that you have guest posted on
- Change profiles on guest posting sites
- Change links on article websites
- Request author access
- Change forum signatures
#2. Write a List a Urls to Redirect
This is kind of silly as I wanted to redirect every post and page on my old site to my new domain. Please note that I have done this before so I know how it works.. Google catches on and indexes the new page instead. I just have to wait a bit for this take affect.
#3. Buy Your Domain Name
Well I bought the domain name purely based on the fact that I like it, not really for SEO. This one has come from my gut feeling and I am running with it.
I thought “WordPress website builder” was a bit constricting and also boring, whereas “Lets build websites” is screaming action!!!
#4. Install WordPress on Your New Domain
I have made so many tutorials showing how easy it is to install WordPress and build a website from scratch. It probably took me a minute to do this and all the hard work was in the tweaking and importing settings.
#5. Block the Search Engines
I used the WordPress settings to block search engine access so I could create the website with my existing content without being penalized for duplicate content. I simply went to the privacy settings in my dashboard and chose the option not to open my blog to the search engines.
#6. Configure WordPress
As I mentioned, all of the hard work was in the details and configuring WordPress was one of these details. I guess you can also call it WordPress website setup, making sure all of the settings are just right. After all, I did not want any of my website visitors to really get hit with any major changes.. I aimed to have everything look and feel the same.
One thing I must stress is to change your permalinks when moving a website as this is the key to everything! In my case I had /%postname%/
#7. Install Your Favourite Plugins
You never realize how much you rely on your favourite WordPress Plugins until they are gone. Because I manually exported and imported my website, the plugins then had to be installed. The reason I did this is because I have left the unwanted, space wasting plugins behind.
Ok these are the plugins I have installed so far. Basically I could not live without them!
I had to install Commentluv Premium for my website visitors, not so much for me. A website is not cool without it!
This plugin is one I really cannot do without. I dropped Scribe for this plugin and could not be happier. Of course I am saving loads of money, (keyword winner is a one off payment and Scribe costs monthly) but that’s not why I need this plugin. This plugin is doing a job that I used to do manually. I have even made videos about how I did this manually in my article about how to dominate Google rankings.
Yes my old friend SEOPressor. I am still using this plugin to tell me my keyword density and keep me in line. Basically I get the kewyords I need from Keyword winner and then I optimized for them using SEOPressor.
WordPress SEO byYoast
Yes Yoast’s plugin is very cool and I needed it. I wanted to start with the right plugins from the beginning so my SEO would be up to scratch.
Clean Archives Reloaded
This is the tiny little plugin I use to create a sitemap on my WordPress websites. It is very simple but does the job.
Fast Secure Contact Form
I love this plugin and it is free! It has loads of options and is very easy to use. One thing it is good for is installing detailed forms into your website without having to do all the difficult code.
Tweet old post
Tweet old posts is a secret of mine that is not really a secret!! LOL Well a lot of people ask me how I find time to tweet all the time, but it’s not me, it’s this plugin working for me. As if anyone has time to hang out on twitter?
WordPress Popular Posts
I like this plugin, which is also free, as it is just simple and does what I want. Of course other people might have other more fancy popular post plugins, but I like to keep it simple.
This is a free plugin from my friend Hesham Zebida from Famousbloggers.net. (What a cool name..) This is a review plugin that is definitely bringing me more sales and it’s looks great too! Check it out in the sidebar.
If you want to find any of the free plugins I have mentioned you simply go to your plugins menu in the wp dashboard and choose to add new. Then search for the plugin I have mentioned.
#8. Copy Your Theme Layout
I am using Thesis WordPress theme with a custom design by me. It is very simple but works well for me. Therefore I simply exported the Thesis settings and imported them into the new domain. I also tweaked the CSS a bit and presto…my theme was back! This was important to me, to have the website look almost exactly the same and thesis made this very easy for me.
#9. Export Your Website
All you have to do is (in your old website) go to the WordPress Dashboard Tools menu and Press the export link to export a website. Then you will be prompted to install a plugin. Then you can export a file to your computer and use this to import to the new domain.
#10. Import Your Website
Basically you do the same thing you did when you did the export. Just make sure you choose to import all users and all files and pictures. After that there is some editing to do. For example all user accounts are reset to subscriber status. Also Thesis post or thumbnail image urls will be set to the old domain. There might be other tweaks needed depending on your theme, but generally everything is imported and ready to run.
#11. Organize Your Sidebar
I recently wrote an article about Sidebar etiquette so I definitely did not want to break my own rules!! I had to make sure my sidebar was not overcrowded with junk and that it also resembled the layout of my old site.
#12. Install Google Analytics
I have started websites before without installing some kind of analytics and it was definitely a mistake. You really need to keep any eye on what is going on with your website and how it is progressing. I also use basic Google analytics tracking to find problems or errors with my websites. It is really amazing what you can learn from these stats.
#13. Change Links in Ebooks
This is easy and is just a matter of using the search and replace feature to take one domain out and replace it with another. Also most of my links are redirected so I think I am pretty much covered, but the branding of the books will need to change..
#14. Change Social Media Profiles
You should go to all the major Social media sites to change your profile details. For example you can change your website URL for Twitter. You can even change your Twitter username if you like.
#15. Redirect Your RSS Feed
I went to Feedburner and put my new URL in the existing feed I had already set up. But the main thing I did here was left the feed URL for Feedburner the same. Therefore if it is submitted anywhere it will still be the same feed URL but the site URL will be different.
#16. Start Redirecting URLS
This is the worst part because I wanted to make sure it was working for most of my top content and money earners.
To redirect the individual urls I have simply used Thesis, my WordPress theme I was using on the site, to do a 301 redirect. See the screenshot below. Like I said, Google will catch on.
Google itself recommends that you redirect each and every page for a better user experience. This is what I have done. If I do a plain domain redirect the user does not get sent to the individual pages.
You also need to verify the new domain in Google webmaster tools and let Google know of the change of address.See the screenshot below.
#17. Move Your Affiliate Cloaks
I have PHP redirects set up for my affiliate links. This means that I created a file telling my links to look pretty. for example an affiliate link can look ugly but my Thesis affiliate link simply looks like this “http://letsbuildwebsites.com/go/thesis”. I created a folder called GO in my root directory, then I created a folder called Thesis. In that folder I placed a file called index.php with the redirect code on it. Thats it!
So when it came to moving these links all I had to do was copy the folders to the new domain. Presto! The affiliate were back in business and it was so easy. The other redirects also exist on the old server just in case…
#18. Send A Message to Your List
I haven’t done this yet but it is on the list!! The thing is, I wanted to give something away like a cool freebie. That might take a few more days but I will do it.. People love my freebies and I love making them!
#19. Change Auto Emails
I have a series of auto emails running on my list but they are only linking back to my old site which is redirected. Therefore any links clicked on will end up on this new site anyway… Well hopefully!!
#20. Open Your New Domain and Close the Old
This is important. There is no real rule to this but I have redirected my old posts to this website, then I have let the search engines in to index the site in the privacy settings. (remember I blocked the search engines while working) BUT I have not shut the other website off yet to the search engines. I do not want it to drop out of the rankings before Google realizes that the page exists somewhere else. When I feel that there is the slightest bit of traffic to any of my older posts (now on my new domain) from the search engines, then I will shut the doors on the old site.
At this point I will be happy that Google knows where the real content is.
#21. Redirect Through Your Domain Name Servers
I bought the old name from Namecheap and also this new one.. All I had to do was go there and setup a 301 redirect from the old name to the new name. Bang! It took a day to take affect but that was it! The job was done and Google snapped all this up quickly and started to index my new location.
The other sneaky thing I did to get indexed fast is to submit a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools ASAP!
Oh No.. What Else?
Did I say that moving a website was easy? When writing this article I relized a few more things I had not done. I guess I will be finding and fixing problems for a while, but I know it will be worth it in the end.
Thanks for everyones support!! I really appreciate you all visiting the new domain. Hopefully if you ever decide to move a website, this list will help.