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Web addresses, otherwise known as domain names, are in important and crucial part of brand identity for a business or organisation. They are the identifier for a website on the World Wide Web. Once in awhile, a time will come when a web address needs to be changed.
Changing a web address has far-reaching implications. Perhaps the most obvious implication, is the fact that you have to notify all the people who were familiar with the old address, so that they know of the change.
Another implication, is that the website might lose out on the traction it has gained with search engines, since the references to web pages would have changed. Despite the implications of changing a web address, there are many reasons why a brand may opt to do so.
Like people, businesses or organisations go through various changes over time. It is to be expected that some businesses or organisations, will change their name for one or more of several reasons. Following such a change, it becomes necessary for the website of the business or organisation to also go through a corresponding web address change.
If you want to keep a competitive edge, your business or organisation will have to continuously re-evaluate its marketing and positioning, and one of the strategies that is likely to propel your brand forward is to re-brand. In such instances, as part of the re-branding initiative, the web address would also most likely change.
We can’t always get what we want all the time, and at times it is impossible to initially get the domain name you want and prefer, so you settle for one that doesn’t suit you so well, but will at that point suffice. If good fortune favours you, you may later find that the domain that was once unavailable, becomes available to you and the domain change therefore, automatically becomes necessary.
Another reason for changing a domain name might have to do with the way you would like your business or organisation to be perceived online. You might choose a domain that has better success with Search Engine Optimisation, S E O, for instance. You might also want to change the visibility of your website from an international perspective such as using a dot com domain name extension, compared to a local top-level domain like dot CO dot BW.
Once you change your domain, your email addresses will also have to change. This is necessary, unless you want to confuse clients, by having an email address on a different domain than your website. Not only is this confusing for your clients, but it also makes you appear unprofessional.
When you change your domain, you shouldn’t get rid of your old domain immediately. It is necessary to maintain your old domain and hosting for a while, before getting rid of it. This has to be done until the email accounts from your old domain stop receiving mail so that you do not miss anything and can direct web traffic from the old domain to the new domain.
You have to keep the old domain and hosting for a while, so that you can continue to receive mail on it, and set the mail server to forward all mail to the new email accounts on the new domain. An auto-responder should also be set on the old domain email accounts, to automatically send a response to all mail senders notifying them of the change in address.
Since you will already be maintaining the old domain and hosting after the domain change for purposes of providing continuity with email, you should also use these resources to make sure that the links that you posted out there are also not adversely affected. What has happened with the change, is that the links you posted and shared before, online, will be broken, unless the old domain and hosting are maintained and are redirecting broken links.
Essentially, this means that all the links you have ever posted on the old domain, will no longer be available once that domain and hosting is removed. If you think in terms of Search Engine Optimization, this means you will lose any advantage gained from these links. Not to mention that you will have disappointed site visitors following the old links.
To remedy this situation, you need to have your web developer setup what is known as a 301 Redirect. What this does is indicate to anyone, or anything, visiting links on your old domain, that they have been permanently moved to a new location, and accordingly redirect them to the new location. The redirect will let search engines know to look for content on the new domain rather than the old one.
As for links posted in other places such as social media and other websites, the links will not be updated and will result in broken links, if you remove the website on the old domain, and choose not to redirect.
Keeping the old domain and hosting for a while for redirection purposes, or in order to preserve the accessibility of old links is a choice you would have to make. If you can, then you should. After all, it is only for a short while until the new domain name is established.
Changing a domain can be demanding to a brand in terms of impact on S E O and user experience, and it requires a certain level of expertise to pull off properly. For one thing, there is the moving of files as well as database, between the new domain and the old domain, and adjusting of parameters to get the job done.
If you get a good web developer to carry out the tasks, it should go without a hitch. What is essential is to plan for the complexities of changing your web address, that will undoubtedly arise, and anticipate their impact.
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