Sounds crazy but yes, I just had that drastic move not all bloggers and readers will understand — changing my website domain name. You read it right. I rebranded my personal finance blog from iMillennial to signed MARCO (with www.signedMARCO.com as the new domain name).
Unsurprisingly, readers out there find the new name and address a bit confusing and misleading. Go scan the design elements and articles, and see — it’s the same three-year-old blog you visited the other day or say, last month. I tell you now, don’t raise your brows! It’s still me writing.
Flashed back, I had iMillennial at www.i-Millennial.com from scratch. I was extremely excited back then having my first-ever self-hosted website (i.e., beyond the prison walls of .blogspot and .wordpress). For the past three years, I had it grown to be a profitable collaborative online platform of quality personal finance content.
I finally gave it up. Kidding! Blog readers should not worry though as I had to give up just the domain name. Again, it’s just the website domain name! While it’s a big decision on my end, I am but more positive about it.
I did the migration of all content overnight. I could see that Google search engine has turned more understanding about the change as I have observed that the site is getting more searchable already than before. But how did I manage the change?
Let me walk you through then the whys and hows of this big website domain change. Maybe, you’ve long been thinking about changing yours too but worried about the downsides. Don’t get scared, I tell you.
1| People find it difficult to spell ‘iMillennial.’ No offense, I overestimated our capacity as human beings to easily remember words as complicated as iMillennial or even millennial, with double letters and confusing vowel placements. It just didn’t work.
The tendency was, readers would rely on bookmarks (i.e., if they really had bookmarked the site) or search Google for the site until awfully landing to the competitors’ pages. It’s also, in most cases, mispronounced. Go try it yourself.
2| It’s always imperative to mention about the hyphen. Yes, I would also talk to people about the blog as part of promotion. I couldn’t help myself but emphasize that the website domain name comes with a hyphen so for them to find it online. Others would easily forget about such a sidenote and simply search online chancing the site. It’s a struggle, I have always known.
3| Google remains intolerant of hyphenated domain names. Tell me that Google bots care no more whether website domain names are hyphenated or not, or treat both the same way, after you search a three-year-old site, iMillennial, and get ‘search results for millennial’ and ‘search instead for imillennial’ notifs. Bottom line, Google remains confused after all those years.
4| Individual pages perform well with SEO, but not the homepage. I should say that my blog’s ranking pages are a product of hard work and search engine optimization (SEO), not the website domain name. I had to make the most of effective keywords and all, I should say.
While other pages appear on the top three in Google results, the homepage does not make it unless typed correctly (with the hyphen) or after repeated visits.
5| I hate it when people keep on using the hyphenated brand version. It’s annoying really. I have been insisting the brand, and yet people would still use the hyphen.
It’s a small issue compared to the traffic and earnings, I know, but it implies that people are misled about the brand being established. I cannot blame them though. The website domain name itself bears the hyphen.
6| The new domain, www.signedMARCO.com, communicates a more personalized brand. It has always been the goal – to build an online reputation with a brand that offers helpful content tailored in both professional and personal tones. The former website domain, though communicates the purpose, appears bland and generic.
7| Changing website domain name is always an option. Yes, you read it right again! Nobody should feel constrained to maintain a website domain name that does not any more give confidence.
While the length of online presence translates to reputation, it does not hurt much if one follows the rule of migration. As I said earlier, I did it just overnight. After all, most of the traffic comes from search engines, not really direct nor from referrals. So there was a minimum guilt.
1| Start with the purchase of a better website domain name. Since the time the former domain name got sour, I already had the domain options running in my mind. I had these options soon listed on a piece of paper.
I checked their availability one by one through the webhost’s domain search feature. I knew it was a tough yet always an informed decision. Otherwise, I would make the same mistake again.
2| Change the primary domain currently assigned to the hosting account. Yes, I got my hands a little dirty. I was told by the chat support rep that all I had to do was change the primary domain name of my account to the new domain which I just purchased, and all necessary files and folders would be placed under it.
I admit it wasn’t that easy given that I lack expertise and experience. I relied on research and read a lot about those folders in the CPanel and the required configurations. It took me hours to figure out the logic of the operations. Soon I finally had everything up and working as what I expected.
While I didn’t have the self-assurance that I left no dirt in the locker room, I made a follow up chat, requested a review of the change, and asked a favor to do the rest of the cleaning for me. SiteGround has never disappointed me.
3| Set up Permanent 301 Redirects. It’s absolutely necessary. Of course, I don’t want my readers to play hide and seek, get tired of it, and walk away. I want them to still find me after the change. So, I did these redirects in the CPanel. It can be done in just a matter of minutes, but it’s impact is immeasurable.
After the configuration, I expected that all internal and external links must be redirected to the same pages, however under a different domain name. I tried a few links, and the redirects were all successful.
4| Notify and update Google – Search Console, Analytics, AdSense – about the change. I don’t have a choice but to notify the internet lord, Google. It’s not through simple email or anything verbal, rather by registering the new domain, verifying ownerships, and managing settings.
With Google Search Console’s (Webmasters) ‘change of address’ tool, it usually takes 180 days before change of web address is finalized, and within which the migration can still be cancelled. I just had to copy some verification codes to the new site and the DNS configurations. So far, everything seems good.
As can be observed, the site does not anymore display AdSense ads. Google AdSense has slightly changed the way it welcomes new domains to the account. Before, I had the ads running on my second website, AcadShare, right upon registration. That’s the only worry I have right now. But should I really worry about it?
Yeah right, I might have spent three years and great effort sending these blog readers to one location, and changing the website domain name poses a risk of sending them away somewhere else.
Within three years as well, I have come to realize that the potential that change will give outweighs the time and effort I have already invested. In the end, it’s not really the risk that matters but the opportunity.