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the who, what, where and when of domain names
1.14 WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO IF YOU ARE CHANGING YOUR DOMAIN NAME?
An answer to the question raised in the title of this section, I would suggest that such is the upheaval concerned, are you really, really sure you have to change your domain name? Changing your domain just for the sake of change - like changing the shade of background colour on your corporate logo, for example - is not a good idea. Of course, it could be that you have to change your domain - perhaps you have:
1 Lost your domain name because you failed to renew it
2 Lost your domain name because you were not the registered owner (see chapter 1.01)
3 Changed your trading name
4 Merged with, or have been taken over by, another company
Even at this stage, I would still ask if there is any other solution to changing your domain name. If, however, there is no other option, points three and four are nothing like as challenging as the first two.
The reason for this is that if you are moving to a new domain voluntarily you still have control over the original name. This means that you can redirect visitors to your new domain, and so all existing customers who have bookmarked your site or have any literature with the old domain name will find themselves on your new site without realizing it - though you might want to put a message on the new site letting folk know the site has changed domains. With regard to search engine optimization, it is important to use a '301' status code (which means the site has moved permanently) so that the search engines recognize this and 'transfer' any search status your old pages may have accrued over the years (for more on the practice of redirecting, see the DOMAIN NAMES IN PRACTICE : in chapter 1.11).
If you have lost your domain name (ie someone else has it), then this is so problematic that I would suggest biting the bullet and paying the asking price (from whomever) and buy it back. As you will have already learned in chapter 1.09, there are folks out there who will happily take any traffic that is visiting your 'old' domain, whether it be for a shopping comparison site or worse still, a competitor. If you cannot recover your domain, you must make all of your existing customers aware of your new domain name. This is a significant, inconvenient - and not least, expensive - undertaking, but it is possible. What may be impossible, however, is reaching all those potential customers whose names and contact details you do not know. That is, everyone you ever gave a business card to and everyone who has picked up a piece of your promotional literature since you went online. All of this will need to be replaced. For a full list of what will need to be changed to the new domain, see chapter 4.01 about flaunting your domain name - but you can add company transport and product packaging as a cost that might match stationery.
If you have chosen to change your domain - a re-branding exercise, perhaps - all of these offline changes will simply be part of the wider logistic issue of changing all company logos, merchandise and so on. Expensive it may be, but at least it can be planned and budgeted for.
But wait, that's not all - there is even worse news. If an existing customer types your old domain name into their browser and gets a price comparison site (or worse) instead of yours they may well simply type your company name into a search engine - and so they should find your new site (though you might want to consider buying SERP ads for a while if your site has lost some search 'juice' because of the move).
No, what is worse is that your domain name is not just the home of your website, it is your email address. So if that old customer sends an email to the address they used for a previous purchase they will get a bounced email back saying it cannot be delivered. Sure they might go online and search for your company website and find the [new] email address on there - but you might not be the only supplier they emailed - and the others have already responded to that communication. Is your product really so good that the customer will take time out to find you when a competitor's email is sitting in their inbox? And what about all those suppliers and other contacts that have your old email address - particularly those who won't be bothered to find you? It would be a shame for your factory to be closed down because you have not responded to an email from the local Health and Safety office. Or your insurance policy lapse because the renewal-notice email never reached you.
Like your website, if you still have control of your 'old' domain name you can arrange email forwarding - but as I said at the beginning of this section, if you can avoid changing your domain name - please do so.
A caveat to all of this, however, is one which is inherent in many sections of this book. That is: it all depends on your commitment or dependence on the Internet in the way you go about your business. For the global entity that is re-branding to a new (brand) name then changing your domain name is a key undertaking. For the local hairdresser's shop that has a one-page website with little more than opening times on it, changing their domain is unlikely to even be noticed by the majority of customers - though it still should be done properly!
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Copyright copyright 2009 Alan Charlesworth. All rights reserved.
International Standard Book Number: 978-1-4452-0538-0
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