Updated on July 2015
In 2014, I decided to rebrand my blog and as part of the process I moved from WordPress to Squarespace and changed the domain name of the site.
It’s an old story and a few months later I went back to WordPress. However, I kept this post online in case some of you may find it useful at some point.
Everyone who decides to move an existing website to a new domain will need to take care of the same things I did, no matter what server and CMS they will use.
That’s why, I created a checklist for those of you who want to start fresh with a new domain name. If you’re not interested in moving to Squarespace, grab your PDF right now!
It took me a couple of months to decide to go for a rebranding and 18 days to actually make it.
In this post I’m going to walk you through all the steps I took.
Domain, server, platform and other tech stuff
Moving – and taking care of related technical issues – is the hardest and most time consuming part. I quit WordPress for Squarespace and changed URL, which means I chose to change domain, server and CMS.
First, I signed up for a Squarespace trial account. When I was fully convinced that I wanted to settle on SQSP, I upgraded to the Personal plan, which includes a custom domain (if billed annually).
After setting up the basics on Squarespace, I went back to my WP dashboard and exported all my contents.
To do that go to Tools –> Export, select “All content” radio button then click “Download export file”. It will download an xml file.
Back to Squarespace dashboard I imported everything going to Settings –> Advanced –> Import/Export and clicking “Import”.
As you’d think, WP pages became SQSP pages and posts became posts; comments were imported too and images stayed where they were originally.
After choosing a template (which would be a theme in WP), I checked and fixed pages and posts to be sure they looked good.
I decided not to keep all my old posts, then I split them in different blogs. On SQSP you can have multiple blogs in a single website and you can move posts among them.
Right after, I manually checked and updated every internal link.
I setup Disqus to work with my new site and keep my old comments, it wasn’t a flawless process and I’m still working on it. If I work it out, I’ll write an explanatory post.
While on WordPress, I used WordPress SEO plugin. On SQSP there’s no such an option, what you have to do is to enter a site description, a search engine description and pages descriptions.
Design and style
I decided to create my own style guide, before thinking about the layout. I did a bit of a research and testing, then defined:
- colour scheme;
- featured images size;
- heading images size.
My old blog had a different domain, so how to tell Google and everyone else that I moved my content?
The answer is: 301 redirects.
The HTTP response status code 301 Moved Permanently is used for permanent URL redirection, meaning current links or records using the URL that the response is received for should be updated.
If you need to change the URL of a page as it is shown in search engine results, we recommend that you use a server-side 301 redirect. This is the best way to ensure that users and search engines are directed to the correct page. The 301 status code means that a page has permanently moved to a new location.
Source: Google Webmasters Tools Help
The best way to implement 301 redirects for WordPress – which is hosted on servers running Apache – is to edit its .htaccess file.
I found a couple of guides on Google and did it myself with the help of my partner, who’s studying as a programmer. I recommend asking an expert, if you’re not familiar with code.
I redirected the posts to their new URL, while the other pages point to the “New Here?” page.
Social Media and other accounts
When the new site was ready and online, it was time to update all my social accounts.
I changed my link in Twitter, Instagram and Ello bio.
I changed my Facebook page name and URL (you can do it just once), then I updated my link in the info section and uploaded new profile and cover image.
You can change your Google + page name by clicking on it and entering the new name, but if you had a custom URL set up
you can only change the capitalization and diacritics of the URL, not the URL itself.
Source: Google + support
I didn’t want to keep the old URL for a G+ page associated to my new “identity”, so after a little thinking I took the drastic decision to delete my old G+ page. After all, I’m much more active on my G+ profile and I’d rather focus only on it. I changed my link in G+ profile info and verified it, then changed my cover image too.
Then I had to deal with Pinterest. First I took care of the “quick part”: changed the link, verified the site and applied for rich pins. Then I cleaned up my boards by deleting the pins associated to posts that don’t exist anymore and changed every – damn – single URL of the pins associated wih the posts I kept on the new blog. I reordered my boards (you can drag and drop them) and made a new one where I’m going to pin my posts from now on.
Something you should do too, is to implement and validate Twitter cards. I’m having some problems with that at the moment but I’ve read it could be a Twitter issue.
My old blog URL was in different bios around the web, so I’m updating it in every account I signed up for (about.me, triberr, klout…).
When everything’s ready and you’ll want to actually relaunch the site, you’ll be exhausted!!! Haha. I’m joking. Not really. However, you’ll be so excited that you’ll find the strength to write the very first post on your brand new site!
I published a post to explain why I came to the decision to rebrand and relaunch.
Before promoting that post on every social media, I let my friends know the news and send an email to my fellow blogger friends too, because I wanted them to be the first to know.
Download your copy of “14 Annoying Things You Have To Do When You Change Your Domain Name”, a checklist I wrote for you!