Lately I’ve had quite a few clients changing their domain names to retool their message or to entirely change their branding. It so happens that these websites are all on Hostgator but the procedure should be similar for any web host. There is information in the WordPress Codex >> Changing The Site URL which should not be ignored but they make it sound harder than it needs to be.
Important givens in my WordPress domain change scenario:
- The new domain has to be already registered and DNS settings pointing to your web host.
- Client indicates they are letting their old URLs expire eventually.
That means the primary domain on the hosting account needs to be updated to the new URL. Do not count on your memory down the road to untangle it because the site will go down and you won’t be able to get to WordPress easily , take care of it while you are thinking about it.
- This is a simple domain switch Primary domain: www.domainABC to parked domain: www.domain123 (No subdomains involved)
- WordPress is installed at the root directory and is a single installation, not MultiSite
- The the old URL needs to work as long as it is not expired. Google will know the site as the old URL.
- Take care of this task when you are not in a hurry and when there is low traffic on the website.
Go-time change your WordPress URL:
- Open your WordPress Admin to Settings>General page
- On a different window/tab tell web host to swap your primary domain for your parked domain.
Bluehost: Bluehost Support changes the primary domain via a call or online chat. Expedite things by assigning the domain to the account. If it is not already a parked domain take the following steps:
- Log into BlueHost
- Domains > assign > add domain and leave it “unassigned”
- Call or Chat with BlueHost to make the change.
Hostgator: You can to do this yourself now on Hostgator and it is easy:
- Remove domain123 from parked domains if it is parked
- Log into the HostGator billing panel.
- Under Hosting Packages, click View Hosting Packages.
- Find the package you wish to modify and click Change My Domain.
- On the Change Domain page, type your new domain123 and click Update Domain.
- Now you need to make the old domainABC a parked domain so it will work. This is where I have run into problems on occasion and needed support. If you get an error when adding the old domain to a parked domain go on live chat and ask your webhost to add the old domainABC for you. And it can take awhile for it to work – maybe 15/20 minutes so be prepared for it to be down in a scary way – hey, this job ain’t for sissies! In the end the support person will tell you they had no problem adding it, which is annoying but hey, it’s done. Once the support added the domain as an add-on domain. That’s ok too. Just stay on the chat with them until you see it working.
- Once the old URL is working as a parked domain, and the new URL is working as your primary domain go to WordPress Settings> General page and change both fields WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) to your new primary domain. Don’t be scared -that’s what it’s there for.
- Go to Settings > Permalinks and re-save your settings.
- If you have Backup Buddy go to Settings>Local storage directory for backups> reset the default
- Check your website. If theme graphics are missing, try re-saving your Theme settings.
- If you must install the “search and replace” plugin and look for the old URL to get a clue as to where the problems are. But really, I only had to do that one time out of 4. My research told me to never change the GUID url.
Best of luck to you. I hope this helps give you confidence in using the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) fields.