“It’s just weird,” I said with a puzzled look on my face. “Why would anyone in their right mind do that? Am I missing something? Is this a new trend I somehow missed? I thought people stopped doing that in the ‘90s.”

I was confused. Bewildered. I thought I must have missed some kind of strategy initiative pushed by Google.

But, no.

And that’s what leads me to today’s topic: if you are going to change the name of your business, move locations or shake up the address of your website there are some things you should know.

First and foremost, however, don’t do this:
Website FrameDon’t re-do your website and place it inside another website just because it’s easier to change what shows up in the address bar at the top of the browser. If you’re going to change your website, and if that change involves changing the domain, then change the domain. Do not build a new website and then place it inside of another website in a frame. I repeat, do not use frames. One more time, do no use an iframe to house your new website.

I came across this issue twice in the past few days. Someone hired a developer to build them a brand new site. It looked great! And then I went to the next page; the address at the top of the page didn’t change. Another page – no change. I looked at the source code and there it was: someone had placed the new website inside of an iframe. I tried to think of the reason for doing that, but I couldn’t come up with one strong enough to offset the negative effects of doing such a strange thing.

Putting an entire site inside of an iframe not only creates a strange user experience, but it also limits what you can do with it. Optimizing your site for search (SEO) is darn near impossible with frames. You won’t see any organic traffic on the new site because there is only one page for Google to look at. When you frame a website inside of another website, all of the page views and user data belongs to the site on the inside. The new site will never rank because it doesn’t have any content!

Another reason to avoid using frames deals with advertising. Think of it: if you try to set up an AdWords campaign that points to a product page on your new website, you can’t do it. The ad will have to go to the site that is framed into your new site . And if you think that’s a good idea, then why did you change the name of your website in the first place? It just doesn’t make sense, does it?

Going forward, when your web developer (manager, administrator, IT guy, or friend) says they can change your website’s URL “no problem”, make sure they do it the right way. Make sure they get into the guts of your website. Here are some tips:

  1. Make sure YOU own the domain and hosting accounts. If you let your developer run your website – the very site on which you depend for your livelihood – on his or her account, they all but own your online presence. Make them provide you with the usernames and passwords to your domain registration and hosting accounts so you can take your business elsewhere if you feel the need.
  2. When you decide to change your domain (the URL of your website), don’t settle for a band-aid fix. Buy rights to the new domain (see No. 1 above), properly point the DNS to the new domain, and set up proper 301 redirects so anyone attempting to hit pages at the old address gets automatically forwarded to your new address.

Hopefully the information I have presented helps you, the small business owner, walk into a name change with your eyes wide open. Pivoting your business on a dime is never easy. It’s not easy in the brick and mortar world, and it’s just as difficult – if not entirely confusing – in the online universe. But, like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

In this post I’ve covered what to do if you decide to change the URL of your website. Watch for my next blog post to learn about the things you need to do if you change the name or location of your brick and mortar business. It goes well beyond filing the necessary paperwork with the city and county. You need to think about the online implications of a switch as well.

 

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