Here We Go: A Guide to Re-Branding Your Blog
Today’s HERE WE GO post is brought to you by Rachel of Harmonious Homestead!
The renaming of my website Hounds In The Kitchen to Harmonious Homestead required as much patience as growing the tomato seedlings pictured above from two-year-old saved seeds. I wanted to change the name for a long time as my blog and the classes I teach expanded beyond cooking food to growing and preserving it. The ‘Kitchen’ felt limiting and I very rarely posted about my dogs anymore, though they are never out of sight if food is around. I had a good story in the name Harmonious and thought Harmonious Homestead better communicated my lifestyle.
I started by buying the domain and waited through house-selling and moving before the time was finally right to re-brand. During this period, I became disenchanted with my former web host because they were expensive and controlled some things internally that I would prefer to control myself. I decided that I needed to switch hosts too.
A moderately experienced blogger, I muddled through the process. I often put off the change but with a little help from friends I finally made the switch in February of this year. If you are considering a virtual name change, perhaps you can learn from my experience the six steps necessary to switch your blog name and URL.
1) Carefully consider the change. Think about where your name shows up now – social media profiles, ad and affiliates, business card/print materials, logo, etc. Does a new name fit in each of those scenarios? Are you prepared to make changes in all those places? Are you really certain that the new name is better than the old? As you’ll see below, you don’t want to do this more than once. Time: a few weeks of off and on thought. Frustration: None. Cost: None
2) Secure domain and URLs. Even if you’re just considering a change, grab the domain and custom urls for facebook, twitter, gmail address, etc. as soon as you can. It’s ok to leave these inactive, but this prevents you from getting your mind set on something that someone else grabs in the meantime. Time: fifteen minutes. Frustration: Only if you don’t do this. Cost: $8-15 per domain/domain variant
3) Set up new domain on a host. Most people advise not switching hosts at the same time as domain but I wanted to get it all over with. You’ll need to map your domain to the host, done through DNS controls. Then, install WordPress (or your desired software) which most hosts do with a fairly simple wizard. Install a template and copy widgets and plugins from your old site to this new site. Time: thirty minutes to several hours, depending on whether you’re copying from your old blog theme or setting up a new one. Frustration: A little. Cost: $15-50/month depending on your host choice.
4) Update logo and header. I wanted to save money and love my logo, so I asked my designer, Allison Lehman of this very blog, to update the words. She did this for no cost, thank you Allie! If you are changing more drastically, you may want a new logo entirely. Either way, you’ll need to update or create a header featuring the new logo. Time: thirty minutes to several hours, depending on whether you’re designing yourself and the complexity of your header. Frustration: Minimal. Cost: $0-1000 depending on whether you design your own or pay someone.
5) Import content with attention to URLs. If you haven’t been blogging very long, you can probably use an import tool to do this. Alas, with 900+ posts, my import file was too large. I read tutorials about database import methods with WordPress but nothing I tried worked. Eventually I gave up and looked for help. My host, Media Temple, offers this as a paid service for $150. I asked around locally and hired my friend Dawn Friedman because I trusted her communications and methods. No matter how you import content, pay attention the URL format and keep it the same from old site to new site. Time: at least a few hours. Frustration: High for me, less if you are adept at database management or have a smaller site. Cost: $0 – $150
6) Switch to the new site. Use DNS controls to forward your old domain to the new site. Be patient and clear your caches to see the new url. If you did step 5 correctly, all the old posts and pages will now show up with the new address! Beware that you will also need to update everything that had your old name/url: email or how you access it, Facebook page, social media profiles, email signature, and more. Time: up to 24 hours for DNS updates. Frustration: Minimal. Cost: $0
It’s now two months after I made the domain and host switch. I lost approximately 20% of my monthly page views initially compared to previous months at the old address, though this statistic is slowly rising. One contributing factor must be that I had to create a new Harmonious Homestead Facebook page because Facebook does not allow pages to change their name. The old page had 1600 fans and the new one is not even at 300 yet. I know these numbers will rebound eventually and the smaller audience is very engaged, though I miss the reach of the bigger fan base.
I love that Harmonious Homestead better represents what I do than the old name and couldn’t be happier with Media Temple as a host. I hope to never switch again – the above steps took me almost two years from start to finish!