Changing a domain name

So has anyone ever completely changed an established domain name before?

In February 2005, I registered c-three.org for our new organization. The PR firm that was consulting for us at the time (and still is) recommended that we use a domain name that was more descriptive and used the word “cancer” but most of the ones we could think of at the time were taken, so we blew off the advice and went with one that was more descriptive of our name.

Stupid mistake on my part. I should have known better.

C-three.org is a pain to spell out over the phone, it doesn’t stick in people’s memory and it makes people think we’re C-3 instead of C3. We’re getting decent Google (PR 6) and Alexa ranking but with a better domain we could do better. It was much easier for our advocate in interviews regarding the Preakness to say, “for more information visit fightcolorectalcancer.org” than “for more information visit c-as-in-cat hyphen three spelled out so t-h-r-e-e-dot-org.” Dumb that I let this happen, but all we can do is move forward now when we’re still on the small side. It will only get harder to make a switch when we’re more known.

We have 11 domains registered that “park” to the main one. A couple of months ago we started using fightcolorectalcancer.org in our promotional materials, including AdWords and it’s been very well received. It just seems to “fit” us so that’s going to be our official domain from now on. Yeah, it’s on the long side but it’s not that long and it feels shorter because it’s all real words.

Catch is, Google doesn’t like two domains with mirrored content. By using both domains the way we are, we’re actually hurting our search engine ranking, not helping it.

We’ve been using fightcolorectalcancer.org a lot so it’s not an abrupt switch. But there’s still some abrupt moves to be made to do it right. I’ve made the decision to rip off the band-aid and switch to the new domain in a more organized manner that (hopefully) takes the accumulated search engine history from c-three.org and puts it on fightcolorectalcancer.org.

Our site is at Pair Networks so I’ve taken the following steps:

  1. Change all absolute links on the website from c-three.org to fightcolorectalcancer.org. I tend not to use absolute links unless I have to, so this was easy. Same for services that we use (Salesforce, Intranets/WebOffice, GetActive, etc.)
  2. Create email addresses for everyone @fightcolorectalcancer.org and set incoming email to coward to their @c-three.org mailbox so the only thing anyone has to change is the “From:” in their email client and they’ll get email addressed to either address. New addresses are only set for @fightcolorectalcancer.org.
  3. Promote the fightcolorectalcancer.org in Pair’s control panel. This makes c-three.org “parked” under fightcolorectalcancer.org so if I’m understanding correctly, spiders will now see the correct URL when they crawl.

I’m waiting for an answer back from Pair on how I can put c-three.org on a separate IP without having any downtime on c-three.org or having to reset mailboxes. That way a simple:

redirect 301 / http://fightcolorectalcancer.org

in the .htaccess file of c-three.org should do the trick. Without it on a separate IP, it will continue to mirror the fightcolorectalcancer.org domain instead of redirect, and I’ll never get the search history consolidated on one URL.

Am I missing anything?

Update: That didn’t take long. Erik Barzeski pinged me with the answer that worked. Took a while for what he was saying to sink in my brain that was never quite able to grok regular expressions despite years of trying, but I think I got it. He pointed to me to this entry at Daringfireball.net that explained the answer. Short story is that this in my .htaccess file appears to do the trick without having to move anything to a separate IP:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteBase /

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.c-three\.org$

RewriteRule (.*) http://www.fightcolorectalcancer.org/$1 [R=Permanent]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^c-three\.org$

RewriteRule (.*) http://www.fightcolorectalcancer.org/$1 [R=Permanent]

This covers whether the “www” is included or not.

Thanks again, Erik! Much appreciated!

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