How to transfer your old domain to a new GoDaddy domain for free (for WordPress sites)

Well, the short answer is – don’t transfer it. Instead, clone it. Moving to a new GoDaddy domain can cost you.

If you are a new GoDaddy user (like me), you’ll realize they charge exorbitant fees for simple tasks. I wanted to transfer my old domain (geekcatty.xyz) to my new one (geekcatty.com) as I recently purchased a discounted domain name and hosting from GoDaddy. Big mistake. They charged me additional fees just to do the transfer.

I refused to do so, thus I decided to do away with the transfer process entirely, and instead, clone my current WordPress site and restore it entirely on my new domain. This way, I won’t incur any additional fees.

FYI, GoDaddy did a good job in designing a beautiful user interface, but the backend processes (basic setup, email, migration) really isn’t a bed of roses. Anyway, I’m here to show you how to avoid paying the transfer fee GoDaddy charges when you want to move your WordPress site from an old domain name (say, from NameCheap or Gandi, or any other domain name registrar) to the new one you purchased from GoDaddy.

Ready to move your WordPress site to a new domain? Let’s go.

 

Step 1: Backup your old site

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to backup your site before you do a migration. Can you imagine what happens if you lose all your content? Those beautifully taken photographs, or the massive amount of time spent writing those articles?

Yes, don’t make that mistake. If you don’t already have a plugin installed to help you backup your site, do it right now.

What I would also recommend is to create at least two backups of your site – one in your local drive (your computer), and another in say, an external hard drive, or on the cloud (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive).

I like to make things as simple as possible for non-technical people – so here’s a brief overview of what needs to be backed up and how to do so:

  • Your database(s) – where your entire written site content and images are stored. You need to backup this so that all your blog articles and images are restored.
  • Your static files – your WordPress themes, CSS files, etc. You need to backup this so that the appearance of your current WordPress site is cloned onto your new one.

There are plenty of free plugins that offer complete backups of WordPress sites. They will help you backup these two components. The guys and gals at WPMUDev came up with a great list of plugins. I personally recommend two of them 1) UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin, and 2) Duplicator (if you have some technical knowledge in manually creating a new database).

For the sake of being non-technical here, let’s go with UpdraftPlus. Here are the steps to backup your WordPress site to say, Dropbox:

  1. Download and activate the UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup plugin.
  2. Deactivate all your plugins (except UpdraftPlus). This is because there is a high likelihood of your WordPress plugins failing in the process of your migration to a new site. For example, your HTTPS plugin that allows your site to have SSL may cause you to be locked out of your site after your migration. Plugins are separate from WordPress itself – so you can’t guarantee they will work well even if your new WordPress is successfully created.
  3. Run UpdraftPlus click on the “Settings” tab. Authorize connection to your Dropbox account. See pictures below.
  4. Once it’s all done, go back to “Current Status” and click “Back Up Now”. Make sure you select both options “include database…” and “include files”. You’ll start to see a loading bar indicating the status of your current backup. See pictures below.
  5. Once the backup is complete, go to your Dropbox folder and check that there are zip folders of your backed up files in there.

Step 2: Prepare your new site

Before you move into your new home, you’ll always need to ensure it’s well…ready for move-in. The same goes for a site migration.

What you need to check is two things:

  • Your new domain name is ready
  • You have a hosting plan

Assuming you didn’t purchase both the domain name and hosting from GoDaddy, you will need to access both your domain name registrar (i.e. GoDaddy), and your separate hosting provider (i.e. Dreamhost, Vodien).

Firstly, determine if your domain name and hosting are already set up. You may do this using this DNS check tool by Pingdom.

If it’s all set up correctly, you’ll see a row of green lights. You’re good to go. Skip the steps below and continue on “Welcome back”.

However, if your domain name isn’t already placed on a hosting server, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Go to your domain name registrar (e.g. GoDaddy) and access your DNS (Domain Name Server) setup options.
  2. In another tab, go to your hosting provider (e.g. DreamHost) and find your DNS addresses. They look like this: “ns1.bluehost.com”, “ns2.bluehost.com”. Copy these addresses.
  3. Go back to your DNS setup in your domain name registrar (step 1), and paste the DNS addresses in the ‘Custom DNS Servers’ fields.
  4. Save the changes and wait for up to 24 hours for these changes to take place.
  5. Head out and grab some coffee. You may have to continue tomorrow.

Welcome back. I’m assuming you’re all set up and good to go. Let’s move on to Step 3.

 

Step 3: Set up your new site on GoDaddy and Install WordPress

If you’re using the Managed WordPress feature in GoDaddy, select the option of building a brand new site, instead of the transfer option.

Wait for the new WordPress site to be created, then select the new IP address under Hosting -> Settings -> Basic settings, and paste it into your DNS settings if you are using a system like CloudFlare, like me.

It might take awhile for the settings to be configured. Once your new WordPress site is ready, you will realize your new domain name is visible in the URL field (i.e. geekcatty.com is now accessible), and you’ll probably see the latest 2017 WordPress theme on your screen.

Now, it’s time for you to restore all the previously backed up files and finally clone your old site onto your new one.

These are the steps:

  1. Access your new WordPress site and sign in as an admin.
  2. Download the Updraft Plus plugin and activate it.
  3. Click on the “Existing Backups” tab and click on “Upload backup files”. From there, you can access your Dropbox folder and drag and drop the backed up folder. See picture below.
  4. Once the upload is complete, you’ll see multiple backup data options appear below. Select all the options and click “Restore”. See picture below.
  5. Watch your dashboard populate itself. It’s almost like you are looking at your own WordPress site.
  6. Now, you’ll realize that your URL has been switched back to the old one. No fret – all you need to do is change it to the new URL. See picture below. First, go to your “Settings” tab and update your WordPress and Site address to the new URL. What you are essentially doing here is you’re access your wp-config.php file, and changing your “WP_SITE” and “WP_HOME”.
  7. If Step 6 doesn’t work, go to your cPanel and access your wp-config.php file manually – change the WP_SITE and WP_HOME URLs to your new ones. You’re done.

 

Next steps (optional):

If you want a HTTPS in front of your URL, you may use a service like CloudFlare to help you configure that.

In addition, remember to head over to Google Search Console to index your new site, and remove your old one from search engines.

Configure everything you need in your plugins for your new site (including setting up Google Analytics) and you’re good to go.

Happy migration.

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