How to Change Site URLs in WordPress and Why

If you ever need to move your WordPress website to a new domain name, there’s more to the process than meets the eye. To change site URLs in WordPress, you need to update the database. All of your post and page URLs are stored in the database, so if you just switch out the domain name for your site, the database will still try to link to the old domain.

There are a lot of database tables that have to be updated, and while you could go through the database for WordPress and update URLs manually, row by row, it’s not really a feasible approach. You would likely miss something (or a lot of somethings). And if you have a larger site, it would simply take too much time to make the changes manually.

But the entire database updating process can be done in minutes with a plugin called Go Live Update Urls, a great tool to update URLs in WordPress.

First Things First

The process will go more smoothly if you can make a copy of your existing site on the new domain. That will give you the option of switching things back if you have to (you would do the reverse of what we’re about to do).

So to that end, I’ve copied all of my WordPress files from the old domain, ggexample.com, to a separate site on the new domain, ggexample.net.

Tip: If you’ve got a large WordPress site, you may want to use something like the All-in-One WP Migration Plugin to make the transfer job easier.

As you can see, the site comes up on the new domain, ggexample.net. That’s because I copied the wp-config.php file, so the new site location is still connecting to the original database.

site works on new domain

The problem is, the database still thinks the site lives on ggexample.com, as you can see when I mouse over a link.

wrong URL on new site

We’re going to remedy that problem with Go Live Update Urls.

Installing Go Live Update URLs

Install the plugin on the original WordPress installation on the old domain. We do that because we can’t access the WordPress admin panel on the new domain yet.

Log in to your WordPress admin panel.

In the left column navigation, mouse over the «Plugins» link and click the «Add New» link.

mouse over the "Plugins" link and click the "Add New" link

In the «Search plugins…» box, enter «Go Live Update Urls.»

search for the WordPress Go Live Update Urls plugin

Once you have located the plugin, click the «Install Now» button.

click to install the WordPress Go Live Update Urls plugin

When the plugin has been installed, click the «Activate» button.

click to activate the WordPress Go Live Update Urls plugin

How to Change the WordPress Address URL

In the left column navigation, mouse over the «Tools» link and click the «Go Live» link.

click the "Go Live" link

You’ll see a warning, «Like any other database updating tool, you should always perform a backup before running.» Those kinds of backup warnings are common when working in WordPress, but in this case, it is important to back up the database before continuing.

That way, if there are any missteps, you can dump in your backup and be back to where you started.

You can make a database backup using cPanel, or with a standalone tool like MySQL Workbench.

I’ve used Go Live Update Urls to change site URLs in WordPress a few times now, and it has never failed to work correctly. But you should make that backup anyway.

Better safe than sorry, as they say.

There’s not much to the configuration in the free version of the plugin. All of the «WordPress Core Tables» should be pre-selected.

"WordPress Core Tables" should be pre-selected

All you have to do is enter the old and new URLs.

enter the old and new URLs

You can see I have the full URL for the original site, https://ggexample.com in the «Old URL» field, and the new URL, https://ggexample.net in the «New URL» field. No need to use a trailing slash.

Click the «Update URLs» button.

click the "Update URLs" button

That’s it.

Now when I go to the site on ggexample.net, you can see that the URLs in the database have changed to point to the new domain name.

the URLs in the database have changed

Some Things to Watch Out For

While all of your posts, pages, image URLs, excerpts, post metadata, custom post types, widgets and widget data, and site settings will work, the free version of the plugin doesn’t update database tables created by plugins or update serialized data.

So you may have to uninstall and reinstall some plugins. Test your plugin functions to see if they’re affected by the Go Live Update Urls limitation.

The need to change site URLs in WordPress may not come up often, but when it does, it’s good to have tools at your disposal to make the job easier.

Have you ever moved your WordPress site to a new domain name? Have you used any other kind of find/replace tools to do the same job? Let me know in the comments.

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