Checklist: How to transfer ownership of your website and associated properties

OK, this is going to be long, folks. These items won’t come into play for everyone, so please just skip those — feel free to ask if it’s something you need to worry about.

Let’s say the agency that manages your website and other associated properties is closing shop, and you want to either take it in-house or transfer it to someone else. How can you do this efficiently and safely?

First, about safety and security:

Please send any communication about moving files etc. via email. This is to prevent mistakes and for your security. Your data is important to me, and I want to document everything we do. I will not hand over info to some rando who calls or texts me.

I will always give you a heads-up when sending files, having a domain registrar or Flywheel email you, etc. to let you know it’s legit. If you receive emails from someone and are not sure, please feel free to ask if it’s a scam or not.

Now, on to the official “How to Move It” Checklist. 

1. Secure your Domain Names

Do you own your domain names? (i.e., https://mybusinessname.com). In other words, do you manage the annual renewals/payments, or does someone else? This would be through a registrar like GoDaddy, NameCheap, Aplus.net, Bluehost, etc.

1a. If you handle your domains: Now is a good time to log in and make sure you can get in, and check the credit or debit card to be sure it’s not expired. Your domain needs to be accessed because the website’s DNS (the number/IP address that indicates where the web server is) is going to have to be changed when your site’s new location is ready to go live. This is really easy but it must be done.

1b. If I handle your domains: I need an email address for a person who will take over the account. I will let you know if you should create a NameCheap or GoDaddy account if you do not already have one (the transfer seems to work better if you have an account before I initiate the transfer). They need to log in, accept the account, and add their contact info and payment method. Use an email address that is checked frequently and a phone number that will work well with 2-factor authentication. You can add additional people as contacts.

— Note that this transfer request will lead to the domain being locked against Registrar transfer for 60 days.
— This transfer may trigger the ICANN Domain Verification Process which must be completed within 15 days to avoid suspension of the domain name.

Domain handling tip: Most registrars offer “Delegate Access,” so you can own the account and billing and only give limited powers to a developer, volunteer, etc. to change your DNS. I don’t recommend relinquishing complete control of your domain name to another party – I’ve seen too many business owners lose their domains. Here is how it works with GoDaddy: https://www.godaddy.com/help/what-is-delegate-access-12378

2. Move Hosting

Hosting is the server where your website lives. Even if you stay with the same hosting company (my recommendation), the server is going to change because it’s on my bulk plan. My bulk plan is going to be closed, so it needs to be moved to an account owned by you or someone on your behalf. If you are not going to continue using WordPress, this does not apply. But I am happy to provide a backup of the site just in case.

Q: What kind of hosting is it on now?

A: When you are considering options for future website maintenance, please ensure that the person considering taking it over is aware of the following: Your WordPress site is on managed hosting with Flywheel. For security and performance reasons, core files such as wp-config are locked down. I have had people move their website from mine to non-managed hosting with no problems, but recently I have had a developer tell me that moving from managed hosting is difficult. If you stay with Flywheel, great – you don’t have to worry about this. Some managed hosting companies, such as WP Engine (they are the same company now) will do free migrations for you.

Other than the options below, I am not in a position to provide technical assistance migrating your site.

Q: What are the options for transferring ownership of the website?

A: There are two options (I can do one or all). I need the email address of the person who will receive these files:

1) Flywheel Copy — (You don’t have to be technical – it really is easy – it took me longer to write this than it takes to do it)

Flywheel step 1) I will copy your current site to a standalone Flywheel account. You have 14 days to take over the billing of that account (month-to-month options are available). I recommend Flywheel because they have excellent US-based support by humans, fast site speeds, and proactive security measures.

Flywheel step 2) Test the NEW site; give me the OK to relinquish the domain.  After you have accepted billing and you have fully tested the cloned site under the temporary URL, let me know when you are ready to go live, because I must remove the domain name from the live site before it can be added to the cloned site. The reason is that will not allow two hosting plans to point to the same domain at the same time.

Flywheel step 3) Assign the domain to your NEW site in Flywheel. When I remove your domain name from your live site, your site will go down until you go into your NEW Flywheel account and add your official domain as the primary domain in Flywheel, AND change the DNS in your domain registrar. How to add the domain – https://getflywheel.com/wordpress-support/go-live-flywheel/#primary-domain

Flywheel step 4) Change the DNS. After you have added the domain name to Flywheel, go into your domain registrar and change the DNS (the numbers/IP address that indicate where the server is). Unfortunately, your standalone account will have a different server than my bulk account but this is REALLY easy.  https://getflywheel.com/wordpress-support/go-live-flywheel/#point-dns

Simply change where it says (for example) 151.101.111.111 to the NEW numbers Flywheel gives you (same format).
— There may be some downtime as DNS propagates.

If you get stuck, please utilize Flywheel’s tech support – they are outstanding.

Copying the site to another Flywheel account is a good option if you are not sure what your long-term solution will be. Technically it is very easy and reliable, and you can just keep the account month-to-month (though annual plans are more cost-effective). The site can always be migrated off Flywheel later. DNS has to be changed regardless.

2) Restore from Backup. If a developer wants to use their preferred web hosting. I can provide one or all of these: A backup from Flywheel’s system; a backup from ManageWP’s system; and if they have a preferred backup plugin (only if it’s a WP Repository plugin), I can install that on my live site and send them the files.

In all of the above cases, the new owner will have WordPress (WP) admin access on the clone/backup. They will still need to change the DNS to point the domain name to the new server.

Note that any changes made on your live site will not be reflected in these files after I copy them, so be sure you have all content up to date as much as possible before the copy is made.

3. If your site processes payments with PayPal, Stripe, or Square, reconnect payment

I am putting this ahead of removing me as a WP user (step 5), because I am not sure if removing the WP user who set up your payments will break your payments or not.

Go into Gravity Forms, remove the payment feed, and reconnect the feed using your own login to PayPal, Stripe, or Square.

If I have Developer Access to your Stripe or PayPal account, please remove me. Now is a good time to check the list of users and be sure you still want them all to have access. Give the people the lowest access necessary to do their jobs (unfortunately last I checked Square only offers one user option).

4. If your website has a Facebook integration (i.e., displays your Facebook photos on your site), reconnect it

I am an administrator on your business Facebook Page to connect Facebook’s API with your website. A different Facebook Admin will need to go into WP and redo this connection. If you don’t want to use this feature anymore, it can simply be removed. I will be removing myself as an admin on your Facebook page for security reasons.

While you are looking at Facebook Admins, please check Facebook to be sure you don’t have anyone with access to your page that should not have it. Give people the lowest level of access necessary to do their jobs. See Facebook’s help article on this. https://www.facebook.com/help/289207354498410?helpref=faq_content#newpages

5. Clean up Users in WordPress

Remove me as a user and anyone else who you do not want to be a user. Give people the lowest access necessary to do their jobs.

6. Take Note of Software Licenses & Renew if Needed

I have developer licenses for your core website theme and some standard plugins needed for some of your site’s features, which you will want to get on your own if you want to keep using them. The site won’t break immediately if you don’t, but you will not receive updates needed for stability, security, and performance as they will no longer have a valid license.

Your site may have some plugins that were purchased for you – in this case, I will transfer the license to you and it will be good until the renewal date (most are on annual plans).

I will send you a list of plugins that apply. Normally transferring the license involves getting a new license key for your site or reauthorizing your site. It does not involve having to uninstall or reinstall the plugin again or losing data.

7. Changing the Google-related items

7a. Google My Business (Google Maps): If I set this up for you, I need to assign someone else as Owner – I need an email that is a Google Account. It does not have to be a gmail.com email address — just needs to be associated with a Google Account. The new Owner needs to accept ownership, login to Google My Business, and manage the listing. Please delete me as an owner.
Please note: I have received SPAM ownership requests for some clients’ Google listings. If you get an email from Google from someone you don’t know “requesting ownership of your Google Listing” – this is NOT from me. There are people out there trying to take control over Google listings, I assume to hijack them for nefarious purposes. Never give ownership of your Google Listing to anyone unless you 100% know and trust them! You don’t have to make everyone an owner  — again, give people the lowest level of access necessary to do their jobs.

7b. Google Search Console:
Again I need an email address associated with a Google Account. I will add this person as a new user with full permissions. This -should- keep your site’s tracking code on your site (so long as it’s not deleted) and the traffic history. Anyone else with a Google account can be added. Please delete me as an owner.You may need to re-verify the site in Google Search Console.



– This document is an ongoing project! Most recent update is 12-31-2023.