Moving to a New Domain

This post will be a case study of the moving 3 sites to new domains. All domains are between 1-2 years old and some rank for some very competitive keywords. This post will be updated as we go. I will not go into the reason for the domain change.For the sake of the test here is a little background for the domains:

  • Site/Domain A: This domain is ranking 8-9th for a while for a keyword with 550K monthly searches. The international rank is 2nd in France for a 17K monthly volume and 4th in Germany for 70K monthly. It is also ranking 22nd for a 20M MS keyword. The site has over 7.000 daily unique visitors with over 300 indexed pages. Age 1 year, 7 months.
  • Domain B: This domain is ranking 32-45 for the same keywords. Daily traffic is 300-400 unique visitors with around 20 indexed pages. Age: 1 year, 3 months.
  • Domain C: Ranking very low with less than 100 daily visitors. Age: 1 year, 9 months.

All the domains are in similar niches and are moved to 3 newly registered domains. The procedure is the standard 301 redirect to the new site with a Google Search Console Change of Address request.  The site move process is started on March 1st, 2017 for all domains.

Site/Domain A

  • March 6th – The domain appears twice on the first page of with the old domain ranked 3rd and the new domain on the 7th position.
  • March 7th – The next day just one week after the site move started, there is a sudden drop from the SERPs on all major keywords. The only position that is unchanged is the German rankings while all others have dropped from 8th to 89th (INT) and from 2nd to 20th (FR). The traffic dropped to ~1600 from 7142 unique visitors the day before. Most of the traffic is from the main German and some long tail keywords. The new domain dropped to 95th position from 7th in Germany. There are 48 pages indexed from the new domain.
  • March 9th – In old site no longer ranks for the old domain and after the drop to the bottom from few days ago, the new site is on the 7th position, just 4 positions down from where it initially was. For the main KW, for FR and INTL, the old site is no longer in the top 100 results. Traffic has dropped to ~ 1100 unique visitors. The old site still ranks quite good for some LSI and long tail KWs.
  • March 19th – Main KW ranks 4th in DE and 3rd in FR which is just 1 position down from the original ranking. Most long tail KWs are still ranking lower than before, but overall there is some improvement. For the main KW in INTL  / US the site makes its first appearance on page 4. For the first time since the drop the traffic is little over 2.5K unique visitors per day.
  • April 2nd – A sudden spike in rankings for some smaller KWS. DE rank for main KW moves to 2nd position which is improvement over the original domain rankings. All other INTL and FR KWS are still  ranking low.
  • April 8th – After a lot of dancing around between the original positions of the old domain and nowhere, it sees that the rankings for the new domain have stabilized for the main KW for INTL, DE and FR on the original positions. The site is still missing the rankings it had for some smaller LSI and long tail KWS. For the 20M MS keyword it makes the first appearance on the 57th position.
  • August 3rd – On July 15th a “Thin content with little or no added value” penalty hit the original domain. The new domain has no penalty and almost month and a half after the penalty on the old domain, it is still holding its positions in the SERPs. Don’t get me wrong, it is the first time that I see a “Thin content” penalty being  splashed on a site redirecting to a new domain with the same content, over 120 unique, 1000+ word articles.

Site/Domain B

  • March 7th -Nothing changed, 4 pages indexed from the new domain. No ranking/traffic changes for the old domain.
  • March 8th -The old site rankings just improved by 18 positions on the main 550K MS keyword, now ranking 27th.
  • March 12th -DROPED!!! Old site is gone from the SERPS for all KWS. Only Bing and Yahoo rankings are still showing the old domain, the new one is nowhere to be found.
  • April 4th – 7th – The new domain appeared for the first time INTL and FR on 84th and 53rd position and dropped 10 positions for INTL and increased by 5 for FR.  IMO the dancing for this site is just starting same as site A.
  • May 7th – After a lot of dancing between nowhere and 90th+ positions,  for FR the site appeared on 33rd position.
  • June 29th – It has been almost 2 months of constant drops and the site has been stuck around 80+ position for all KWs until today when it started showing in the 21-25th range.

Site/Domain C

  • March 8th -Nothing changed, 2 pages indexed from the new domain. Rankings dropped by 50+ positions for the old domain, no traffic change yet.
  • April 3rd – The new domain makes its first appearance for the main KW in Google Netherlands but with a drop 16th (original domain before the move) to 65th.