Domain Name Change for Large Sites - A Case Study


I recently changed the domain name for a popular website and landed in to a disaster in organic traffic. Learn what went wrong with our domain name change and how we lost all traffic after changing the name of the website.

I followed all webmaster guidelines but just lost about 80% of the traffic for the new domain. To make things worst, Google classified pages from our site as "irrelevant pages" in the search results. I am talking about dropping 40K per day to 8K per day page views after changing the domain name of an authority and popular website. And the site I am referring to is, this site itself (Techulator.com).

Here is my current experience that proves there is something Google need to tune in their algorithm that detect copied content. I am not blaming Google and I very well understand it is hard to take care of every single case through an automated system.

I have been running multiple websites for several years. Some of the websites are popular and some of them are yet to gain any brand name. Techulator.com, originally called MyWindowsClub.com was started about 2 years ago. During last years, I worked really hard writing great articles and it earned good reputation. I rarely looked in to Link Building or any other so called modern SEO for this site. Most of the traffic this site received was organic traffic from Google Search.

During last February 2012, this website received about 82,000 page views per day during the peak traffic day. This was during the Windows 8 Consumer Preview release days when I had a lot of good Windows 8 related articles in the site. After couple of days, the traffic settled at about 35,000-40,000 page views per day. When the traffic was at the peak and the site was at its glory, we decided to change our domain name, which we thought would be a seamless process but wasn't.

Old Domain: MyWindowsClub.com
New Domain: Techulator.com

Before we started the domain name change process, we did proper home work. I went through numerous blogs that talk about domain name change and read several domain name change case study articles. All case studies suggested the same: follow the guidelines from Google and we will not lose any significant traffic or ranking after the domain name change.

Even though we followed the steps to change the domain name of a website, things did not go the way we expected. Something seriously went wrong and we lost all our organic traffic. After the domain name change, Google recognized our new domain and we continued to get about 80% of the traffic for next couple of days. However, after about 2 weeks, Google stopped giving any significant traffic from search results.

I searched for various keywords that were bringing organic traffic from Google search to our site. I was shocked to find that Google is hiding our pages in search results with the label 'In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries'. That said the reason behind lost traffic.

What caused Google to suspect our site and stop organic traffic after domain name change?


I can think of 2 potential problems, which may have triggered the false alarms to Google:

1. I found out a large number of our articles were reproduced by other sites. I paid low attention to that in the past since Google always recognized our content as original and copy cats were ignored in search results. I was happy with the search results, traffic rank and organic traffic. But now the scenario is different after domain name change. Copy cats appear in the top and our original content is ignored. Google suspect something wrong with our new site and all the redirects we have setup from old domain and other partner sites. I have started filing DMCA against each case and have got hundreds of other site pages removed from Google index.

2. We changed the top navigation menu in the site almost the same time as domain name change to better reflect the new brand name. The content remains the same but just changed the top menu to point to different categories.

What went wrong after domain name change:


1. After 8 weeks, Google has not removed pages from old domain from its index. Still about 30K pages are in Google's index. Before domain name change, we had about 60K pages of old domain indexed by Google, now it is reduced to 30K and it remains same last few weeks. The 30K pages from old domain remaining in Google index are not important pages. Those same pages are not included in sitemap and it may take years before Google can find them in our new domain.

2. Many of our pages from new domain were removed from Google search results. Some of my research based, high ranking articles are not seen anywhere in search results anymore.

3. Many pages that were ranking in top 1-2-3 search results are now pushed down to page 2-3-4

4. Many of our pages are now hidden in search results as "irrelevant results" and sites which copied our content is shown higher in the results.

5. The old domain was indexed by Google every few minutes. If I write an article in the old site, it would start getting traffic in the next 3-4 minutes or so. Now, the new domain was getting indexed in the same rate during the first few weeks, but not anymore. I can see the home page is indexed once in 3-4 days.

To summarize, Google has classified our site as a copy cat site after the domain name change. Our old domain had a good authority and was well recognized by Google. But the new domain is penalized for reasons unknown to us and is not seen anywhere in SERP.

I have a good faith belief that we have done all steps correctly as adviced by Google and never did any link building or other spammy activities but something has gone wrong somewhere. I believe the domain authority and searching engine ranking of the old domain is not correctly transferred to the new domain.

Actions I have taken to get this corrected:


1. Submitted a feedback through Google Search results page indicating the search results are showing copy cats and my old domain pages instead of the new domain pages.

2. Submitted a reconsideration request through GWT even though we have not done anything wrong. Got a response from Google saying there was no manual penalty on my site and so there is nothing to correct.

3. Filed over 300 DMCA complaints reporting other sites/page that copied content from our site.

4. Tuned our sitemaps to include only important articles and exclude all non-important pages.

5. Contacted many other sites that have link to our old domain and got many of them updated to new domain.

Current Status


It has been about a month after we lost about 80% of our traffic. After I started filing large number of DMCA notices and got most copy cats removed, our traffic started improving. After about 4 weeks of disaster management, I got our traffic improved from 8K per day to 20K per day. I am still filing a lot of DMCA complaints everyday and once we get all of our original content removed from other sites, I am confident we could get our glory back.


Article by Tony John
Tony John is a professional blogger from India, who started his first Weblog in 1998 at Tripod.com. Tony switched to blogging as a passion blended business in the year 2000 and currently operates several popular web properties including IndiaStudyChannel.com, Techulator.com, dotnetspider.com and many more.

Follow Tony John or read 636 articles authored by Tony John

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Comments

Guest Author: Ram K Kaushik17 May 2012

Tony it is sad to hear about your site. You have already done what you could have done and still your site is not performing in the manner it deserves. There are two perspectives to this situation. These are technical and legal.

Technically you have done almost what you could have done but since your website is not subjected to manual action penalty, Google would not interfere anymore.

Legally you have to fight back against the negative SEO and bad neighbourhood link back. Further you have also to get removed your copyright infringing materials that are appearing in place of your contents. This would seriously jeopardize your online advertisement revenues.

I wish to draw your attention to the following weblinks:

(1) http://googlecensorships.blogspot.com/ , and

(2) http://iprsi.blogspot.com/2012/04/dmca-notices-and-us-websites-and.html

Check whether you case is covered by the facts mentioned at these two resources. If yes, you can follow the methods mentioned therein and improve the performance of your site. Otherwise, you can also avail the professional services of some good technology law firm of your choice as that is imminent in your case.

We also faced similar problem for our platforms that were severely censored, demoted and dumped deep inside SERPs. We took help of ICT law firm Perry4Law in this regard and now everything is fine.

Hope this helps you.

PS: The weblinks are for your reference only and you may delete the same if you wish.

Author: Tony John17 May 2012 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 0

Ram K Kaushik,

Thank you so much for the comments. I went through your links and they are very useful. I already working on filing DMCA complaints and they are bringing good results.

Guest Author: Ram K Kaushik17 May 2012

You are always welcome. I hope the DMCA process would bring you the desired results. All the best.

Guest Author: Rob Barnes24 Apr 2014

I know I'm a bit late to the party but I ahve noticed something you might want to review.

It looks as though your old domain is going through a couple of redirects to resolve to www.techulator.com

Here's what I'm seeing

http://mywindowsclub.com/
301 to
http://techulator.com/
301 to
http://www.techulator.com/

Going through additional redirects will be needlessly eroding any link equity you had on the old domain. Why not 301 straight to http://www.techulator.com/ and remove the extra redirect.



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