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"Google Certified Domain Change" - just an idea

 6:13 pm on Apr 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

At Boston PubCon last week, I proposed an idea to Matt Cutts that Google create some kind of "certified domain change" service -- so that companies who really must rebrand, or who purchase a more desirable domain name for some other reason, have some recourse with Google other than getting buried in the SERPs and taking a financial hit.

I for one would love to see something like this option. It could, perhaps, be offered through the SiteMaps program. Google could put all kinds of restrictions and proof of ownership into it (they would need to, I'm sure). Just, please, give us a smooth way to transition to a new domain. At any rate, Matt was very receptive and said something like "we do need something like that, I'll pass it on."

What do others think? Does this make sense? Would you use such a program? If it were free? If it were paid?



 2:14 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think, perhaps, he's thinking of a true rebrand. Like a company changing its name. One site changes entirely into another. The oldco dot com becomes newco dot com. And oldco dot com is not used anymore and the pages redirect to equivalent pages on the new site.

Of course, people will game that system, though. Someone with a 'content' site about fad A will 'rebrand' to a content site about fad B when fad A starts to fade... taking his PR with him... even though the two sites have nothing to do with each other.

While a good idea for real companies, there's simply no easy way to keep people from abusing it.


 2:53 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

BAD idea.

Sounds like something that Microsoft would do, which ironically is what Google is turning into in the online sphere.

We do not need a Google specific extension to the DNS or HTTP or any existing RFCed protocols.

I'd rather they work on fixing their current set of algorithmic issues and not coming up with more protocols and problems which will eventually lead a convoluted mess similar to XP... a patch for a patch which has been repatched six times already.

Robert Charlton

 7:56 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing all sorts of assumptions that this would restructure DNS as we know it today. I agree that this is a terrible idea that would never work. Am not sure that this has anything to do, though, with what tedster is suggesting.

I'm seeing it as something that might require editorial review (very un-Google-like), or at least greater scrutiny, and would be simply for the renaming of an existing company. Often rebranding is accompanied by site rethinking and redesign, so Google would have to monitor to make sure there's no bait and switch.

I don't know how this could be made to work to thwart flavor of the month site evolution... but that's why Google gets the big bucks. If the rebranding gets into new market areas, or a significantly different image, as it sometimes does, that would be a fuzzy line which could be tricky.

My guess is that if editorial review or greater scrutiny of a domain were involved, not too many buyers of old sites for retreading would want to call attention to themselves.


 8:31 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

Bob makes some good points. Rebranding often does entail complete site redesign, often to shed an old niche to move forward to new markets (software to software as service, for instance). So is Google going to put a manual together to identify the circumstances under which this service is appropriate?

An issue nobody's mentioned yet is that the companies this should be helping likely won't know about the program. How often have you seen a holding page with a meta refresh to the new site?

Wouldn't a KISS solution like Google crediting a permanent redirect be better?


 10:24 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

This souns like an excellent idea. I would like to see it expanded to file name changes as well. We urgently need to update some urls (within our domain) but can't because we don't want to loose the 10,000 + daily hits those URLs get directly from Google search.


 11:24 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

"What do others think? Does this make sense? Would you use such a program? If it were free? If it were paid? "

ABSOLUTELY! I'd pay big bucks for it. Bring it on now!


 11:34 am on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

How much of a market would they have for domain name change? I dare say not enough to worry about it.


 1:20 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

if a 301 permanent redirect would work as advertised, isn't that enough as martinibuster says?


 2:08 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

At first I liked the idea, but now I'm very weary about it. A few points

1-People blame Google on the Sandbox, but forget that the sandbox exists because black hats don't play fairly. Thus everybody blames Google for coming up with a remedy to a problem that was caused by all of us...

2-I fail to see how regular search engin users benefit from crediting a new domain with the historical value of an old one? What good does the user get from this? How will this improve the search experience of the end user? Usually, users are more concerned with what the site has to offer, than the name of the site. If the contents are the same, why should a user care about a name change?

3-Managing domain names and branding decisions are purely business decisions. Business decisions are not by default in the interest of anyone but the business itself. Why should Google be made the judge, jury and executioner of a business decision,

Rebranading comes at a cost. It's a choice a business makes. It's a gamble. Why should Google alleviate the cost of this gamble? Google is not God nor the government. Only professional optimizers and their clients benefit from such a proposal.

I guess I'm against this as it would impede on the natural business environment where managers have to assume every consequences of their decisions. Pick a bad name to begin with and pay the price later. Change your company name - pay the price later.


 8:44 pm on Apr 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

very nice post Harry, that's how I feel about it too.

GrendelKhan TSU

 6:14 am on Apr 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well yah... I'd love it...
but that just from a pure selfish perspective (as Harry put it). ie: from the perspective of a business that wants to rebrand.

I don't see why google would want to do it either...other than to appease us WebmasterWorld members.

ie: you can pretty much bet its never gunna happen, (imo) regardless of how much we'd like it to.


 6:31 am on Apr 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

Two points.

1. Martinibuster is right. A 301 should do what it is advertised (or was advertised) to do.

2. If the brand is that large, it should be able to gather steam quickly enough. If it doesn't gather steam quickly enough, perhaps it shouldn't get the rankings back anyway. Sometimes rebranding is a terrible mistake in the real world. Why should they get a free pass here.

If they had offered something like this 2 years ago (when I rebranded right at the beginning of that which does not exist), I would be all for it. But now I think everyone should play in the sandbox awhile.


 6:44 pm on Apr 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

This would be wonderful!

However, there is a big difference between Google recognising the domain has changed and Google promising ALL of your ranks will be retained.

I would pay up to 1000 if I know the ranks would NOT be lost when we changed the domain of a client site.
We manage may sites for many types of business. It is VERY common for them to get the wrong name and reolise later they need to change it. We manage some sites that have excellent ranks but NEED to change domain because the one they are using is not right, but we dare not change it for fear of losing 7 years establishment-rank.

Also: This would be a great opportunity for Google to offer other 'declarations' in the same process e.g.
- Declare official domain
- Declare country of domain
- Declare city of domain (currently they use Yellow pages - which cost Google!)

A simple way it could be done is by Google stating they recognise a certain metta tags e.g.
<meta domain = newdomain.co.uk>
...Because only the right authority is can change the html. This restricts abuse, like the wrong people being able to change the domain for a site.

Benefit to Google
- More accurate SERP
- More accurate location listing (e.g. UK listing for .com hosting abroad).
- More impressed world

There are many .com sites out there that would like to change to their country domain but daren't because of fear of rank injury.

I have tracked the change process when a 301 is implemented, and seen too often the important key-word-ranks do not catch up, while the rubbish ones do. Yes, they should make 301s work properly but ANY SOLUTION that avoids the confusion would be great.


 8:01 pm on Apr 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ted it does make sense but i doubt Google will implement such a feature
The same time i see problems/negative points there as well,for example teh one could buy an expired domain name with high PR and then "forward" that PR to his scam website or tens of other bad scenarios


 9:00 am on Apr 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

How well have people found simply doing a 301 works?

I have one site that currently has poor branding (the domain was chosen to reflect what it started out doing, but the nature of the content changed with time).

I have so far not moved the site to a new domain because I am too worried about losing rank and being sandboxed etc - should I be?

Robert Charlton

 6:35 pm on Apr 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have so far not moved the site to a new domain because I am too worried about losing rank and being sandboxed etc - should I be?


That said, if you have good reason to make the change, do so in a slow season, promote the site "naturally" after you do change it, and expect to be hurting for 6 months to a year, at least.


 10:26 pm on Apr 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

expect to be hurting for 6 months to a year, at least.

Ouch! I think I'll forget that. The branding sounds a little cheap but the site is growing steadily and I can live with it.

Thanks for the reply: you have stopped me wasting any more time worrying about it. I have to live with it, so there is no point worrying.


 8:05 am on May 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Surprisingly, but many if not the most companies don't care about Google, regardless of the possible benefits the care would bring.

I too, don't thing that the Internet should bow to Google to acustom Google's problems.
If Google really wants to present the best results, THEY are the ones who should adapt to the current net mechanism and find the best solutions around it.


 8:23 am on May 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

I vote for this idea. Google please implement this. I know that you care for webmasters. Do it!


 8:57 am on May 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

Great idea!

I'd be happy to be the CEO of the third party organisation that would be telling Google, Yahoo! and MSN which new domains are to substitute the old established ones.

Hey Spammers! I am waiting for your bids ;-)

Such idea smells with corruption. That is one thing.

The other thing is the fact that Google does not want to allow anyone to manipulate their SERPs. Webmasters are their worst enemy as we try to cheat their algo and make their search engine show our sites at the top. I believe such "re-branding service" would simply give too much space for cheaters to omit it.
Thus, they would never implement that idea as long as they do not charge us for inclusion to their index.
Once they start charging us, say $20,000 for 1 year in their index, they will probably think of such service.


 11:43 am on May 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

By the way,about spam concern related to "expired domains",they use track if its a legitimate owner trying to change the domain name or if its someone else has simply aquired expired name and trying to get higher PR from it by comparing whois
It will cut a part or fake "Certified Domain Changes" and since they already has/monitoring whois record for all domain names it wont be a big issue


 1:19 pm on May 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

Its a good concept but only to be seen whether something of this sort or atlest similar crops up in the near future.

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