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Changing Domain - 301, Meta or Other?

What's good and what's deadly in 2005?



6:11 pm on May 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

First, I realise that moving away from a 5 year old domain name is very very high risk, but here's my circumstances.

The domain has 4 keyword, and 3 hyphens. Since last fall the site has vanished twice, the last time for 3 months, this time for 2 months running. The 3 hyphens were a bad idea, but I was new to this back then, and hyphens were all the rage.

Now I can look in my sector (can't speak for others, but my sector gets spammy) for any one of dozens of keyphrases, and you have to go waaaaay down to page 8 or 10 even before you see the domains with 3 hyphens or more - there used to be lots more.

Since my Google traffic is way down (still get image traffic though) I'm thinking it's time to move to another domain.

My concerns here are mostly for G, as Y and MSN have never liked the site in their modern incarnations.

I've seen lots of 301 disaster threads, but for all I know there are 5 seamless moves for every 1 disaster.


I've read people suggesting that all content can be moved to the new site, with links pointing to the new URLs being left behind on the now empty pages of the old domain, with no content and with or without a robots noindex,follow tag. 301 could be brought in AFTER G has found the new pages.

Some folks have suggested that you can just use a meta refresh to the new URL with a link saying 'this page has moved here'.

I also have a variety of domains with different 'ages' to choose from for the move - one 5 years old with PR3, one 6 months old with PR3 and a brand new one with branding close to the domain I'm leaving, just no dashes.

Needless to say I don't want to do any more harm than necessary, but I'm prepared for things to be a bit bumpy. I just want to know if there are any recent examples of these techniques working or backfiring.
Some of the stuff I've searched and read here is from the days of a different Google.

If I go the straight up 301 route, I'd be saving some hassle, and ideally passing some PR eventually, and since traffic is very very slow right now, I don't know if I'd notice the drop-off. The clearing of pages and just leaving navigation to the new site seems semi risky? I don't want dupe content hassles.

Sorry for the long post, but I'd rather ask a bunch of questions beforehand with a clear head than a 'OMG I'm screwed post' later on.


5:02 pm on May 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For the sake of making my post more concise:

I'm going to use the 301 I think, from .htaccess (instead of the PHP way), each page being redirected to it's new location.

The question I'm struggling with is would it be wiser to move to the 5 year old 'stagnant' domain name, the 6 month old one or the brand new domain?

I'm worried that the brand new domain name will get me sandboxed for 7 months or more. It's attraction is that it's the same name I have now, but without the hyphens.

The thought occured to me that I could move content onto the 5 year old domain and keep the content there for a year while the brand new domain name ages, then move it over to the newer domain name - in a year I might not think it needs moving, but I'd have the option.

Anything to get my good content off of my tacky 3 hyphen domain name (which I'm convinced is dragging me down) and avoid the sandbox.
I've already lost about 5 months since last September :(

Smashing Young Man

9:06 pm on May 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm the last person that should be giving advice on this as I'm one of those people who penned a 301 disaster thread. All I can say is this: Be very, very careful. :


9:11 pm on May 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm trying to be :)

Though I'm tempted to rush off and use .htaccess to 301 old-domain.com to newdomain.com, I'm still wondering if I should use that neglected domain option instead of the brand new one.

Also not sure if I should make a huge .htaccess file or just replace the contents of each old page with a PHP script that 301's to the new URL.

The fact that the site is doing poorly right now and that I see so few 3 hyphen domains doing well anymore is motivating me to take a chance, but I want to lower risk as much as I can.


9:20 pm on May 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

OK, talking to myself here, but since I've seen very few "I did a complete 301 to a new domain and everything is fine" posts, I've decided to 301 to the older domain.

It will be interesting to see how google handles passing links and PR on to an existing domain with it's own PR.

I figure I'm a little less likely to run into sandbox issues compared to using a brand new domain name.

Smashing Young Man

8:30 am on Jun 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I just wanted to bump this and see how things went for you. :)


11:28 pm on Jun 26, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member zeus is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Spine you are not talking to yourself, but there is no sure reply to this, maybe the hypens are the reason, but I personally dont think so, as long you dont spam, so what your domain has 3 - in it.


1:17 am on Jun 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Last year I have moved to new domain the site established in year 2000 with 301 redirect. There was no real problems except of drop of PR to zero for the couple of month, but I believe that the drop was because of the bad site design and not because of the moving. I was very inexperienced.

I knew virtually nothing about how the Google work but seem did almost all correct.

In short, the order of my actions was the following
1.Moved site to knew host.
2.Registered new domain.
3.As soon as I could connect to new domain from my computer, made 301 redirect.
4.Began to send the emails asking other site to change their links that pointed to me.
5. Several months after, put robots.txt to old site to prevent the crawling. Submitted robots.txt to Google to delete the old site from the index.



1:22 am on Jun 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just one addition.
I naturally did not delete the old site several month until the inbound links were changed. Than I deleted it manually as descrived.



1:52 am on Jun 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Also not sure if I should make a huge .htaccess file or just replace the contents of each old page with a PHP script that 301's to the new URL

I know for a fact that you can do this with one line in the .htaccess file but I can't write it. If you go to the apache forum you'll find it there.

Better to use .htaccess because google may call the php script a 'page'.

I would've gone with the new domain - the 301 from established site to new domain would be an obvious 'domain name change' which would probably not get sandboxed but would inherit the seasoning through the server generated 301.


8:00 pm on Jun 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I did something similar last month with a site that had been online for about seven years as a subdirectory of a larger domain (Domain A).

I had previously registered a domain for the site in question (Domain B) but never fully connected the domain to the site. Instead I parked Domain B in such a way that traffic was reidrected to the subdirectory on Domain A. This worked well for several years, until this spring when I redesigned my site and decided to fully host it at it's own domain.

Once the newly redesigned site was up on Domain B I did 301 redirects on all of the old pages to corresponding new pages. Here's what happened:

The Good:

All third party links to the old site are seamlessly referred to the new site.

Google seems to recognize that the links to the old site are actually links to the new site. In other words link:DomainB returns links to the site when it was hosted on Domain A.

The Bad:

While the new site has been fully indexed by Google I am no longer turning up for any of my main keywords. I was previously No. 1 for my main keywords, saw that start to slip a bit when Bourbon kicked in, then almost immediately after making my change I dropped out of results entirely. As a result my traffic is down substantially.

The Curious:

Page Rank may or may not have been transfered. I get different answers depending on how I test my Page Rank. When I use the Google Toolbar I see that Domain B has the same PR 5 that the directory under Domain A had previously. However, when I use the FireFox Page Rank extension I see PR: n/a. That tool previously showed a PR 5 after the transfer, but started returning the n/a on exactly the same day I dropped out of the Google SERPS.

Not sure why I would be getting different PR results with different tools.

Final Observations:

I'm obviously unhappy with the results of my domain transfer, but I'm not entirely sure that the 301 redirect had anything to do with the problems I'm experiencing. If anything, the 301 redirect may be the only pat of my transfer that worked the way it's supposed to.

I think it's more likely that the structure of the redesigned site has changes so dramatically and that I've added so much new content that Google may be treating it like an entirely new site. In other words, I have a suspicion that I might be experiencing the same problem if I had hosted the new site in the same subdirectory on Domain A.


6:11 am on Jun 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

check the google index and make sure you don't have both domains indexed.
Once the second domain is indexed you should remove the first domain (from google index) and leave the 301 there.


9:32 pm on Jun 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

In response to 'how did it go?'

I moved the content to a 3rdlevel.domain.com, where domain.com is 5 months old and has some traffic.

I used a 301 in the .htaccess file, and I changed some filenames from keyword1-keyword2.html to a combination of keyword1.html for some pages, and just numbers 001.html for others.

At first I saw some of the pages at their new home leap to roughly where they had been before the site started having trouble, but within days they vanished again, so I guess I'll wait it out.

Really wish I'd never established the site on a three-hyphen-domain-name.com


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