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Like I said it's mainly what you do on the pages that counts. If you are writing new content then Google will pick up on this ant alter your rankings acordingly.
Matt says if a domain changes hands, Google resets the links value to zero/near zero.
And yet I have also heard reports just like mack mentions - that as long as the content doesn't change, things go on. In fact, I have clients who bought other web businesses, and they didn't notice any obvious loss of ranking or traffic as long as the content stayed the same.
So maybe Matt's comments need some context. He was talking to a lot of domainers.
And while there are reports of problems when changing (name)servers, that is usually due to outages, technical problems... things the webmasters weren't prepared for. DNS changes can be tricky... I wonder if they have a blacklist for nameservers.
Finally, it's only natural for trust being reset if the domain expired / showed a domain parking page / got redirected for a longer period. But even then, once the site got back up and the majority of the inbounds pointed to pages that were recycled ( either by using the old URLs or redirecting them to new pages with 301s ) while trust was in fact reseted, it picked up again, and the sites resumed ranking - even if somewhat lower.
But if the domain is currently live, and is NOT showing a parking / buy this domain page...
first get it migrated to its new server ( change nothing else ), then once it picked up change the whois, and get down to redesigning / reworking the navigation only after things have settled ( about a week at most ). I'd say if you go at it one step at a time there won't be any problems. It's the redesign where you must be very cautious. But that's more like a crawlability / content issue... Google's ability to tell the design from the content ( consistency ), the transition period while pages with both designs are indexed ( recently aided a redesign where the looks of a page got revamped but looking at the code/navigation structure, it just kept the same system and funnels, and there were no problems at all ) and finally... relevance. You're always best up using words/themes that the inbound anchors support, and are closest to the previous content. Wandering too far off-topic will cause you end up -950...
[edited by: Miamacs at 12:54 pm (utc) on April 22, 2008]
I think Matt must have been talking about a new owner for a domain that expired - and not just a change in whois ownership. There are just too many people who can report chagning whois ownership and seeing no problems or re-setting of link juice. Discussing an expired domain also makes more sense, given the audience and the context of his remarks.