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Domain Change - A Case Study in Traffic Volume

     
10:28 am on Oct 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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10+ Year Member

joined:Nov 17, 2008
posts:191
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Mods - I'm not sure where this should be posted, it's a bit of everything really, but any updates will primarily be concentrating on loss of SE traffic - and 90% of that will be Google

Hi Everyone,

I've not posted on here all that much, but have been a long time reader / learner. I've been managing our domain change process and got some great answers / tips on her so thought I'd give something back with this case study.

I haven't done all of this myself - I have a team who has carried out a lot of the implementation - they've been great in getting al this done.

I'll be updating regularly with changes / progress:



Background
We are a UK company working in travel, in a particularly pretty crowded and competitive market place

The original domain was a .com, hosted in the UK.

The original domain was a PR4 domain, over 10 years old

According to Yahoo Site Explorer the original domain had 4785 incoming links

The site if fairly high traffic, with some pretty good ranking on a lot of competitive keywords

The company has gone through a rebranding exercise, and as a result we have decided to change the domain name.

As 90% of our market comes from the UK we’ve decided to switch to a .co.uk domain. This .co.uk domain was registered by us 5 years ago, but has had no content on it (just redirected to the old domain the entire time)



Strategy
Lots of prep work, including:


Natural / Organic
Created a test site where we tested recreating our ‘old’ site with every domain changed to the test domain, but with the same filepaths

On this test domain we ran a script that change all instance of our brand name to the new brand name

Also made sure all internal links were changed

Creation of spreadsheets showing links coming in to all major pages on the site – used lots of metrics such as incoming domain age, relevance (KWs in title etc), domain PR, page PR, no. Outbound links, dofollow / nofollow etc to assign each link coming into our site a value (I know it's not really that exact a science but it's helped with the management / reporting during this process)

Started contacting high value linking partners to advise them of a change of domain that will be coming


PPC
Creation of spreadsheets to upload to PPC with domain changes


General
Research into potential tracking / analytics problems

Contacting all affiliates, advising them to change links when we ask

Employing / recruiting extra outsourced resource



Go Live day (06/10/10):

Procedure (Roughly chronological order):
Took old site down for a couple of hours whilst we got the new site up and running.

Deleted Google Analytics code from old domain (probably don’t need to do this, just being prudent) and kept it on the new domain. Kept it within the same profile for comparison purposes / ease of use

301’d each page on the old domain to the corresponding page on the new domain

All PPC destination URL’s changed – large account, hundreds of thousands of KW’s, large monthly spend – new ads being tested with reference to domain change on branded ads

Registered new domain in the same Google WebMaster Tools as the old domain, uploaded sitemap for new domain. Did the same for Yahoo / Bing variants

Registered the change of domain name in Google WMT

Contacted all affiliates and asked to change domain

Used outsourced resource to change domain on all portal listings

Started contacting high value links to ask to change domain


Natural / Organic
Outsourced resource used to start pulling together contact details for all lower value link sources

Started splitting link building (going to gradually move link building form old domain to new domain, not sure at the rate yet, we’ll see)

Organic SE traffic down by 10% - 20% on what I would have expected for the day (as I say, we’re in travel and now going into the off season so can’t be more exact than this on traffic levels)

1160 pages showing in Google using ‘site:’ query for old domain

Branded Traffic: down around 20%, conversion rate increased by a large % (but still just within flux levels – need more time to confirm if this is noticeable)


General
Conversion rate slightly higher than previous week, but within standard levels of flux



07/10:

Natural / Organic
Organic SE traffic down by 15% - 25%

1160 pages showing in Google using ‘site:’ query for old domain

190 pages showing in Google using ‘site:’ query for new domain

Sitemaps crawled by Bing and Yahoo

Some of our lower ranked / newer pages drop out of Google for KWs we were tracking

Branded Traffic: down around 20%, conversion rate increased by a large % (but still just within flux levels – need more time to confirm if this is noticeable)

Approximately 70% of all high value incoming link value is now changed


PPC
Across both days: Impressions up 16%, Clicks up 15%, CTR down 4%, CPC up 43%, Conversion rate is static – not bad really considering the change in QS likely to have been brought about with the ad changes + the CPC increases


General
Conversion rate slightly higher than previous week, but within standard levels of flux

Overall traffic has slightly increased (I planned in some extra budget for CPC increases in PPC and this has eliminated the overall drop in traffic)
1:09 am on Oct 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from CA 

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

joined:Aug 31, 2003
posts:9074
votes: 6


Thanks for the information - it will be interesting to see how the transition pans out in the longer-term, or at least over the next few months. I've had reasonable success in the past with site-wide 301 redirects to new domains, hopefully all will go well for you.

I wonder if the fact that the "new" domain was registered several years ago will affect things?

Also, you mention:
(going to gradually move link building from old domain to new domain, not sure at the rate yet, we’ll see)

Are you saying you're still seeking links for the old domain name even now you've done the 301 redirect, or am I reading it wrong?
6:02 pm on Oct 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Junior Member

10+ Year Member

joined:Feb 2, 2006
posts: 79
votes: 0


What crazy good luck. I need to do something very similar right now. Thanks so much for your post.

Please give us an update soon with some comparative kw ranking stats. I'd like to know when Gbot crawls your new site, as it seems it hasn't yet.

Questions: Why did you 301 each page? Can't you do that globally? (sorry if that's a noooob question)

Same question as @encyclo: "Started splitting link building (going to gradually move link building form old domain to new domain" Why are you still link building on the old domain and not all on the new domain now?

Any specific advice for me? Here's my post: [webmasterworld.com...]