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Cleaning the slate by changing your domain?

     
12:48 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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i think i've just about given up on my once-successful site now, but i've got one last desperate throw of the dice to make... changing my .com domain to a completely different .co.uk doman (it's a UK site).

i know this would normally be a totally ridiculous idea, but i'm basically at the last chance saloon. after this it's back to getting a day job.

the most frustrating thing is that i've still got first page rankings on both bing and duckduckgo, so I can assume that the content is fairly decent, but for the last couple of years google has given me less and less traffic with every passing month. i've never had any warnings in the search console. never bought any links, or anything like that. it's speedy, mobile friendly, no technical errors. but it's almost as if there's an invisible penalty on the site which cannot be lifted.

so i'm wondering... has anyone ever tried changing the domain and basically starting again with the same content?

i've heard some people discussing an invisible penalty before, and that once you have it it's basically impossible to remove, so i'm hoping this might clean the slate.
1:36 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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i've heard some people discussing an invisible penalty before


Can I assume a couple of things? You have a UK owned site and possibly UK hosted although I haven't been able to conclusively prove that one as yet?

Possibly the majority of your traffic used to come from the US and Canada yet that has reduced dramatically the past couple of years, maybe up to as much as 75-80%?

If so then most probably welcome to the localisation of the US SERPs. It's not just hitting UK businesses, it's also hitting national US businesses and if you check the UK SERPs you should also find it is happening here as well.

I'm fine with DDG, Bing, Yandex etc, generic US Google.com SERPs I still rank well however localised US Google.com SERPs and I'm dead in the water like many others. I have seen US sites recently that have lost 50% of their traffic recently.

Users who never clean their PC/laptop/tablet/smartphone cache and history really haven't a clue of what's happening outside of their zone! They're being fed all the garbage G wants them to see.

Does this ring any bells?
1:38 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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but for the last couple of years google has given me less and less traffic with every passing month. i've never had any warnings in the search console.

I think this could've also been seen as a warning.

You should find out what the issue is before making drastic changes. If the SERPs are now more local and .co.uk domains are preferred instead of .coms, you might be on the right track, but that might not change anything, if there's a deeper issue.
2:02 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Can I assume a couple of things? You have a UK owned site and possibly UK hosted although I haven't been able to conclusively prove that one as yet?

Possibly the majority of your traffic used to come from the US and Canada yet that has reduced dramatically the past couple of years, maybe up to as much as 75-80%?

Does this ring any bells?


that not only rings a bell, but it bangs a big bass drum as well.
it's a UK site, UK hosted, about a UK location, but I picked a .com domain. This was about ten years ago. Over the last few years my traffic from the US and google.com has basically dried up completely, and my traffic from the UK and google.co.uk has been steadily dropping.

I could probably just about settle for the lack of google.com traffic, because i only really want UK customers anyway. So do you reckon changing over to a .co.uk domain might actually help?
2:59 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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So do you reckon changing over to a .co.uk domain might actually help?


It may, the jury's still out on that one, however it is very noticeable in the UK SERPs that maybe 90% of the results are .co.uk BUT this varies greatly by niche and product lines. I have some .com sites ranking extremely well in the UK SERPs and the generic US SERPs yet nowhere in localised results.

The last few years I have seen even high quality, relevant .co.uk domains lose UK traffic to new competitors, some with excellent sites, some very mediocre, however all of them have one thing in common and that is they are usually pretty relevant, quite simply there is a lot more Net competition out there than there used to be therefore the butter is spread a lot more thinly therefore unless you want to get involved with G's Pay To Play AdWords to almost guarantee you will be seen nationwide, then a serious amount of hard thinking may be necessary since G's organic most probably does not want to supply you.

Over the next few weeks I am completely re-building a trade niche .co.uk site purely as an experiment to learn whether my localisation theory is even partially correct simply to satisfy my curiosity and I'll be posting my results here hopefully by November.
4:28 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Do keep us posted on your results, @RedBar! Keep track of what specific changes were made and, if possible, share those when you report back.

On the other hand, you might NOT want to share that if successful. Why? Every Tom Dick and Harry will do exactly the same thing and a year from now you are back to square one.
5:03 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Iím not saying this is related, but if you do a Whois on a domain name now, following all this GDPR business, it no longer shows you the address of the owner, admin or technical contact. You just get the registrarís instead. Itís as if theyíve enacted domain privacy on every single domain (presumably this only happens in Europe). So maybe thatís another reason not to use a .com address if you want to rank on google.co.uk
5:31 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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If I search with Google.fr, I rarely see .com on page one of SERPs for most queries ( and I vary the queries a great deal to test ) and it is rare if I choose a search term which has the identical word in English and in French ( there are many, even without the "accents" on some letters ) that sites not in French, not using a .fr domain, and not hosted in France are returned on page one of G SERPs.

Time was that even when searching in French on Google.fr you would get a whole slew of Canadian sites ( .ca ) in French mixed in with the French ones using .fr..you still get some .coms, I have ( amongst others ) two sites , one in English, the other ( identical content but in French )..When using search term in French the English one shows in organics on page one around position 5 or 6 ( French Yellow Pages* are from 1 to 4 )..but the my French language site is at the right hand side at the top as the "website" designated by Google with the phone number and the reviews etc..That is on desktop..

On mobile search my French version is a #1 directly under the Google ads and Google "local" with maps and all, the Google ads and paid for "google local" entries with maps and all takes up 12 "slots" or positions above the organics, so even at #1 in organic, most searchers are never going to see it unless they scroll at least 4 screens down.

This is a site ( two actually ) that I made for a friend..his business also advertises with French Yellow pages..and French Yellow pages advertise with Google ( and then they bill him ..it is a "package" ), so even on mobile the first mention of his site is actually on the first screen of SERPs..I figured do a "belt and braces" approach..it works..

It ( and man other searches ) also confirms RedBar's hypothesis..I've been seeing this for about 18 months now, getting steadily more "aggressive" ( larger amount of "paid for" above organics ) Try a search on mobile ( cell phone, especially an android one, like 95% of users are using * )..you'll be amazed ( and horrified ) how much you have to scroll down to get past the ads etc before you hit the organics..The vast majority of "users" do not scroll down, the vast majority of users do not realise that the first screen of SERPs is ads, the vast majority of users are now on mobile devices, the vast majority of users are on android mobile devices, the vast majority of users are searching via Google search which is built into android as "default", the vast majority of users do not have a "scooby" how to change that "default"..see where I'm going ....?

There is your explanation..G is pushing local, and the users are nearly all on phones using android with Google ( in their local version ) and Google are ( as RedBar says ) hungry for local adwords spend ( they have nearly wrung dry national adwords spend ) , G need to keep the revenue growing, ( to please Wall st ) so they are making playing "locally" in SERPs dependent on being on the first screen ( which you have to pay the for "the privilege" )..and they are expanding into China etc..

Their ( adsense ) revenue figures are going to take a dip due to GDPR ( and other countries enacting similar ) and they are going to take a huge "hit" in 2019 when the choice to accept tracking cookies, or not, is built into the first time a browser launches ( most people will chose "do not accept tracking cookies", and they will not want to delve into the browser settings later to change it, although Chrome may make it "very easy" to "accept" , or to change to "accept" ) .

When that happens Google adwords ( in some non tracking variant ) will probably not be blocked ( as is the case with adblock now )..and adsense will come to an a end..or be restricted to only sites with a huge visitor count and served via an api to the server of the site..

In the USA the percentages are slightly different as iphone usage is a higher percentage of cellphone users there than it is in Europe, but in the USA, android is still the dominant OS and cellphones by far..and Google is the default search on those phones.."responsive" is all very well, but the vast majority of searchers on phones are never going scroll past all the ads , the "shopping" the maps etc and other Google properties to reach your site even if it is #1 in organics..
5:36 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Only webmasters do "who is" look ups..visitors, searchers, Joe and Jane "user" ( of any country ) do not do "who is" look ups or search for who owns any site..( they wouldn't know what a "who is" was if it jumped up and bit them in the neck )..not being able to see who owns the website is not a contributing factor..
5:42 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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it might matter to google when it comes to localisation, though. they look where the site is hosted, so they might look where the domain's contact details are as well
5:50 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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if you do a Whois on a domain name now


Without checking the exact facts, didn't ICANN do this for all com/net/org domain names within the last couple of months?
6:08 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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apparently, yes. i only found out the other day when i thought domain privacy had been accidentally switched on and my domain registrar said that's how it appears for everyone now.
6:12 pm on Aug 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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it might matter to google when it comes to localisation, though. they look where the site is hosted, so they might look where the domain's contact details are as well

Given that "the world plus dog" has always been able to buy a dot co.uk ( and not have to live in the UK or have a UK address ) what would a .co.uk tell Google ( or anyone else )..and a .uk ( which has registration address constraints ) can be got by having a UK limited company ( cost about 80 USD at today rates inclusive of a UK a registerd company address, all you need to get a your.uk and which will have a UK contact address) which anyone anywhere in the world can register.
12:33 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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@londrum - My focus site is a US based instructional / non tangible ecom. It's 18+ years old and since 2010 has suffered a slow, constant annual decline, no matter how much I update and enrich content. Bing has my home page indexed across the board, much as it was prior to 2010 when it was growing every year. That said, I think the domain change idea is grabbing at straws. I've thought about it myself, but I have decided to start an entirely new site, slightly different model that is more in tune with the glance reading behavior of the next generation. More visual, less text. Google's own staff is primarily 20 somethings and they process data differently than baby boomers like myself. That seems to be the biggest problem for my site.
5:32 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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i'm thinking i may as well try this domain change idea first, and then i can always start a new site afterwards. (if i can still face it, that is ó which i can't! i'm almost looking forward to getting a proper job now)
4:22 am on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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londrum, I'm surprised that this hasn't been mentioned, but I didn't find it when I read over this thread... where do your backlinks come from?

Are they independent of your host and of sites you control?

Do the links originate from sites that are located in the UK, which is the area you're now targeting?

Regarding the problem RedBar's talking about, which is a different but important issue if you're wanting UK results in the UK, but one that would be affecting US results as seen in the UK, and UK results as seen in the US... check out this thread and the Google blog post it references...

Country-specific Google sites now all searching my local country
Oct 27, 2017
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4874425.htm [webmasterworld.com]

5:25 am on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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...for the last couple of years google has given me less and less traffic with every passing month.
I think that's true for most older sites. Many reasons for it. The most prominent being there are more sites, a lot more.

While my traffic keeps increasing, visitors referred by Search Engines has decreased steadily for many years. I now get less that half the traffic I once got from Google & the others.

The trends have moved to Social Media and Mobile Apps. So that's what I had to do also. Users no longer see the internet as web sites. They see it as something more interactive.
12:05 pm on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

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but it's almost as if there's an invisible penalty on the site which cannot be lifted
Before you migrate to a new domain, can you just run a brand popularity test? Compare the number of times people search for the brand/domain name of the websites ranking in the first-second page and compare that to your own.
8:47 pm on Sept 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Wish I could see the site, it sounds like you need very specific advice.

I hate to see someone giving up on a domain, it's a complete reset and you won't be well represented online for up to a year anyway even if you 301 all urls over. You also risk just bringing the issue to the new domain.
9:04 pm on Sept 18, 2018 (gmt 0)

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i'm almost looking forward to getting a proper job now


I did this last year and to be honest it's been good. I get a reliable payment once a week, and it's taken some of the pressure on me. I only work 2.5 days a week, which means I can still add content to the site on the other days and it also makes me more employable in the event my site eventually earns nothing.

I also agree with keyplyr, I think the climate has changed. Social media, the answer box, more competition are just three factors. I used to almost always rank no. 1 with Google, but I may still be on page 1, but between position 3 and 10, but on Bing, I'm still reliably ranking no. 1. Who knows why Google do what they do? I still suspect it's a brand issue. Somebody, on here, maybe Goodroi posted a few months ago about branching out and I've done that to look at other ways to get traffic and stop being so reliant on Google. What I have done is start newsletters, added notifications, so the moment I publish a site, 10,000 people are immediately notified, social media (which I hate, but I do).

I switched from .com.au to just .com, not my entire site, about 50 articles (redirected to the .com site), and those articles started to drop in Google, so I switched back. In the long run it may have helped, but certainly short term there was a drop.

Good luck with whatever you do, you're not alone, many of us have been/are experiencing the same.
2:15 pm on Sept 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I am in exactly the same boat, gone from 1000's a visitors a day to a handful in under 2 years on a few of my sites. I have completely changed the layout in the last 6 months, made mobile friendly, cleaned up any broken links and added more content. Seems like I am getting nowhere though. What really bugs me is that I offer maps of a particular country for people to use on their blog, non commercial sites etc as long as they link back. Now all these sites are coming up for the map and I am nowhere to be found (was in the top 5 in both images and search for about 10 years), even blatant popup overnight scraper sites and hotlinkers are coming up for it . I can only put it down to some sort of penalty as my sites were neglected for a long long time. I simply can't figure it all out. New site I made, poor quality with 10's of thousands of database generated pages taken from openstreetmap is doing OK considering it has 0 links, go figure. So yeah, starting from scratch with a new domain seems to be my only option for these sites.