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Moving site to new domain name

     
11:27 am on Jan 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Hi, I have a 20-year-old site that has plummeted in the rankings and seems to be dead and buried no matter what I do. Now I am thinking of slitting it up and moving it to two different domain names, both country code and good single word domains that have never been used. Half the site is on travel to this particular place and the other half is maps, I am a budding cartographer. What is the best practice here? I have so many spammy links pointing to my domain name so am I best just contacting all the good like owners and asking them to change the link or 301 the site and start with a disavow file straight out of the gate? I am, not even sure if this is the reason for my drop in rankings but I want to start these new sites off as clean as possible. Would there be any problems with 301ing half the site to one domain and the other to another?
10:17 pm on Jan 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My site started out as a .com, but a dodgy host hijacked the domain name, so I switched to .com.au. I eventually got the .com back, but stuck with .com.au as I was about to have my first child and couldn't be bothered changing again.

Long story short, I have moved a few articles over to .com, as well as added some new content and neither rank well compared to my .com.au site. I am guessing because the .com.au is well-established compared to the unknown .com. I would love to move everything back over to .com because the site is international, but content doesn't perform as well on that domain.
11:34 am on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Your approach really depends on how able you are to weather any disruption. Is it going to be an issue if you look at 3/6/12 months of disrupted organic traffic?

Can you trace your organic drop off to a particular point in time or has it diminished over time? A sharp dropoff can be traced to a specific update, which will give you an idea of what to fix.

>> Would there be any problems with 301ing half the site to one domain and the other to another?

No idea, but I'm currently going through a 2 domain merger for a client and it's a PITA. I guess it would mean you could only use the Google Webmaster Tools domain merger tool for 1 domain so you'd have to pick one to focus on. The process takes months even with 301s in place, so I'd plan for at least 3+ months of disruption.

The issue seems to be the spammy link profile. Might be more efficient to do a disavow clean up job on the existing domain - particularly if you're only talking about SEO implications. Slightly different if you feel the new domains are overall stronger (for the long term / branding). In that case, I'd still clean up the old domain, then merge it with one of the new domains (whatever one you'd expect to perform better).

@browndog - I'd say merge the domains to use the .com. As I said, there would be some disruption but that should be relatively straightforward and the .au rankings should be reflected in .com eventually.
4:38 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thanks, yeah bit reluctant to do it. It started with panda and then penguin. A particular area of my site was still pulling in 1000's of hits through image search and the image carousel at the top of search results so I was reluctant to change the site. Then Google image changed it's algorithm maybe 9 or so months ago and practically overnight I went from 1000's of visitors to a few dozen. They seemed to have boosted stock image sites, youtube video extracts, and the big players. Since then I did a major site redesign, mobile friendly, checked for broken links, spelling, grammar, deleted or blocked a lot of what may be considered thin content. I did have a spammy backlink profile and disavowed 100's of domains a month ago but I am not holding out much hope. How long would you give disavow to work? Seems to be mixed views on whether it actually works or not.

At the moment being buried for a year wouldn't make much difference as I practically get zero visitors anyway. The domain names are good, I have been sitting on them for a long time, a 4 letter word that is related to my site and another that is pretty good as well. My old name is a hyphened keyword .com.
5:42 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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maccas if you move it move it all. I think moving 1/2 is not the best idea. Just my opinion
8:19 pm on Jan 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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bwnbwn I am thinking of moving half to one domain and half to another and killing the original.
10:39 pm on Jan 6, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Half the site is on travel to this particular place and the other half is maps, I am a budding cartographer. What is the best practice here?

maccas, IMO, Google ranks images in large part based on the text content of the pages they're on... so you might be throwing away your image ranking potential if you split text and images into separate sites.

If there is a penalty that's either link based or content based, 301ing your pages may not solve that problem at all.

Just food for thought... it may also be, with the "needs met" approach the algo has taken, that you perhaps haven't clearly enough defined (or targeted) the kinds of searches that a site with original cartography might satisfy. There could well be a lot of potential in combining original maps with unique text content, but you may not be not satisfying what visitors to your country want to know (or to see).

4:53 am on Jan 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I moved from a geographical specific domain to an international domain. I moved in early 2017, and just got my traffic back. There could have been other factors, like Google algo updates etc, in the meantime too. But assume that you may be without much organic traffic for several months, even a year.
2:10 am on Jan 9, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don't.

As for SE love ... it is always about the content and (these days) results for the user.

Do consider that se's never forget a url they have met. And 301s from a site that's not much loved now to "new domains" just might carry that "poison" forward. If you are going to make a break, make it clean, make the content unique (ie, avoid duplicate etc by having different text!). In other words, start over.