.co.uk to .com domain move Dec 26th, still 40% down – do I risk moving back?
I'm desperate for a bit of advice. I run a website in a niche automotive vertical which has been my job since 2006, and after LOTS of hard work over 15 years held 1000's of P1 positions in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
I recently moved from the original .co.uk to .com to aid with future internationalising plans. I was very careful not to change ANYTHING else, just 301 from the UK to the .com and updated everything in webmaster consoles. My background is development and I spent weeks triple researching everything to make sure I followed all the Google best practices, as this is my life's work and primary income source.
From a tech point of view the change went perfectly, but sadly Google quickly started deranking the new domain, and now two and a half months on it seems to have stabilised at around 40% down on traffic year on year and mostly dropped from the UK region.
This is mostly from medium to long tail keywords. One such example is "Michelin Primacy 4" in Google UK, old webmaster tools is showing my average position this time last year as 1.4 and now I'm 12.4!
The .com site is geo targeted to the UK by both webmaster tools and href lang tags.
So, my question is, so I keep waiting, or do I give up and risk the switch back to the uk domain before it's too late?
Thanks in advance.
Review and audit the migration from a tech standpoint just to check nothing has been missed. I will say that 6 – 12 month recovery periods after a migration like this are not unusual and this is something you need to be prepared for before the move.
I speak from experience that you will likely do more harm than good by moving back this soon after a migration. If you have 301'ed to the new domain your migration is permanent from Google's perspective – and by switching back now you will introduce even more volatility.
Thanks, does this mean you tried to move back and it went wrong? What happened? All the guides online, especially from Google say 6 months is worse case, and for something as simple as my move it should be 2-4 weeks!
What Google says "should" happen and what actually happens in practice is not always the same. I've done migrations where there was no drop in traffic, no volatility at all – and I've done some that have taken upwards of a year to go back to pre-migration levels of traffic; but every migration I've done has got there eventually. Unfortunately there is no better advice than to audit the migration (or get someone else to audit it for you), fix anything that is wrong and ride it out. There's a reason I only advise my clients to switch domains if they absolutely have to.
Yes – I did a migration on one of my own sites when I was very new to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Traffic tanked (as is normal) and I waited several weeks as traffic had plateaued and showed no sign of recovery. I reversed the migration and traffic dropped again. Traffic did eventually get back to where it was – but had I held my nerve, the recovery would have been quicker.
Whether you think it's a simple move or not doesn't matter. Google works mysteriously sometimes. I did a migration on a site that simply moved from the singular version of their brand to their plural (think Reddit.com to reddits.com) – nothing else changed on the site and it took us until the next Google algorithm update to start seeing a recovery (which was over 7 months.) Conversely I did a move recently where the site was completely rebuilt, lots of pages dropped and a hideously complicated redirect file to account for a new URL structure and saw no discernible drop in traffic whatsoever.
Ride it out. It's all you can do.
I wonder if size is a factor? I've about 30,000 pages in total, but perhaps only about 8000 key pages on the site map. Also, I'm not sure what traffic levels you're used to, but this isn't a huge site.
I've audited the move, but if this is a service you offer and it's an area you know drop me a pm, I'd rather pay to be 100% sure than be 99% sure and have the 1% ruin me!
There was an algorithm update on December 6th or something like that. By chance did you see a rankings drop just before you migrated? Maybe it's a combination of the migration and the algo update.
I will say, however, 2+ months is a little longer than I would expect it to take to recover your normal performance though it's not shocking to hear. I would re-evaluate every single aspect to make sure something wasn't missed, overlooked, or just done incorrectly.
Lastly, I do not recommend going back to the .co.uk. I think that's a bad idea that would result in even more volatility.
Thanks. The Dec 6 update seemed to improve even further the .co.uk ranking, so it wasn't that!
Nah. Don't switch back. When you change something like that, it can take upwards of a year to regain rank.
It's already "too late." You just have to ride out the change.
Is the "year" from experience, as what I've read online (and I've read a lot!) it should be weeks or low months, not a year :(
Six months to a year is what I've seen over the past decade I've been doing this. I'm sure there are other factors at work, but it's not a fast process that I've ever seen.
Well, that gives me some comfort that this isn't the new normal. Did you see quite a bit of moving around of the medium and long tail results while you were doing it? I'm trying to work out the logic behind what's going on!
I mean the logic is simple. Google doesn't want people moving that stuff around regularly to try to game the algorithm. They've always regularly rewarded long-term consistency and reliability. Changing a brand or moving to a new domain is an interruption of that. That's why you don't want to do it unless it's absolutely necessary. Losing 25-50% of your total traffic isn't unheard of while you get reestablished and get some age on the new domain.
Just have to be patient with it is all.
Thanks. It's a good point about gaming the system, however there are some very clear guides from Google saying it shouldn't affect rankings and I moved from xxxx.co.uk to xxxx.com, so I thought it was lowest of low risk :((
What guides are these? Every guide I've ever seen on the topic has said you can minimize some of the loss by making sure you 301 redirect everything and update your info with Google for faster indexing, but that you would still lose some of your authority.
I have been in your shoes and it was absolutely terrifying.
I'm actually not sure what advice to give, even though I went through it.
In my case, another Google algo hit, and my rankings finally came back and more — basically overnight.
Is that a standard experience? I have no idea. But I was in pure hell for 4-5 months.
In your experience of a domain move, did you ever see strange fluctuations like this?
Change in dec, this further derank in middle of feb. I'd be more optimistic if the trend was in the right direction overall but this seems even worse!
Yeah pretty much. I was lost in the weeds for months. It sucked.
There's nothing you can do about it but keep working in the meantime. Create lots of new content. Optimize for performance. Double check anything that might have changed like robots.txt, etc.
I went into overdrive on new content creation and optimisation. I'm honestly not sure if anything I did had any effect, as things shot back up with the next algo change. But all I can say is, hunker down and work on it. It's all you can do anyway.
Thanks, really appreciated. Content it is!
What was your logic of moving a 15 year old TLD? Do you think you've topped out and maybe a .com could raise you ceiling? Or an exit?
I was planning on going international and wanted everything under a .com domain for easy subdomaining. IE a German is more likely to click de.tyrereviews.com than .co.uk, and it will rank better in google.
In hindsight I certainly shouldn't have, but everything I read online made it seem like it was very low risk if done properly.
Do not move it back! It's been too long to expect to get your old rankings back, so at best it's a lateral move. You already ripped off the bandaid, don't put it back on with super glue!
Even when you do everything perfect you can expect to take a hit. It's barely been 2 months, give it some time. 4-6 months is pretty normal so you haven't even gotten through the pretty normal phase. It could take longer as other have noted. Don't screw around with it now, you could make it worse.
Noted :) The next few months are gonna be stressful!
I've had a similar experience in a niche that is volatile in Google search (adult toys). Saw a 40% drop as well and it took a year to regain the original rankings and traffic, so I would ride it out in the .com.
Also, Google switches between intents for keywords that are strong in both commercial and informational intent. I saw this recently with the Dec Core Update. Before the update my product categories were ranking high for broad keywords, after the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) was full of informational content about that keyword. So, I've created an informational "backup" for when Google does these "intent switches". What I'm saying is check the SERP for those keywords that have dropped and see if your content is right for them still.
Thanks, that's really interesting, I'll do some more research. Mine is a review site for a product (tires) and I'm mostly being outranked by retailers now.
Up to a year is reasonable. It sounds like you are connected to Google Search Console (GSC). If you are using WordPress and consider adding rankmathpro. They have a manual module that you can add connecting your suite directly to the apis of Google and Bing. When you press save in wp, it gets sent immediately to the Application Programming Interface (API)s and I've seen stuff index in under 5 minutes. I'd take this time to double down on all of the proper structure, signals, and content. Your goal is that as it gets picked back up by google, It is picked up as better, more relevant, and more in-demand. What does that mean, it means it is time to learn and apply proper schema across all of the pages including going the extra miles of entity association adding Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) schema, and media schema where appropriate. I have an aftermarket automotive part client for 12 years, He sold and retired and his competitor then contractor with us because I kicked his ass all over the place for 10 years. What I can tell you from personal experience is that the majority of your co0ompetitors may have videos and hot chicks, but they do nothing to optimize for it so anything extra that you do our outsource is worth the effort.
The typical automotive product page is duplicate content hell because you will have 3 different parts fitting the same 17 honda's and very few sites think far enough out of the box to change the default descriptions from the manufacturer. IF this happens to be you and your site, I'm not knocking you, it is what it is and I've found owners of these companies do not understand the importance of spending money where it needs to be spent. If it doesn't spit grease oil or cash, they don't seem to get it. check to see that no one or that you have not just duplicated the product descriptions. choose your most important pages, check what each page is ranking for on Google Search Console (GSC), compare the volume for those terms and decide what you want to rank for. Then improve the structure, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and specifically the content to enable that to happen, don't stuff keywords. hire an automotive writer if you must.
Using a site like also asked, search your keyword phrase. It will give you a hierarchial structure of questions from Google's people also asked section of the results. We will create out article topic and then structure an outline of subheadings based on relevant questions. Next, utilize a site like topicalrelevance.com It will give you a healthy list of the different entities and associated words that Google would expect to be present in a discussion about the searched topic. I find that it is a very easy way to create an article brief(outline) for a content creator to follow while keeping them on a somewhat tight leash.
You may only need a paragraph or two. The first 45 words after each subtitle question should specifically answer the subtitle and there should be a link in the text linking to additional information on the page. As Google reindexes pages you will start getting a lot of search result snippets and the gold in them is when you add an enticing link in the snippet itself which drives site traffic. IT is also a good time to get a few well-placed guest posts on some of the automotive forums while you are waiting to drive traffic and add some authoritative backlinks.
If you can get some support from the company to get this moving, you can probably shave 3 months off of your slow stroll back to Google prominence.
Thanks, great post. I have a background in SEO (back in the glory days of the early 2000s where you could keyword stuff and doorway page your way to number one!) and I've kept up across the years with white hat, so the actual site is pretty well optimised, hence all the number 1 positions, and it being so frustrating they're now gone! I'll go through and audit everything as you suggest though! Thanks.