If there was an effective way to sidestep Google penalties and the effects of major algorithm changes, webmasters worldwide would be doing it by now. In reality, avoiding (or quickly reversing) the impact of a sudden SERP plummet is not nearly so straightforward.
It has long been theorised that by switching domains, it may be possible to restore a site’s former SEO glory in a fairly prompt manner. Sadly, it is a theory that has never held much water, given how Google has made clear the extent to which your problems will always follow you to your new domain.
Still, the subject once again came up during a recent hangout with Google’s John Mueller. An SEO professional by the name of Ankit Dalal quizzed Mueller on the performance of one of his websites, which following a migration was temporarily propelled up the rankings.
He migrated to mitigate the site’s struggling SERP performance, and the whole thing seemed to work initially. Three days later, his site fell back to the same position it was as prior to the migration.
Presented with the question, Mr Mueller explained that the site’s issues were almost certainly quality-related.
A Temporary Post-Migration Gap
Roughly summarised, he said that migrating to a new domain has no bearing whatsoever on a site’s SEO value. Instead, he simply attributed this three-day SERP climb to the time Google needs to fully read and evaluate the site in its new location.
After which, the same rules apply, and the same quality signals are used to determine the site’s SERP placement.
John Mueller of Google asked a few technical SEO diagnostic questions and then suggested that it might be a quality issue with the site.
Glenn Gabe of G-Squared Interactive weighed into the discussion on Twitter, and offered a brief summary as follows:
“After 3 years, the homepage drops in rank heavily for core query, site owner migrates to new domain. Homepage bounces back *for 3 days* & then poof, gone again,”
“Sounds like a major quality issue. G’s algos adjusted after the migration,”
“So as the migration unfolded, Google’s algorithms didn’t understand the quality issues for a few days & the homepage ranked higher again. Then once G understood the quality issues, the same drop happened. That’s NOT a solution for improving quality.”
Mr Mueller’s slightly more in-depth explanation confirmed that following migration, Google needs a certain amount of time to learn about the ‘new’ website:
“The history that you said there with regards to “I moved to a new domain, for a brief time it was very good, and then it disappeared again”, to me, that hints very much at a bigger quality issue, where, when Google systems was able to understand your website again, it was like, well, we’re not convinced. And kind of that period in between, when Google says, well, we don’t know much about this website yet, we will try to treat it as something reasonable, that’s kind of that time when Google wasn’t even able to understand your website that well,”
“So to me, without knowing your website, that sounds a lot like a quality issue and sounds like something where it might help to have multiple people who are not associated with the website to also give you some tips and kind of say, here’s what you should be doing differently or what you could be doing differently. And I think, as a site owner, when you’re running the website, you’re making the website, it’s sometimes really hard to take this kind of feedback. But I think it’s important, especially if you care about the bigger picture in the search traffic side of things.”