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To Move, Or Not To Move, Domain

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#1 DaveChild

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 05:05 AM

A long, long time ago (probaby about the time I last posted here!) I wrote a piece of software to measure the readability of text. I thought nothing of it - it was just a bit of fun. Since then, it turns out to have been more useful than I thought, so I moved it onto its own domain. I didn't think about the domain, just wanted to move the tool off my own domain and stop it interferring with my professional site.

 

I went against every domain name rule and moved to a hyphenated, difficult-to-spell, domain name: readability-score.com.

 

This year I redeveloped the site, and now it's doing much better. But it's still on the same domain. I had the opportunity to pick up readable.io, so I've done so. Now, I need to work out if it's better to move now, move later, or not move at all.

 

Moving now gets it out of the way, but maybe loses me some domain authority and domain age SEO benefits - and this site has both. Tonnes of .edu links at the moment, cited in academic papers etc.

 

Moving later maybe means moving when I'm better able to weather problems. Or maybe that the problems are more severe?

 

Not moving at all means living with a rubbish domain name forever.

 

So I'm after some thoughts from smarter people than me, and they hang out here! Does anyone have anything that can help me decide which way to go here?



#2 Grumpus

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 07:22 AM

Hello there stranger! Hope you and the family are doing well!

 

Here are my thoughts... (though I question whether I qualify as "smarter people than you")

 

Move it.

 

Keep the old domain live and just wildcard redirect everything to the new domain. Google stated earlier this year that there is no longer any "lost link juice" in a redirect. I'm not 100% sure that includes any domain authority you may have garnered over the years, but without any leakage, the authority should transfer just fine - even if it does take a few months.

 

Another option, if your domain's power is really something you are worried about would be to go live with both domains and add in some canonical link directives in the header to indicate that your new readability.io domain is the preferred domain. This would allow me to look at readability-score.com/buynow/ and readability.io/buynow and both would work. Then, in six months when you are sure all of your search traffic is coming in to the desired domain and you feel confident that the io version is standing on it's own, you can redirect the original domain and call it good.

 

The second option, in your case, probably isn't necessary since your site isn't gigantic. Google should be able to crawl it in a day or two. If it was a giant site with 1000's of pages, then I would actually recommend the side-by-side canonical method to ensure that some of the deeper pages don't fall out of the index before they can be spidered and updated. On a smaller site like this, any hiccup should be a matter or days or hours, not weeks or months.

 

Again, I can't really speak to authority on the domain level as I haven't run any (recent) experiments on this. I would think that it shouldn't matter too much on a site with 20-odd pages or less. I'm not even 100% sure if a pure wildcard redirect or going canonical for a period of time is the most efficient way to pass the authority (someone else may have ideas on that). I can say that running them side by side with a canonical link will make it so your established domain exists and has power - and it will eventually pass everything along to the new one. But I wonder if forcing a redirect might not be faster since it has no other choice but to realize that readability-score.com == readability.io. The canonical method allows the SE's to realize it in their own sweet time since they aren't forced away. <shrug>

 

Either way... I don't see any major pitfalls awaiting you. If you have a PR7 or 8 (which we can't really even know anymore) I'd think about it a bit harder, but a typical site in this industry (unless it's a broad focus site which yours is not) would have to spend a lot of effort to exceed a PR5 - and your inbound links won't simply go away with either of these methods. Considering there is zero link juice loss anymore, I really don't think it matters except for possibly a short period while it establishes that it is a truly a 1 to 1 ratio (i.e. every page on old domain equates to an identical page on new domain).

 

DO NOT update or change any substantial content during the first few months of the move, though. Let it be a true "move" where the old IS exactly equal to the NEW. Don't do a move and a redesign at the same time.

 

G.



#3 DaveChild

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 07:45 AM

Wow, Stock, thanks for the thorough response! 

 

Hope you and the family are doing well!

 

Thanks, all doing OK bar the odd cough and cold. There are just so many of them. You get one to stop screaming, and there's another one just waiting in the wings to take over. The twins just turned one, and Henry's almost four. How are you doing these days?

 

go live with both domains and add in some canonical link directives in the header to indicate that your new readability.io domain is the preferred domain

 

I like that idea. Low-risk, I think, other than maybe being confusing to a few people. I suppose I could always redirect humans to the new domain and let Google see both for a while. The deep canonicals would be easy to set up, and it potentially spreads any impact over a longer time as each page would likely be individually affected. And I can always drop in a 301 over the top of that if it's not working as expected.

 

Either way... I don't see any major pitfalls awaiting you.

 

Thanks, that's reassuring. My most serious concerns were domain authority, and credibility of .io domains. I think the trade-off - if there is any - for a short, easy domain is probably worth it though.

 

DO NOT update or change any substantial content during the first few months of the move, though.

 

Given that I'm currently struggling just to get the blog posts from my tame copywriter up to the site in a timely fashion, I think that's unlikely :)

 

Move it.

 

I am leaning that way. Leaning far that way. I've just got to the stage where this site is paying my salary, so it's nerve-wracking potentially making such a big change at such a precarious time. But doing it later just seems pointless, and not doing it at all sticks me with a permanently irritating and unwieldy name.

 

Thanks, Stock, sound advice as always!


Edited by DaveChild, 07 December 2016 - 07:45 AM.


#4 cre8pc

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 08:30 AM

Dave is here!  Dave is here!   :infinite-banana:  :infinite-banana:  :infinite-banana:  :infinite-banana:  :infinite-banana:  :martini:  :w-d:  :w-d:



#5 Grumpus

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 08:58 AM

 

I suppose I could always redirect humans to the new domain and let Google see both for a while.

 

That sounds like it adds risk more than helps. Google likes transparency and consistency. Be clear in what you are doing - redirect everything, or make everything canonical to the new domain. Then they can clearly see your intent, and independently confirm that this is, in fact, what is actually happening. As soon as you present one thing to Google and another thing to people, that is when the flags go up and Google takes a step back in order to try to figure out what's really happening.

 

----

 

I'm doing well - most of my work is coming from other marketing and development companies so I rarely have to deal with billing/collections issues. They deal with the client and I just do the work - no headaches. I'm very lucky in that area. lol

 

Anyway... Good luck with the project. If questions come up, let me know and I'll do my best to advise. I sometimes go a few days before getting a chance to drop in here - so if you need a timely response, send a PM here or on The Facebook so I definitely get a notice.

 

G.



#6 EGOL

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Posted 07 December 2016 - 09:05 AM

Just an opinion based upon one situation.

 

I paid big bucks to get rid of hyphens.  The hyphenless domains were in the hands of a domainer long before I registered the hyphenated.

 

The harder I worked on those domains, the more traffic went to the version without a hyphen - people don't think about hyphens when they type a domain.   So if you have a hyphenated domain a lot of your traffic will go to the domain without the hyphens. My repeat customers and potential customer were landing on a domain that was slapt full of ads.  If someone called me on the phone and I needed to tell them the domain, I had to take special effort to be sure that they understood that there was a hyphen in the domain.  

 

I think that having a .io domain would be about the same.  Huh???  Lots of people will not get .io.   People are going to type in a .com.   I have typed in .com when going to visit government sites.  I've made that mistake and I used to work in government and consider myself to be websavvy.  .com is hardwired into many people's heads.

 

So, I would try to get an appropriate name that will not cause type-in or telephone problems.   I'd be willing to pay good money for it.

 

============================

 

Although I have strong opinions about .com's and hyphens, I don't mind having a valuable caboose attached to my website  -  or even a few cabooses attached to it.

 

Your caboose might pull in more traffic than the main parts of your website.  The visitors might become clients or customers and you might generate ad revenue from their visits.  Your caboose might help produced overlap of academic disciplines, bring diverse people together.  You might influence the minds of people and the bits and bytes of search engines.  Some people think these things are bad.  I find them delightful. 

 

As a valuable caboose, your tool will bring linkvalue pointing to your current site,  You might add a page or a folder for the tool on you primary website and redirect the domain.  You don't have to give it the first link in the top navigation and you don't have to hide it.

 

Anyone who lands on your domain and finds the readability tool should not sweat that you have many talents.  Some people might be delighted that they have found your tool and smile that you are a polymath.  :-)



#7 DaveChild

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 02:00 AM

I added a simple popup poll for current subscribers asking what they thought of a few domains. With 22 responses so far, readability-score.com and readable.io are neck and neck, which I'm really surprised about - I expected all the alternatives to the current domain to be dwarfed by the "stay where you are" votes. But that's quite a weighty endorsement for readable.io, even given the small set of responses.

 

Dave is here!  Dave is here!    :infinite-banana:   :infinite-banana:   :infinite-banana:   :infinite-banana:   :infinite-banana:   :martini:   :w-d:   :w-d:

 

Woohoo :)

 

That sounds like it adds risk more than helps. Google likes transparency and consistency.

 

Good point. OK, so if I do move then a simple page-specific 301 system sounds like the sensible option.

 

I paid big bucks to get rid of hyphens.  

 

Yes, the hyphen is a terrible curse and needs to go! 

 

I think that having a .io domain would be about the same.  Huh???  Lots of people will not get .io.   People are going to type in a .com.

 

That's my real worry, yes. I suspect the balance will shift over time, but the question is whether now is too early for an io. I spoke to the person who runs plan.io - they're doing about £75k per month as a SAAS with an io domain, although they are very tech-focused - and they were quite happy with io. They said it was difficult initially, a few years ago, but had become much easier. Despite the io registry having some uptime problems a few years ago :|

 

I'd be willing to pay good money for it.

 

I'd be willing to pay, but the readable.com owners aren't even giving me a price. And if readably.com's owner is asking $25k (lol) then how much will readable.com be asking? I suspect more than a relatively small bootstrapped venture can go for. That might change of course ...



#8 DaveChild

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 10:01 AM

Just to add to the options, a couple of suggestions have been sent my way, which I think could work:

  • getreadable.com
  • thinkreadable.com

I think the second could work really well.


Edited by DaveChild, 08 December 2016 - 10:01 AM.


#9 bobbb

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Posted 08 December 2016 - 11:46 AM

Don't like the first. I see tread

 

Would need to be branded GetReadable.com

 

If getting a hyphen get both. I have one with a hyphen but redirect the other.

 

I see a value in a hyphen only if you own the non-hyphen and even better if you own both dot nets


Edited by bobbb, 08 December 2016 - 11:53 AM.


#10 DaveChild

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 05:35 AM

It's been a few months since I posted this, and thanks everyone for your help. In February, I bit the bullet and moved to Readable.io, with canonical links and then 301s. 

 

I lost about 70% of search traffic overnight, and it's been coming back up slowly since then. I suspect that the domain being so new, it might have been sandboxed, which I didn't expect. Very stressful processs! It's still about 30% down on traffic, but the revenue growth has brought it back up to the same level as before the move, so it's livable. Next step ... get some marketing skills in-house.

 

Anybody want to work for a SaaS startup as a marketer/growth hacker? :)



#11 bobbb

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 08:32 AM

If literally overnight it is strange.

 

SERPs would not know overnight. Not even Google is that fast. So anyone clicking one of them should have been redirected to the new domain. Same for anyone with a bookmark.

 

Canonical links?? 301s alone should have done it.



#12 DaveChild

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 04:05 PM

The actual change in Google happened about 3 weeks after I added the 301 redirects and used the webmaster tools "site redirection tool". The day that Google updated the URLs in its index, the search traffic plummeted. Here's the organic search traffic from Analytics with a month either side of the change. The Readable URLs started appearing tentatively for a few days, and then readability-score.com vanished entirely at the end of Feb (around where the dot is). 

 

Screenshot%202017-04-12%20at%2021.58.31.

 

Sorry, I should have been clearer. The traffic vanished overnight, but not in the night immediately following the switch.



#13 bobbb

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 04:32 PM

I think you did it in the wrong order. I did a domain name change and no consequences.
 

The actual change in Google happened about 3 weeks after I added the 301 redirects and used the webmaster tools "site redirection tool". The day that Google updated the URLs in its index, the search traffic plummeted.

I did none of that. I loaded the new domain with the content I was transferring then immediately uploaded the htaccess file into the old domain with the 301's in it. Done. All within seconds. The SE's adjusted in their own time.

 

When I say 301's I mean page to page: or old+WhatFollows to new+WhatFollows and made sure WhatFollows was the same on both.


Edited by bobbb, 12 April 2017 - 04:37 PM.




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