Domain Merger Case Study – Google is Really Slow & May Not Merge Domain Trust

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  • February 12, 2013

Considering how fast Google is at doing most things whether it’s indexing new pages or updating rankings for breaking news the whole process of merging Blogstorm into the Branded3 site has been an eye opening demonstration of just how slow a domain migration can be.

We migrated the content on into the Branded3 website with 301 redirects and a change of address notice in Google Webmaster Tools on 20th November 2012 and here we are almost 2 months later with 1200 pages still indexed according to a query and 687 according to Webmaster Tools.

I could understand if Google had stopped crawling the site but I only had around 4,000 pages and Google has crawled almost 1000 pages per day for 2.5 months now. You can see the spike in crawl activity when the redirect and change of address notice in WMT was submitted.

I’m not the only one reporting on this issue – another post details thousands of pages still indexed after a year.

Did the migration change any rankings?

When we migrated the content we expected that all the content that was moved would rank in the same position as it did before on and this worked perfectly with no ranking loss at all. We also expected that merging an authority site with thousands of top quality links into a site with a lot less authority would deliver a noticeable improvement in how ranked for certain keywords. We have never really built any links to the Branded3 site manually so the rankings are all natural and based on domain authority. We assumed that an increase in overall domain authority by merging in a more trusted domain would also drive the ranking improvement.

Looking at the data so far the results are pretty conclusive. There have not been any noticeable improvements in rankings for since we merged with thousands of quality linking domains into the site.

Either Google hasn’t yet transferred the domain authority, domain authority has no effect on rankings or there is an algorithm to prevent two sites from merging and benefiting from the combined domain authority. The latter seems most probable to me because it would be easy for big brands to buy blogs and merge them into a site just to give an overall boost in domain authority but it’s a shame when the merger happens for non-SEO reasons.

The Searchmetrics charts show a slight change in visibility but mainly for all sorts of random keywords and not for the really relevant ones.

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Jim Thornton

    Interesting case study. can I ask with how much depth you did redirects? and did you do it to a new subdomain with all pages migrated or a percentage redirecting to the home pag

  • Thomas P.

    We have quite the same issue. Domain A(old one) still has 188.000 pages(the half of it had befor) in the index and won suddenly 3 weeks ago 1134 SEO visibility points(searchmetrics) – from 0 to 1134!

    Domain B(new one) ranked after the namechange similiar to A – maybe 10% traffic lost. Not sure why Google doesnt change the indexed pages from Domain A to Domain B in the SERPs. In the last weeks we constantly lose visibility. Not sure if this might be a reason, that Google didn’t really get the migration.

  • Krystian Szastok

    That’s one of the issues with search metrics :) Does it allow to specify which keyword phrases you consider relevant? That kind of a SEO visibility report would be far more useful.

  • Cody

    Looking back, is there anything that you would have changed in this migration process? Such as keeping the blog up, or anything of that nature?

  • Jon

    Have you put up an old sitemap to force Google to follow the old links without relying on them coming back from ‘memory’ ? That should speed things up if not.

  • Pattie Jarmaine

    We just went through the same pain as you have about 15 days ago. Things were looking grim …. but just today I noticed all of the links (external back links) from our old site have now been linked to the new domain. And our SEO position with has now changed the old domain name for the new one and has kept the SE ranking position on result pages.

    Two things we did do that was somewhat hidden in Google notes was to attach a new ownership meta tag using webmaster tools to the new domain, add a new analytics account, and then link it all together.

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