Ever since the beginning of 2012, websites have been repeatedly penalized for spammy SEO tactics that they performed years ago when Google was friendly to such tactics. These penalties have killed online businesses overnight; they’ve forced lay-offs and have forced websites into other forms of online marketing. Some Google penalties have resulted in as much as a 95% decline in organic search traffic. The great question that passes through every webmasters mind once they receive a penalty is “Should I start over on a new domain?”
This is an incredibly complicated question requiring a thorough explanation. One thing to remember is that every website is different and every penalty is different. Websites can recover from penalties. It usually takes some heavy disavowing and, if it’s a manual penalty, it could require extensive disavowing and communication with Google over several months.
Here is a breakdown of things that every webmaster should consider before they pull the plug on their domain:
First Consideration – Cost of the Domain
Every domain has value; the more branded the domain, the higher the value. The simpler the domain name, the higher the value because it’s easier to brand. Currently, domains usually represent the brand itself. When companies focus on branding their domain, it’s easier to get people onto the website. If not much has been invested into the domain’s brand, the right decision will be to just start over, and brand it right from day one. This is strongly recommended for all domain names with little investment.
If you have invested thousands or maybe even millions of dollars into your domain’s brand, the cost becomes a heavy factor on your decision. The profit lost from the organic search traffic should be factored in. For example, if you spent thirty thousand on a domain and your profits grew to one hundred thousand a month from organic traffic and now you can barely reach one thousand a month, it might be worth it to spend thirty thousand on a new domain. However, if the organic search traffic is still bringing in good money it might be worth it to just disavow and cleanse your back link portfolio and run through the recovery process.
Second Consideration – Options to Gain Back the Lost Traffic
In the internet marketing world, it’s easy to fall into the sad habit of worshiping Google. Google has the market share when it comes to search engine traffic, but the world wide web is filled with advertising and marketing opportunities. We now live in the age where video marketing can be performed by every business in the world with a smart phone. For example, videos can drive conversions and YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. In addition, professional display banners placed on websites in front of your target audience can drive high quality traffic. Pinterest traffic is easy to grow through image marketing. A viral piece on Reddit or Stumbleupon can bring visitors to your site while ad retargeting can keep branding your domain to those visitors. Although Google is the leader in driving high quality traffic to websites there definitely are other sources that can bring in the bread and butter.
Third Consideration – How Bad is the Penalty
In the late 90s, link farms were created to increase a website’s ranking by constantly building spammy links. These farms would produce hundreds of thousands and even millions of spammy links. Lately, any website that participated in these link farms find themselves slapped with Google penalties. If you have been a part of these link schemes, your best hope will be in obtaining a new domain because it’s nearly impossible to disavow the hundreds of thousands of links created by them.
When you have a website that has over fifty thousand spammy links in the link portfolio, it can be a journey recovering from any penalty placed on the site. Even the best link portfolio tools online cannot pull every single spammy link pointing to your website, this is what makes removing the penalty so difficult. Google is not friendly to websites that just disavow to remove the penalty, they like to see action taken on getting those links removed. On the other hand, manually attempting to remove thousands of links can take long hours of labor that can often cost more than just obtaining a new domain. If this is the case you find yourself sitting in – it will be worth it to start over.
If you have between one and five thousand spammy links, don’t give up, there’s a strong possibility you can be out of the penalty box in no time.
Fourth Consideration – Shifting Content to a New Website
Moving to a new domain can require heavy work and a serious time commitment in moving content over if you don’t have the right content management system. Sadly, some domains require the website to transfer over all of the content. This is rare but can still occur on some websites. Redirects from the old website to the new website will not hurt, but will only send over direct visitors. Relocating the content to a new platform may not be just copying and pasting; larger websites can require serious costs. You don’t want to just throw away hundreds of articles on your site either. Rather, individually transfer each article over; it will be worth your time. Be strategic about moving to a new domain, in the long run it will be worth it.
Websites shouldn’t just bail and jump to a new domain, costs should be evaluated. In the end, it’s about profit for most online businesses so the most profitable decision should be executed. Websites with serious spammy issues should really invest in a new good domain while others should address removing the penalty through disavowal and petitioning. Every website is different and every website’s situation should be considered and thought out. Sometimes a new domain is the best answer and sometimes it is not the best path.
Questions Answered in the Article
- Should I invest in a new domain if my website is penalized?
- What are link farms?
- Can new domains rank better than spammy old domains?
- Are there other ways to market online besides search engine marketing?