I bought a domain that seemed great for an existing project of mine. After carefully redirecting the site to the new domain, I noticed that the organic search results (which were previously quite good) were basically eliminated.

I assumed the SEO hit was transitional and would recover, but over a year later there are still effectively no search results.

After some investigation, I learned that the domain had previously been used for piracy and had accrued thousands of legitimate DMCA take down requests during that time. Through tools like ahrefs, I was able to see that the previous site's organic search results had diminished to near-zero, before the site eventually went offline.

There have been no DMCA complaints since I bought the domain, but I suspect that the past complaints have tainted the domain's reputation. Is there anything I can do restore this domain's reputation?

A few notes:

  • I considered submitting a DMCA counter-notice but the submission form discourages it for this scenario: "Please note: If the content on the page was infringing at the time the original removal request arrived, your counter notice is not legally valid. Do not submit a counter notice if there was illegal content, even if it's now been removed."
  • I checked to see if the domain had any manual actions against it, and didn't find any.

1 Answer 1


After digging into this, I wanted to report back with some ideas that seem promising:

  1. Make sure you've set up Google Search Console at both the old domain and the new domain. This gives you a clearer picture into what Google sees for both domains, and allows you to...
  2. ...use the Change of Address tool. This explicitly tells google that your site is moving, instead of just relying on redirects.
  3. Look for "Security Issues" reported in Google Search Console > Security and Manual Actions > Security Issues. I found a security issue posted on my old domain's property (see image below). By requesting a review I got a report that my site "no longer contains links to harmful sites or downloads."

enter image description here

I've also done a bunch of smaller things based on callouts in search console (uploaded a sitemap, fixed canonical url issues, etc), but I expect that the items numbered above are more promising for addressing the reputation issue.

It's still early to see results (my research is that reputation clean-up takes time) but I'm optimistic that these steps will help move the situation forward.

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