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I have a decision to make about whether to use a new domain for a business site that has been completely redesigned. The reason a new domain is needed is that the current one contains a small grammar mistake(missing letter 's'). The client has told me that he plans to expand his business, so I advised him that it would be better to change it to the proper spelling. However, I have discovered that this current domain is doing ok in the SERPs for various keywords. He has been using this address for over 2 years, advertising it and so on..

I have done some good SEO on the new site, and I'll do the 301 redirects for each page if we decide to change it. I know that if we move it that the rankings will probably be affected for a few weeks at least, but is it a safe bet that they will recover within a short time? I am thinking that it should be, as the redirects will mean that it's associated with the old site, and the domain name will be very similar(just adding the extra 's' at the end). But I have not done something like this before, so I'd really appreciate some insight from someone who has experience. I would hate to destroy the search ranking, or have it wait a long time to recover to a good position. But at the same time, the new address would be better for the future...

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As far as I know, the only differences a properly done site move is likely to make to Google rankings are that:

  • links going through a 301 redirect used to lose a small fraction of their PageRank (but that doesn't happen any more), and

  • your hostname itself will affect the ranking of your site for keywords that match it (e.g. cheapwidgets.com for "widgets").

Fortunately, Google does fairly aggressive stemming of their keywords anyway, so it's unlikely to see much difference between cheapwidget.com and cheapwidgets.com. If anything, the pluralized form is likely to score better, if that's what users typically search for. As for the PageRank loss from redirects, the effect is minor to begin with, and likely to disappear over time as other sites start linking directly to your new address.

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Why not register the other domain as well and have it point to the already successful domain or vice versa?

  • That is what I'm planning to do. Ideally I want to redirect currentsite.com to newsite.com. My question is that if I do this, will the current good ranking be lost, and if so how long will it take to recover? Or is it less likely that this will happen as both domains are very similar(just that one has an extra 's' at the end)? – xynne Feb 2 '12 at 15:38
  • This page on SEO logic seems to have a good amount of material on this subject. It also lists a few pitfalls when doing this exact thing. – David Peterman Feb 2 '12 at 15:44
  • Thanks. I am ok about knowing how to actually do the redirect correctly. What I basically want to know here is if the new domain being very similar to the old domain will mean it's less of a risk to move. If it's the same risk as moving to a very differently worded domain, then I probably won't move it, because the risk of loss is too much. – xynne Feb 2 '12 at 15:54
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Yes, assuming a site transfer done using the Google Search Console and the correct process (see Google help) this now results in little negative change in ranking, and only temporarily.

If your new domain is a better fit for your top ranking keywords then it would be my expectation that you would see a small improvement in quality targetted traffic for the site. However, focusing on good on-page SEO, quality content and quality backlinks is going to affect your organic traffic far more than this change.

Note: Redirecting one domain to the other is not going to affect your ranking (good or bad), or drive any additional organic traffic. Only the final domain that the site resolves to will be indexed and this is what affects your rankings.

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