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We have a client with the unfortunate situation of losing access to their current domain name "A".

We've just finished finished setting their website up on domain "B".

Both websites on "A" and "B" are the same. However, "A" is no longer available and we don't have access to renew it. It's now serving advertisement!

I have checked here Preserve search engine rankings while shifting to new domain name and here https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/83106?hl=en but both assume you still have access to the old domain or that you have already setup Google Webmasters tools; which we didn't.

How can we preserve SEO juice and rankings from the old domain to the new one? More specifically, how can we tell Google that the old domain is lost, and here's where you can find the new one.

  • See this related question: webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/81221/… – dan Jun 2 '15 at 3:01
  • Thanks @dan. I checked the related questions but it's title was misleading and also there's no solution or any pointers there. Hopefully we'll get some here. – Mario Awad Jun 2 '15 at 8:05
  • NP. The link was really added in lieu of marking it as a duplicate of that question since there was a flag. – dan Jun 2 '15 at 8:12
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    Thanks again. I see you've also linked that question here. Awesome :-) – Mario Awad Jun 2 '15 at 8:14
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Unfortunately, if the old domain is completely lost then it's not possible to "preserve search engine ranking". Otherwise, what would stop anyone else from "preserving" your ranking?

The only way is to re-register / renew the old domain and prove ownership by showing you can control the old domain (set-up redirects, verify in GWT, etc.)

It's now serving advertisement!

It sounds as if you're probably on borrowed time. Is Google still indexing the old pages? If not then there may not be much to preserve anyway? Although if users are still linking to your old site then by getting the old domain back you can redirect this traffic to help with recovery.

  • If the site is serving advertising, then it is likely a domain monetizer/speculator has it and the expiration date came and went a long time ago. – closetnoc Jun 1 '15 at 22:29
  • @closetnoc the domain expired a few days ago and the domain registrar is showing ads on it until the old owner renews it or it is automatically dropped in around 30 days. – Mario Awad Jun 2 '15 at 8:11
  • @DocRoot thanks for the pointers. Google is starting to drop the old pages one after the other from its index. Are you telling me that even if we take back control of domain A there's nothing we can do as the rankings are gone? Thanks. – Mario Awad Jun 2 '15 at 8:12
  • @MarioAwad No (I've updated my answer) - presumably other sites are still linking to the old domain? In which case, by getting the old domain back you can redirect this traffic to the new site which will do wonders to help with recovery. (Although if you can get the old domain back, maybe you'd want to revert back to the old domain?!) If Google still has indexed pages in the SERPs then you have something to preserve. – DocRoot Jun 2 '15 at 9:45
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    @MarioAwad This sounds like a cut-your-losses scenario. I would then forget it and move on. The exception is if the domain name is a trademark, business name, trade name, brand name, or anything that will give you heartburn if he messes with the domain and for which the current business owner has standing. – closetnoc Jun 2 '15 at 15:16
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We have a client with the unfortunate situation of losing access to their current domain name "A".

We've just finished finished setting their website up on domain "B".

Both websites on "A" and "B" are the same..... However, "A" is no longer available and we don't have access to renew it. It's now serving advertisement!

That last word "same" is where things get interesting. Because neither copy of the site exclaimed that its a duplicate to google via the canonical value in the HTML link tag, google will at best be confused as to which domain has the original copy, and because of this, rankings will suffer at best. I'm not sure how long both copies of the site were active, but in that time frame, google would be unhappy for seeing copies, and now since site "A" is all advertising, the rankings have basically plummeted, but the good news is that there's no issue with duplicate content.

More specifically, how can we tell Google that the old domain is lost...

In terms of your website topic, the old domain is technically lost to google because google sees it as a bunch of advertisements.

....and here's where you can find the new one. ... How can we preserve SEO juice and rankings from the old domain to the new one?

If it is possible, copy everything over from site A to site B, and have site B up and running the way site A was before, then access Google Webmaster Tools and verify the new domain and add a sitemap for the site, making sure all URLs in it belong to the new domain, and not the old one. Then select the gear icon in GWT and increase the crawl rate. Google will be able to pick your site up within a few days.

Just make sure if you have access to any section of site A after copying files that you make it inactive to the public, or better yet, add redirects from site A to site B. If you don't take any action at all on site A, then google will flag both site A and site B as having duplicate content if site A ends up being active again (instead of serving advertisements).

  • Thanks for the pointers. However, site A is completely gone as its domain expired. I also deactivated it from our server. Site B went live after site A was gone so I think we're in a good situation with Google but we're starting from scratch for the new domain :-( – Mario Awad Jun 2 '15 at 8:09
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Sounds like you cannot 301 Redirect or the options available via GWT. You may be able to sue or arbitrate for return of the domain, but it may be quicker just to contact the squatters of domain "A" to negotiate a price and pay the piper.

Other options worth trying would be contacting domain A's new registrar, old registrar, new webhost or Google to explain the situation, prove your stance and request a specific resolution, but you'd likely have to get lucky with an empathetic person who also loathes cybersquatters.

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    You are assuming far too much with this answer. Who says anything done was nefarious? It could be that the client did not renew the domain and the domain was sold to a speculator since they are the ones that buy expired domains. – closetnoc Jun 1 '15 at 22:27
  • We're on that already contacting everyone but I just hoped there would be a faster or more robust framework to handle such cases. Thanks for the pointers. – Mario Awad Jun 2 '15 at 8:13
  • @closetnoc You're right -- I had assumed that since Mario went to the effort to setup a new domain and remap links that the domain was squatted (and serving ads) and thus not returnable. Looks from the recent replies that the domain was just not renewed in time, and is actually just in grace period. If that's the case, just contact the old registrar and renew the domain. I've done this many times for clients who, for example, had some long-fired salesman as the domain contacts using his personal hotmail email. I've found most Registrars are willing to sort out this and other common problems. – utt73 Jun 2 '15 at 16:00
  • @utt73 You are absolutely right! Most registrars would rather not lose a customer or domain and work with people during these difficult times. It is reasonable to think that if a domain is registered as part of a business that the domain belongs to the business and not to the person who registered it. – closetnoc Jun 2 '15 at 16:08

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