I had an interesting discussion around Google penalties with one of my SEO buddies the other day. He cringed a little, as he told me:
“I have a client who had a Google penalty for pretty much any over-optimisation you can imagine”
“I can’t decide whether to fix the original site, build a new one, or just give up. And resources online seem to conflict on this. Any thoughts?”
I’ve fixed a fair few sites in my time, and I’ve come to some pretty clear conclusions on what to do.
Conflicting views online
He’s right about the conflicting views online.
There are some people who believe your domain has history, it has authority, and should be saved. This is especially true if you have a really good domain, or your website is an important part of your brand. A good UK example is comparethemarket.com, where a lot of the offline marketing includes the domain.
They have cute ads starring meerkats, who are confused why they keep getting traffic to comparethemeerkat.com.
But anyway, back to business.
There are some other top reasons for keeping the domain:
- You can’t just put your site on a new domain because of duplicate content, so content needs to be written from scratch
- Delete the old domain and redirect to the new domain to avoid duplicate content? Fine, but you’ll pass on the penalty
- You have existing links and authority to the existing domain, and most of them can’t be changed
- Writing all new content is hard work and you don’t have the resources
There are also people who say “kill the domain!” in spite of the above reasons.
They feel that domain will always have some form of penalty, and it will never achieve its full potential. If you want to maximise your online potential, you need a clean site with no bad history. Like a criminal record, penalties can follow you round forever.
Here are some other good reasons:
- There are brand new sites outperforming your penaltied site
- You can always contact sites to change the best links to your new site
- It’s a chance for a fresh start
- You can focus on positive SEO rather than thankless tasks such as deleting links and disavowing
- You may get better ROI for 100s of hours spent on the new site, than spending 100s of hours fixing the old site. e. it makes better business sense to work on a new site.
Both sides of the argument have really strong points. And until you do it, you won’t know which is right! Which is confusing, right?
If there are good reasons for and against, and I bet you think I’m going to sit on the fence?
I kind of am. With a solution, though.
OK so this conclusion took me longer than I’d care to admit to come to. Over a year. But I got there, and I’m 98% sure that in 98% of cases, this is the right approach.
Don’t kill the domain. It’s your real estate property, and killing the domain is like blowing up a building because it has dry rot. Leave it where it is.
But consider this a wake up call for your SEO strategy. You can’t just rely on one domain doing all the work. In an age of negative SEO, changing algorithms and growing competition, you need an edge. And I think that edge is achieved through managing multiple sites.
A few disclaimers.
- Yes, this is a lot more work
- Yes, this will probably mean you have to produce a lot more content
- Yes, this will cost you more money
- Yes, you’ll make more money too, and start getting more leads again
The reality is this. Your burned domain is costing you money. You used to get leads from it, and now you’re not. Every day that passes you’re losing revenue. By investing in new sites, you can start growing again and getting leads.
What you need is for your old site to act as a parent site. Then you need to either develop a similar site with new content (on the right in the diagram below), or micro sites, targeting different target customers. Or, if you have the budget, both.
So you need to invest in 1 or more new sites if possible, adding content, managing social media. Scale back on promoting your original domain, but keep it updated. You can probably reinvest some of your burned domain budget into the new sites.
Next, work simultaneously on your burned domain. You can recover it slowly, and eventually you will have two or more sites that are performing for you. You may find you are generating more leads than ever, with the right investment.
So my conclusion? In short, keep the old site, and build new ones. It’ll spread the risk, and you’ll be in a better position than ever in the future.
What do you think of this approach? I’d love to hear what you think.