The Perils Of Moving A Successful Online Business To A New Generic Domain

Posted in: Domain Names at 03/05/2012 20:06

The New York Times has run a couple of articles in recent weeks on a company that bought a generic domain name to replace their existing domain name for the online part of their business.

The company, Newark Nut Company, is a family-owned nut retailer in the US that employs more than 80 workers and has annual revenue of more than $20 million, 95 percent of it online.

The company had originally bought the domain name nutsonline.com in 1999, which the owner Jeffrey Braverman never liked. So in 2011 Braverman bought nuts.com for "hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The acquisition was completed last October, but to avoid problems during the holiday rush, Mr. Braverman decided to wait until January to reintroduce the site. He began to prepare new branding and packaging to assure his customers that only the name, not the company, was changing.

"He brought on a Web consultant to make the move as smooth as possible. With the consultant, Mr. Braverman cleaned out extraneous and duplicate pages and set up redirects to send NutsOnline visitors to the corresponding pages on Nuts."

Then on 6 January Braverman changed domain names for his business. "The site, which had been averaging more than 30,000 visits each week from nonpaid Google searches, with traffic rising 5 to 10 percent a month, suffered a 70 percent decline in nonpaid Google traffic in the two weeks after the switch. Almost three months later, it was still down by more than 50 percent. The decline, Mr. Braverman said, cost the company at least 100 to 150 orders a day."

The nuts.com site was also getting 85 per cent of its traffic from the UK due to the popularity of a men's magazine there.

The New York Times in its articles talked to people in the industry to find out what to do.

Warren Adelman, chief executive of GoDaddy.com told the Times "Google may be reassessing the site, which could explain the drop in organic search visits. This analysis can take three or four months before better search results appear. So as difficult as it may be to do, be patient, hold the line with your brand redirect and keep doing what you do."

The Times also spoke with Matt Cutts, chief of Google's Webspam team. Cutts said "because Google's algorithms have to adjust to a new address, sites should expect a temporary drop in traffic immediately after a move, maybe 5 percent. According to Mr. Cutts, Mr. Braverman missed three opportunities to minimize his traffic loss. First, Nuts.com had been a parked or content-free site before the sale -- meaning, Mr. Cutts said, that 'NutsOnline basically moved into what was an abandoned building for the last 10 years.' To prepare users -- and Google -- for the site's new purpose, Mr. Cutts said, Mr. Braverman should have put up a banner or a simplified site on Nuts.com to announce its new identity several months before moving."

Cutts then goes on to say Braverman should have first moved a small part of the site to the new address and that they should have done more to set the geographic location of the site.

A couple of businesses were also interviewed, one another online retailer and the other, an online marketing company, said Braverman should persevere, although the latter thought Braverman should probably have redirected from nuts.com to nutsonline.com.

And to conclude, the Times interviewed Braverman about reader suggestions and his experiences a week on from the original article. The second article also includes links to YouTube videos on how to go about moving a domain in such circumstances.

The articles, A Web Retailer Buys the Perfect Domain Name. Then Comes a Letdown. and Debating the Right Way to Change a Domain Name -- and Brand a Nut Retailer, are available here and here.


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