It is both, obviously. When you carry out an effective domain migration, there are a lot of changes at stake. If you follow a clear process for your site, things usually go according to plan.
Have you heard the adage about car mechanics always have the worst cars? Or decorators have the least well maintained homes?
When we migrated from SEOgadget.co.uk to SEOgadget.com I forgot something – the Google Search Console change of Address. Actually, “forgot” isn’t quite accurate. I couldn’t be bothered because I had lots of other things to do at the time, and, because there was a redirect already in place, and no “www” a record was set up – something required to get the process started in our case.
I decided that because we had a 301 redirect strategy in place, all would be fine. Anyway, I forgot about it until Dave this response about UK SEO agency visibility originally started by Patrick (having fun with SEO industry linkbait) at Branded3, and I sat and thought it’s probably time to do some SEO on my actual website instead of real work:
It’s worth just taking into account there have been a few things happening to the site (that I can think of), here they are:
– I disavowed a list of crappy inbound links to the SEOgadget.co.uk domain on the 15th August 2013
But that’s it. So obviously I can’t tell anyone that it’s definitely that one thing that’s had an impact but sometimes you have a gut feel for these things – we’ve not seen a disavow (on a site with no current manual or algorithmic spam action) have such an impact and as exciting as link from TC can be for a guy, I don’t think it could be that either.
Take a look at these charts:
Google Analytics – visits from Google Organic Search
Here’s Google Webmaster Tool’s Search Queries Report data:
And our historically crappy Searchmetrics visibility seems to be on the up (Searchmetrics covers a *tiny* cross section of our actual referring terms). We looked at it on one of the main retail sites we’re working with – comparing the top 5,000 keywords in the Searchmetrics data to what was actually going on in Organic referrers, the total coverage was around 38%.)
Any real conclusion?
Well, yes – you should do a change of address in Google Search Console! Obviously, that’s the commonly accepted best practice, but I do think it’s more “powerful” (for want of a better term) than doing a 301 redirect alone. I accept there are a few other things happening on this domain around the same time, but I wouldn’t argue that it’s a bad idea.
My advice to you: I would always do an audit of any domain migration history on a new client site and set up proper verification for any domains you find kicking around, (which you can do via DNS TXT records or by creating a new WWW CNAME temporarily). Then, see what happens!