Google has revamped Webmaster Tools and introduced a neat ‘Change of
Address’ feature, which would have massively reduced our collective
headaches in the first quarter of 2009.

In December E-consultancy became Econsultancy. Dropping the hyphen is a small change, you might think, but as far as Google was concerned it was like starting from scratch.

We relaunched our site at the same time as changing the domain from www.econsultancy.com to http://econsultancy.com. The website was rebuilt from the ground up, and we changed our internal page structure.

In addition, we also changed our server location / company. Thereafter we made a bunch of smaller changes, such as adding no_follow to tens of thousands of non-editorial links (blog comments and forum posts, mainly).

All in all, it was quite an upheaval. And it was too much for Google to deal with. Almost overnight we dropped out of the rankings for many of our top keyphrases.

Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein documented this in a blog post called ‘Site Migration and SEO impact – the story so far’.

He wrote: “I’m seeing an effect which looks like some kind of ‘dampener’ or ‘sandbox’ that is working at a domain level. I think ‘domain authority’ is a somewhat debated topic but it seems clear to me that our old site had a high domain authority (we immediately ranked well for any now blog or forum post) whereas our new one doesn’t (dodgy sites scraping our content are outranking us).”

A visual representation of our Google woes can be seen here (and it went on a while longer than this):

Econsultancy's Google pain

We wanted to be able to email Google, or to notify it in some way, as publishers can do with Google News. Back to Ashley…

I’ve said before that I’m surprised Google don’t make it easier for webmasters to explicity say ‘I’m moving this domain to here’ to help with such migrations. Couldn’t they use Google Webmaster Tools to do this? Have a ‘Moving Site’ feature? With this + 301 redirects + inbound links I’m sure Google is smart enough to pull it off…”

Thankfully Google has listened to the needs of webmasters (and CEOs like Ashley) and has introduced its new ‘Change of Address feature.

Google Webmaster Tools product manager Sagar Kamdar says: “Change of Address lets you notify Google when you are moving from one domain to another, enabling us to update our index faster and hopefully creating a smoother transition for your users.”

Neat. How we could have done with this, back at the start of the year! It’s a great new feature that will help businesses stay on-track following domain migrations, and will certainly reduce webmaster headaches…