Effects of domain change from blogspot.com to custom domain

Here I would like share my early experience regarding change of domain in blogger via custom domain. As, many newbie bloggers, I started blogging on a popular free platform called Blogger. Blogger allows you to quickly and freely create a website with a domain that ends with “.blogspot.com”. So I started writing on BlogSpot as a hobby. I wrote and published, on an average, two posts per week for over a year and I am still continuing at the same rate. At the beginning I hardly paid attention to my website traffic. By the year’s end, my blogger website got over 1500 daily visitors. That’s when I started using Google’s webmaster and analytics tools to analyze daily traffic.  Then I decided to monetize it, applied for Google’s popular CPC based AdSense ads and got approved. So now the BlogSpot website which I started merely as a hobby was making enough money to sustain itself.

The actual magic started to happen at the start of February of the second year of my BlogSpot blog. My traffic really started to pick up and it went from 2000+ visitors to 9000+ visitors per day. As expected, my earnings also skyrocketed. These developments came as a pleasant surprise to me because I wasn’t expecting such an incredible growth from my hobby website. When my blog started reaching 10k visitors (March 15, 2016), I finally decided to add custom domain, which according to many “pro bloggers” would increase my website visibility as well as click through rate. Apparently more people are likely to click a link on a xyz.com domain than on a xyz.blogspot.com domain. So, I thought it was really a good idea to switch from BlogSpot to a custom domain of my preference.

I am certainly not an SEO expert so I didn’t know beforehand what the consequences of change of domain address would be. Later I would know what kind of direct impact it would have on my website’s traffic. I simply researched about how to add a custom domain to Blogger or BlogSpot. The process seemed very easy and Google makes it even easier because all the 301 redirects can be done within Blogger itself. You just need to purchase a custom “.com” domain, and then add it in the Blogger settings.  All of your .blogspot.com urls will then automatically start to redirect to the new .com urls.

So I made the fateful switch on March 22, 2016. Everything went smoothly. All of my older urls would now bring my visitors to my new domain address. To make the transitions even better I added the new domain on my Google Webmasters console and then immediately sent the new sitemap.xml to get the updated links indexed. I also used the “change of address” tool in Google Webmasters to inform Google about my domain change. My earnings as well as traffic were normal until the morning of March 25th. I was alarmed to see that my traffic was down to just 1200 visitors from 9000+ visitors the previous day. So I did some more research about domain migration and domain change. The majority of blogs and SEO websites were optimistic that the website would retain over 90% of their traffic after undergoing a domain change applying proper 301 permanent redirects . In my case I had gone even a step further with the change of address tool and submitting the new sitemap. Still, my traffic had decreased by over 70%.

After another intense round of online research, I learned that domain change does result in a temporary drop in traffic and most websites will get close to their previous amount of visitors within a month or so. So I decided to wait for a week and monitor the progress. I was again shocked to see that my traffic actually started to decline gradually and now I am down to only around 600 visitors per day. That is a huge loss in traffic which has taken a massive toll on the earnings of my blog. The earning also dived from $30-$50 per day at the beginning of the month to just $2 per day at the end. I was actually more irritated than panic stricken because I had taken all measures to ensure a smooth transition but now everything appeared to go downhill.

Google Analytics traffic stats
Decline in visitors from March 19th to March 30th

For me this whole incident has been a learning experience. Now I know that domain change is not a simple task and that you need to have a lot of patience if you want to go through with it. You should also be ready for the aftereffects which may result in a massive drop in your website traffic. That’s because your competitors are also going to take your top keyword positions in Google search while your new domain urls are just starting to be indexed by Google. Also, if you’ve monetized your website with Adsense or affiliate links, be ready for a significant drop in your income- unless you have a loyal fan following or regular direct visitors. Thus, I wouldn’t suggest an immediate domain switch if you depend heavily on you website or blog for you income. Once again I would like to stress that, “Domain change is a significant move”. Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to and unless you are fine with losing money for a few months.

On the bright side, hundreds of websites including those of huge brands have undergone a domain change, and a lot of them have actually reported positive change after a few months. Most blogspot users also reported increased traffic after few months of domain change. My personal suggestion is to get a custom domain or change your domain very early on when you don’t really have a significant amount of daily visitors. The earlier you go through with it the better, because when you switch from a really old domain name to a new one, you are going to lose all of the natural backlinks that made your website rank well on Google search. The 301s are going to pass the “link juice” from your old domain to the new one, but that doesn’t ensure that your will retain your top positions on Google search,.

Concluding, I am optimistic that my blog will eventually get its traffic back- it might take a month or three, but it will get there. In the meanwhile, I have decided to take some steps to speed up the domain change and traffic regaining process. For that I will do the following:

  1. Update the old backlinks with new urls where possible
  2. Update internal links with the new urls
  3. Edit article contents and improve its quality
    • Add natural meta descriptions, alt tags etc.
  4. Write fresh content regularly to speed up Google crawling and indexing my blog
  5. Regularly monitor my keyword status in Google search
  6. Check index status of my urls in Google webmaster
  7. Look for broken webpage links or 404 errors

Did you change your domain recently or in the past? Share you experience in the comments. I will keep monitoring the change in website traffic and update you about my domain change status in the coming weeks.

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