Should you change a domain name?
We recently had a client inquire about changing the domain name of his website. As a new owner of an existing web-based business he wanted to start fresh with a new domain name and look to the website.
The first step was to investigate a few things about the current domain name:
Age of the Domain
Using this Domain Age tool, I learned that the domain was 7 years and 10 months old. At 7 years old, the domain is considered golden. Most webmasters would agree that the age of a domain name is one of the most important factor in Google’s search algorithm. Websites which show longevity generally score high relevancy scores and therefore, place higher in search engines.
Number of Inbound Links
Using Yahoo Site Explorer, I was able to see that the site had over 100 inbound links. These links came from high quality 3rd party sites and related industry sites. One of the most important links came from DMOZ, The Open Directory Project, which is the most trusted directory on the web. A listing in this directory can instantly boost your Page Rank and relevancy score in Google. However, since DMOZ is a human edited directory, it can take months or even years for your listing to be reviewed by their 75, 151 editors. Considering that inbound links are highly valued by Google, 100 inbound links coupled with a listing in DMOZ are very valuable assets to this domain name.
Thanks to Google’s Page Rank bar, I was quickly able to see that the site had a Page Rank of 3. Page Rank is the algorithmic score Google gives a website based on it’s age, # of inbound links, authority on a topic, amongst other things. Attaining page rank can be a long process for new sites. A rumored entity known as the ‘sandbox’ is believed to hold a site’s page rank hostage until it has reached a certain age. Getting out of the sandbox can also take months.
Pages indexed in Google
After activating my SEO Quake Toolbar, I saw that the site had over 300 pages indexed in Google. Indexed pages are the number of pages within your website that Google has crawled and tracked. The more pages indexed in Google, the more opportunities for your website to be exposed for searches.
Rebuilding 7 years worth of inbound links, Page Rank and indexed pages would be a huge project and likely result in a significant drop in rankings and traffic for a while. Given all this information, my recommendation was NOT to change the domain name. However, if he really did have his heart set on a new domain name I recommended registering the new domain name and having it re-directed to the existing site.