It’s been a while since we’ve had a lot of discussion around people spending hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars on a domain name.  If you had tickets to the last bubble, you likely witnessed a lot of this craziness back then.  The example that leaps to mind is Business.com being purchased for $2.5 million. In more recent news, a company called Topix purchased their domain name (Topix.com) for a cool $1 million.  They already owned Topix.net (and were getting a fair amount of traffic to it), but decided that a “.com” domain would be a more effective brand and it was worth it to them to spend that kind of money to acquire it.  The company is pretty big and I’m sure they could afford the purchase, and I tend to agree that the “.com” domain for most businesses is much, much better than “.net” (or other domain extensions). 

At some point, someone at Topix likely realized the errors in their original ways and decided to pay a premium to fix it. Had this just been a story about a million dollar domain name, it would be interesting, but I wouldn’t have given it that much thought.  What makes it interesting is that when they made this name change, they lost a ton of their traffic through Google. Yes, you heard that right.  They spent a million dollars, changed their domain name to something better , did all the things “correctly” in terms of setting up a permanent redirect .  In fact, I don’t know of anything they could have done differently, but the traffic went down anyways.  For a detailed look at this phenomenon, you can see the Wall Street Journal article titled “ How Search Engine Rules Cause Sites To Go Missing ”.  It is a pretty good article and worth a read if this is an area of interest for you.

 

Meanwhile, back to my story.  I went through something very, very similar to this situation with this website.  (Of course, I was able to reduce my web traffic by spending much less than a million dollars).  If you’ve been a reader here for a while, you might recall that the domain name for this website was smallbusiness20.com (as in “Small Business 2.0”).  The idea (then) was to convey a sense of “next generation” innovation and technology for small business.  Clearly, I had either too much (or too little) to drink that day as I’ve never been a fan of the whole “web 2.0” moniker.  In any case, that’s the name I registered for the site and that’s what stuck – for a while.  

 

Later, the team decided that the name really didn’t work for us anymore.  What would we do when the whole “2.0” phenomenon became obsolete and the world started migrating to 3.0 or 3.1 or whatever?  We decided we needed a name that was less fashionable, but would endure longer (often this is the same thing).  So, after much thinking, we came up with SmallBusinessHub.com.  We like this name a lot and ties back to our company name ( HubSpot ).  

 

When we made the domain name switch, I did a ton of reading on how to go about this process correctly.  I figured the industry was far enough along whereby this kind of change would not be that hard and we’d “reclaim” much of our search-engine love in a matter of days or weeks.  Like the folks at Topix, I learned that I was wrong.  Though setting up an electronic forwarding address should be relatively easy, it takes longer than you think.  We made the switch to smallbusinessub.com on January 17 th .  It has now been about 2 months since the change and we still have not reclaimed most of our original Google search-ranking love yet.  Though our traffic has gone up considerably, this has been through other channels – not the search engines.

 

I’ve got a $1 bet with Brian (my co-founder) that the problem will “fix itself” by April 1 st .  So far, it seems that I’m going to lose that bet.  You’d think that a legitimate site with lots of inbound links and a name change that is handled in the right way wouldn’t have that much difficulty reclaiming its authority.  If so, you’d think wrong.  How about you?  Any SEO experts out there that have been through this?  Any non-experts out there that have suffered through the pain of a domain change?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Originally published Mar 16, 2007 2:07:00 PM, updated March 21 2013