Google’s John Mueller answered a question about whether there’s a sandbox effect that holds back a site after changing domain names to a domain name that was previously parked. Mueller responded with details specific to previously parked domains and how Google treats them when they are activated on an existing website.
The person asking the question said that she was working on a site that has changed domain name. The site architecture and URLs remained the same. The only thing that changed was the domain name.
The new domain had previously been parked and had been actively used as a site at some earlier point in time. The person asking the question related that currently the site is being indexed 96% of the time by Smartphone Googlebot.
Her question was if there was some kind of sandbox effect caused by the domain name change that was holding the site back from being switched over to mobile first indexing.
It should also be noted that later in the video she mentioned that the rankings had dropped and were slowly recovering in the week since the domain switchover.
Don’t Worry About Mobile First Indexing
John Mueller first mentioned to not worry about the delay in mobile first indexing.
“I wouldn’t worry about the mobile first part for something like that because we kind of have the timeline set for switching everything over to mobile first anyway.
So that will happen in (I don’t know what is it, in March or April?)… I don’t know what timeline we had there. So that’ll happen anyway.”
Previously Parked Domains Can Cause a Temporary Effect
Mueller next addressed the issue of switching a site to a domain that was previously parked. He noted that there can be a temporary effect.
John Mueller explained:
But with regards to moving to a previously existing domain where there was parked content, you can definitely see some temporary effect there.
Not so much in terms of a sandbox effect or something like that but more in terms of if we’ve always seen a noindex page on this site for the longest time, then probably we’re going to assume that it’s still noindex for awhile.
And you might see kind of this… moment where for… I’ve seen it happen for maybe a week or two, maybe up to three weeks, where it’s just our systems assume that this is still a parked site and essentially treat the new content that is there as being parked as well.
And then it either doesn’t get indexed at all or it ranks kind of really badly in the beginning and then at some point, our systems go, oh, it’s no longer parked and essentially it just pops back in.”
The person who asked the question nodded her head and noted that she is beginning to see some recovery with rankings that had dropped in the week since the domain had been changed.
She also noted that there have been domain mismatch errors reported for AMP. She said that the new AMP content has been crawled but that the old AMP pages are still being reported as existing because the redirect hasn’t been processed.
“That’s something where you might see a temporary effect until all of that settles down a little bit where maybe we have the AMP URL somewhere linked and we go off and crawl it with a desktop crawler initially and then we realize, oh, we have to use mobile because it’s AMP. Then we would pick that up.
But that’s something that I would expect should settle down fairly quickly… like in the order of… I don’t know.. one, two, three weeks, something around that range.”
Mueller further noted that AMP pages and images, anything that was previously on the old domain should be redirected.
Domain Name Changes and Ranking Drops
In my experience, Google is very good at handling changes in domains as well as changing the URL folders of where sections are located.
Dramatic changes in rankings are not unusual. Mueller’s observation that it can take from one to three weeks matches my own experiences changing domain names.
Watch the Google SEO Office-hours Video
The video begins at about the 15:30 minute mark.
Roger Montti is a search marketer with 20 years experience.
I offer site audits and link building strategies.