Changing the root domain (URL) of your site comes with some potential downsides, and we’ve seen domain changes negatively impact ad earnings and traffic. We wanted to share some helpful information with you so you feel well-informed if you ever find yourself making this decision for your site.
What do you mean by "root domain/URL"?
Your site's root domain looks like this: myawesomesite.com
How does changing my root domain affect my ads?
Your root domain has a “reputation” with advertisers. Advertisers learn to trust the traffic, content quality, and audience characteristics of that root domain, and that's important when they're deciding whether or not to bid on your ad placements.
If "myawesomesite.com" changes to "mycoolblog.com", that can reset everything with advertisers since they aren’t familiar with "mycoolblog.com" yet — even if you redirect all the traffic correctly.
The new domain looks like an entirely different site to advertisers, so it has to go through an approval process again. Certain premium advertisers won't approve domains with less than one year of traffic history, so the timeframe for getting every advertiser running on the new domain again can potentially take over a year.
Advertisers have to relearn your site and your traffic from scratch, and sometimes that new domain never reaches the same earning potential of the old domain. When you change your root domain, you lose everything you’ve built with advertisers over time, which very often leads to an immediate drop in ad earnings. Sometimes earnings recover quickly, but there's no guarantee the new domain will earn the same way as the old domain with an established history.
Does switching from HTTP to HTTPS or changing my permalink structure count as a root domain change?
Nope! These changes DON'T constitute a root domain change with advertisers. Changing the protocol used to access the domain (like HTTP or HTTPS) or the format of your permalink (like whether there are dates, categories, etc. included in the longer URL) does not affect your long-term track record with advertisers.
Other potential impacts of changing your domain:
In addition to an impact on earnings, we’ve also seen sites take a major hit to their traffic after a URL change and never recover the same monthly traffic, even years later. Here’s one example of a site that made a URL change in 2016 and, unfortunately, earnings and traffic did not recover:
We know this is a decision for you to make based on your long-term business goals and that sometimes the benefits of changing your root URL (domain) can outweigh the associated risks. Some sites recover quickly from that initial drop and see no negative long-term impact, but that tends to be the exception rather than the rule.
Gradual change option
If you definitely want to change your URL but are willing to make the switch over a period of time, a gradual approach may avoid some of the negative impact.
We recommend setting up a new site on your new URL and redirecting a small portion of traffic to it, maybe 3-5 posts, while you work to build up some traffic organically to the site.
Once that site gets around 30,000 pageviews per month, we typically can get it approved underneath your AdThrive account for your first site.
From there, we'd recommend getting the ads running on the second site before redirecting a large percentage of your traffic. That will help your second site develop its history and reputation with advertisers, and then you will be able to see what your old site earns compared to your new site and whether that drop in ad performance is acceptable. If you are happy with the new site's performance, you can continue to redirect posts and traffic until you're fully switched to the new domain.
This approach takes a bit longer, but we see dozens of rebrands essentially drop off the map each year, so this will ensure that you're seeing some success before flipping the switch completely.
I understand the risks and I'm going ahead with changing my domain! Is there anything I can do to prepare?
Let the AdThrive team know right away so we can help! During the approval process, the domain will need to be updated in our ad partner’s system which may result in some downtime with ad earnings. We’ll submit the new domain for advertiser approvals as soon as possible once you make the switch.
If you’re able to give us a heads up about the timing of your domain change we can get the process started early for you to cut down on any downtime your new domain may experience.
Rebranding often comes with a new theme or design, so we’ll also check your ads and make sure everything works with your awesome new look! We have some suggestions for design and theme changes which we recommend checking out here.
As with any major change to your site, we recommend making changes during our business hours (M–F, 8–5 ET) so our full team is available to help!
More often than not, URL changes can be damaging overall, so we wanted to give you a little more background on how domain changes relate to advertising so you can make the best decisions for your business. You work super hard on your site and it’s our goal to help you make the most money possible — now and in the long run!