How to identify a toxic domain and fix SEO problems arising from it

3 mins read

LAST UPDATED 5th February 2024

PUBLISHED 7th December 2023

Avaris Ebike | How to identify a toxic domain name | SEO case study

Ever wondered if your domain name might be holding you back from getting those top rankings? Have you considered that your domain might be blacklisted or penalised by search engines? Let’s talk about how to spot a toxic domain name and what you can do about it.

In this post, we’re focusing on the SEO penalties and risks associated with toxic domain names. We’ll guide you through our experience identifying such problems and how we fixed them for a client.

Overview

Avaris offer two core products to the UK market: a stylish, lightweight electric road bike and an electric mountain bike. Deep analysis from our team found a historical issue with their domain that was causing a serious problem.

The brief

After nearly 12 months of solid SEO work involving content creation, technical SEO and link building, we found that our results were not in keeping with benchmark performance for similar campaigns. This prompted us to deep dive into all aspects of the campaign to identify any technical issues that may have been holding the campaign back.

Despite our best efforts, keyword ranking improvement was very slow.

Avaris - Road Ebike photography by Pixel Kicks

The approach

Using an online domain history tool we identified that the client’s then-current domain, avaris.co.uk, had been previously blacklisted by Google. Further research led to us discovering “Avaris Market”, an “alphabay style scam market” that darknetstats.com advised users to “stay from at all costs”.

We also found quite suspect ranking URLs in historical Semrush data for the domain, well before the client purchased the domain for themselves. The URLs were all PDF files of no known context or usage.

What is blacklisting?

When a website is added to a blacklist it means that Google has marked the website as not secure to visit. There are several reasons why you would think that a website has been blacklisted, and in this case, it was because we were not experiencing any keyword growth after 12 months of solid, best practice SEO campaigning.

Something was fundamentally wrong.

We deemed it plausible that Google had taken a zero-tolerance approach to this domain. Therefore we proposed that the website move to a new domain with redirections put in place.

Domain choice

We suggested a migration to the domain avarisebikes.com, combining the brand name with the core product keyword. A full rebrand of the company was not viable, nor was it necessary.

Redirection management

A copy of the live website was taken and uploaded onto avarisebikes.com. The current site, on avaris.co.uk, was then taken down with permanent 301 redirects in place from the old domain to the new ones.

A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that passes full link equity to the redirected page, perfect in this case as we were communicating a complete change of website address.

The results

Google rankings improvements were almost instant following the change of domain, which furthered our belief that there was a penalty held against the previous domain that was being used.

Year-on-year organic traffic growth since the domain change stands at 1,027%.

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