Edit: And you shouldn't need hours and days of test prep, anxiety or needing to hire SEO experts to pull it off either. Ridiculous.
Yes, there are automated ways around that, if everyone depends on the same search engine for brand recognition, but... I guess I fail to see why the search engine would really care that much. Yes, yes, I know that as a brand owner you spend years trying to game a search engine for your brand, and that has huge value for you, the brand owner.
However, supporting that activity doesn't make the search engine better for the users or for the advertisers, the two groups that a search engine cares about. a search engine has some interest in a user getting a result that isn't too far off from what they want, you know, so said user doesn't leave for another search engine. They have a conflicting (and much stronger) interest in the user getting a paid ad that is similar enough to what they want (and possibly better enough than the organic results) that they might click on it and not be unhappy, because that's how search engines make money. (there's a conflict because the user wants the best result possible, while the search engine wants the organic results to be bad enough that the paid results are relevant enough to warrant a click. Of course, but not so bad that the user goes to a different search engine.)
A search engine has no interest in helping businesses preserve their "organic" search rating. Either enough other people talk enough about the business that the search engine thinks that the link is worth something, or they don't. If you have a good reputation, and then you change your name and nobody knows who you are, well, that sounds like a pretty bad idea, doesn't it? and while yes, it is a problem that the search engine could solve, there's no reason for them, really, to do so.
Watch out, or you end up with cookie laws (and Google's fucking ridiculous implementation of that) and right to be forgotten (which is based in sound principles of European right to privacy and control over your data, but ends up with a flawed sub-optimal ruling).
Transferring a domain is preserving rank for all pages including those with (comparatively) low value per user.
Reminds me of the "Michelin Guides" and "Michel In Guides" [hilarious] fiasco. 
Then I realized it wasn't PG's site.
In any case, the “donate by linking” page is quite new. The domain move disaster was months old by the time I first published it.
It's not very clear what sort of asking is permitted, but I'm pretty sure that the sort of asking that Paul Ingraham is doing is not ok. He's specifically asking people to create links in a way that is unnatural.
But big websites that aren't ad driven use paid links to fund the site. We were paying big sites (think three letter domain names, top five newspaper sites, etc) for links. Say a paper writes an article on car insurance - wouldn't it be nice if they linked to our customers site and 'forgot' to mention a big competitor. Money will make that happen.
So how can google punish these big sites? They are put in an impossible situation.
I hope that OPs business can recover in time and thanks for posting this. You will probably save a lot of people thousands of dollars in the long run.
Even if you entirely set aside the hope that you'll eventually gain some organic search traffic, content marketing in the business and startup space still typically has a return 10x of what paid does since it tends to be so much more self selecting, shared on social, etc.
This is a lesson for everyone: despite how someone gets to your website the first time, you are in charge of bringing them back.
For many people that means aggressive email capture.
Of your site is not providing any sustainable value to users, then don't be surprised.
Google doesn't take well to people asking for links to their site. Asking for links, buying for links, or spamming your link is something that Google doesn't like. Just from this, I can already see your expertise in SEO. Although having this post at the top of Hacker News is going to help this a bit.
Anyone with basic SEO knowledge could have told you the pitfalls of transferring domains. This reads closer to trying to blame Google for your lack of traffic, rather than what you learned from the experience. From my experience, Google's algorithm is finicky, but if your site is sound and has good content you have little to fear.
nope. A lot more people have "basic" SEO knowledge than could execute a seamless TLD transition.
Knowing what a 301 redirect hardly counts as basic SEO knowledge. Having access to your webmaster tools doesn't count as basic SEO knowledge. My view of basic may be flawed, as I do work in the industry, but I can say that running around complaining about how it's Google's fault and asking for "link donations" isn't going to get you your results.
I don’t know if Google should be blamed or not.
I wonder what affect people seeing the domain "PainScience" instead of "SaveYourself" in the results caused.
However, it's a near certainty that you're going to lose rank and traffic with a domain name move. Estimates vary but 10-20% isn't an unreasonable guesstimate even if everything goes right.
I can also confirm the deep weirdness of GWT and how it treats sites (seriously, it considered http://domain.com and https://domain.com as two entirely separate sites).
If you want to get really nitpicky about it you could restrict it to only cases where HSTS headers(of which Google + Chrome really took the lead with) are present.
If there is anyone at Google reading this, give this guy a manual boost or something, you won't find better quality info anywhere.
After working there, I can definitely agree with this. Their engineering chops are pretty high but not only are there tons of bugs with their products (though complexity can cause that), but they also have very poor documentation for everything, so if you run into an awesome bug, your likeliness for finding an obvious solution without having to pnig the team responsible is about as reliable as a coin toss.
# move to new URL but keep using HTTP
# wait for search rank to reach parity, maybe leave it for some buffer
# upgrade site to use HTTPS
Slightly unrelated but on the topic of SEO in JS SPAs, Google did a really good job with it's latest iteration of the JS crawler . When we made the switch from sending pre-rendered HTML to treating the crawler like a regular user, our rankings actually improved because initial pageload time went from a few seconds to sub 300ms.
Or maybe it is the brand? PainScience is a rather negative in that it focuses on the problem, whereas SaveYourself focuses on the solution.
The reason I think is there is some sort of "grandfathered" organic ranking component that belongs to old domain but is not being transferred to new domain, no matter what recommended practices are followed and no matter what Google says.
Besides, "insignificant" != 0
What's "insignificant" for Matt Cutts and Google could be quite significant for someone's family.
Major shortcoming on Google's part, but why not add HTTP support to the new domain and see if that helps? (based on the article it didn't sound like it had been tried)
Just saying, there are legitimate reasons Google may have decided to penalize domain names. People do abuse them.
I just sincerely wanted to stay with the new brand, even if it was painful in the short term, and I never really dreamed I’d be sitting here a year later and still no recovery.