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The 301 Club
301 permanent redirect's & Google
modemmike




msg:712615
 9:08 pm on Sep 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

With so much conjecture about 301 redirects I thought it would be nice to discuss experiences others have had and to also explore possible consequences when using a 301 redirect. Letís try to explore alternative redirects and what might help one make a smooth transition if there is such a thing. I realize that this topic has been discussed already in some detail throughout these forums but maybe this thread can serve as a clearing house of the various ideas, theories and myths related to 301 redirects. Iím not speaking of the www vs. non-www redirects but, rather a whole domain redirect for the purposes of rebranding, avoiding copyright issues or any other practical reasons for changing a domain name.

Here is my experience with a recent 301 redirect:

--Popular travel niche website approx 4 years old.
--Actively covering all topics related to my niche but we also sell entire vacationsÖ think of this site as being a vortal covering everything and anything dealing with this niche including up-to-date news, weather, unique articles, forums, interactive tools for planning a vacation and a bunch more all of which are free.
--Very little link trading with the bulk of links coming in naturally
--Very little outbound linking
--Clean HTML (for the most part)
--Some JavaScript but nothing black hat or meant for SEO
--Listed in DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, Zeal and Google Directory
--Was a PR 4 with about 50 inbound links
--Index count was 6,080
--Was in the top 10 results pretty solid even through Bourbon and other various updates

The 301 bomb (website suicide), applied a domain wide 301 redirect via IIS to a domain that is 18 months old. E.G. olddomain.com/widgets --> newdomain.com/widgets
I have seen some people post ďwhy would you do this?Ē Ö this isnít a valid question in my opinion because there are lots of very good reasons to do so.

--301 was put in place roughly 80 days ago
--After approx 5 days the site was nowhere to be found in the SERPís
--Sent a request to help@ and was told the site was not banned or penalized
--Started the long waiting process
--Quasay non existent update Gilligan started
--Old domain was stripped of PR across all DCís
--New domain still has no PR on any DCís
--BLís update to 138 on most DCís
--Google Directory updated showing the new domain as a PR 6 and at the top of my niche
--site:oldsite.com would reveal the new domain
--index count is fluxing between 10,300 and 10,900
--PR begins to return to the old domain!
--alas, no where in the SERPís even after going 50 pages deep.

Sounds like classic sandbox in my opinion but I think a better name would be ďGilliganís IslandĒ because most of us in 301 club feel stranded on a deserted island with no hope of rescue but occasionally there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

I also want to point out that until you have been through an experience like this itís not helping anyone to call people in this situation whiners, or something inflammatory because we are simply trying to figure out how to make a some what smooth transition and to avoid the sandbox.

Well, if you are still reading you are probably in this position now but if you are thinking about doing a 301 redirect, do so understanding that you will loss rank for at least several weeks.

Here some alternatives that have been discussed

1)Meta refresh to new domain Ė bad, could get a dupe content filter
2)JavaScript redirect Ė bad, looks too black hat or spammy
3)302 redirect Ė is not permanent and is also very spammy looking
4)404 all old pages Ė donít know how this would work
5)Build a new site which simply wasnít an option for me because I have a lot of unique content that would take weeks to regenerate without having any duplication

Another way to look at this was put best by jd01
It appears...
New Domain with 301 from old site = New Site
New Domain with no redirect from old site = New Site
New Domain with meta refresh from old site = New Site
New Domain and old domain with old content = New Site & Dup Content
IOW New Domain = New Site
Don't change if you don't have to - the, for lack of a better term, sandbox is in play.
Justin

I have searched high and wide looking for success stories and only found a few where as horror stories are the norm.

Being that GoogleGuy is the closest thing we have to a direct contact (for most of us anyway) I would greatly appreciate his feedback.

 

g1smd




msg:712825
 2:39 pm on Nov 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hmm, same old story: you added the redirects in March, and you see stuff cached from the previous November. I see that a lot.

The way forward? Google to clean up their supplemental index (post #400 [webmasterworld.com]), or in the continuing absense of that for you to add the <base href="http://www.domain.com/"> tag to all of your pages.

If you use relative linking the <base> tag will need to contain the full URL for the page, not just the domain.

icarus




msg:712826
 12:48 am on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

g1smd,

In your experience, to remove the http:// - [www...] htaccess direct after it's been in place for nearly 4 days, with googlebot active, could do more harm than good?

g1smd




msg:712827
 1:23 am on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Leave the redirect in place forever. That will force all visitors, and all bots, to only index one version of your site.

icarus




msg:712828
 1:58 am on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi,

I didn't mean to remove it thinking that the http:// [www...] issue would be resolved now :).

It's just that I'm seeing 2/3 of my Google traffic drop away since the day after implementing it and I'm freaking a little I guess. A normal redirect scenario i.e from an existing page to a new page, I could definitely understand the behaviour; just not in this scenario when it's effectively from http:// to [www....] The content was already in Google, the www version was the better ranking content. Heck, I wasn't even aware that I had a http:// listing for the home page until I really dug around for it :).

The www.site.com home page not being listed in Google at present is just having a major effect on probably around 90% of my other pages.

That was why I asked the question of if whether I removed it would return things back to "normal", i.e the way they were prior, or if I could just make matters worse now it's been active for 4 days.

Or should I just stop worrying about it and let G do what it's gotta do and all will be fine :)?

Jack_Hughes




msg:712829
 1:05 pm on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

we went through this whole scenario just over a year ago. we moved from a .com domain to the same .co.uk variant. We changed over on the 13 September 2004 and emerged the following February. Our traffic went down by around 50% over the first few weeks. The traffic that disappeared happened to be the traffic that was most commercial. The 50% of the traffic coming back was like a light being turned on. Over a 2 day period it was at the same level or higher than it had been months before.

My advice is

1) don't change domain unless you really have to;

2) if you really have to make the change, figure in a period of 4-5 months without a big slice of your traffic;

3) think long and hard before asking your inbound linkers to update their link to your new site. from my experience, I suspect that the links we had updated were the ones that no longer counted and thus resulted in reduced traffic;

In our case, we already had a PPC campaign running so we managed. If you have a big traffic gap, try to fill it with PPC until your organic traffic comes back.

icarus




msg:712830
 6:59 pm on Nov 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi Jack_Hughes,

Thanks for commenting on your experience. This is really worrying me now, so I guess the question I've asked in this thread a few times still remains.. i.e.

.. the 301 redirect from http:// to [www....] has been in place for 5 days now and since that time our traffic has plummeted. The redirect was done correctly, the site checked thoroughly etc. If I were to remove the redirect now, would things go back to normal in terms of our rankings, or could it make matters worse now that it's been in place for a while? Anybody's thoughts on this would be greatly appreciated.

The redirect was meant to avoid this situation, not induce it, which it appears to have done (for us anyway) at this point.

foolsgold




msg:712831
 2:28 pm on Nov 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

Jack_Hughes says 'we moved from a .com domain to the same .co.uk variant'. Was the .co.uk a new or an exisiting URL?

icarus




msg:712832
 9:35 pm on Nov 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just a progress report/summary in case anyone is still interested:

- on Nov. 6.; noticed I had a http:// and [www...] listing. I was under the impression from reading quite a few posts on WebmasterWorld and other places that this was a very bad thing.

Implemented htaccess redirect from http:// to [www...] correctly, checked links on site etc. - [www...] was the higher pagerank page and the one that the most traffic lands on compared to [....] Site is well established, maintaining decent rankings fairly solidly for years.

- Nov. 7, lost around 66% traffic from Google - huge drop in rankings for most pages/terms

- Nov. 9 - backlinks to http:// reading 0. Backlinks to [www....] remained what they were prior to the redirect.

When I searched for my site name (not domain), The result displayed the DMOZ title on the link and the DMOZ description, then one of my sub-pages underneath that (with correct page title and description).

When searching on domain, only found http:// listing; cache date Nov. 6. [www...] listing nowhere to be found.

Googlebot active on site, including fetching the home page

- Nov. 10 - when searching on site name; DMOZ listing title still displaying, but the correct description now showing and it's now the [www...] page; couldn't find the [....] Cache date November 6. Rankings on the live results and .9.104 still well down on normal.

- Nov. 11 - Googlebot still fairly active on the site, fetched home page half a dozen times plus a couple of hundred other pages. Rankings on the live results and .9.104 no change, but I have noticed on *some* searches that the correct title is now displaying for [www...] listing. Homepage cache date is still Nov. 6; some sub-pages show Nov. 10. Traffic remains well down.

Still debating whether the htaccess redirect was a good move - definitely not for the immediate short term, but for the medium to long term? But as it's now been in place for over 5 days, very hesitant to remove it and perhaps make matters worse.

Anyway, if anyone's interested, I'll keep posting these progress reports from time to time - just let me know. If there's no response, I'll go back to my corner and remain quiet :).

modemmike




msg:712833
 5:08 am on Nov 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

icarus, I'm interested and I feel your pain. My traffic has still not fully recovered even after 6 months but it is on the upward swing (knock on wood).

cws3di




msg:712834
 5:38 am on Nov 12, 2005 (gmt 0)


icarus, it seems to be pretty much the consensus here (among the more knowledgeable players) that the non-www to www 301 permanent redirect is a "must-have"

My suggestion is to leave the 301 in place for the long run, and assume that other factors are affecting the serps in the short run.

The bouncing around in the serps right now is more likely to be related to the Jagger update than your recent 301

icarus




msg:712835
 8:00 pm on Nov 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the feedback guys. I've decided to leave the redirect in place, to accept the current situation and just keep working on the site per usual. It's an odd feeling doing so tho, it's like giving a speech to an relatively empty room :). It's been a grounding experience.

Anyway - new development since my last post:

- Fresh tags for home page appearing when searching on the site name. DMOZ title being used but page meta description tag used for the snippet.

- Searching on site.com brings up correct title and meta-description, no fresh tag (cache Nov.6).

- Searching on www.site.com brings up correct title and DMOZ description; no fresh tag (cache Nov.6).

Last set of logs I downloaded showed googlebot active over a full 24 hour period, including 4 fetches of home page.

g1smd




msg:712836
 8:52 pm on Nov 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

What I saw happen with the last site where I messed about with redirects, was that about a week after the redirects were set up that www was cached daily, and non-www dropped back to being cached about weekly.

After about three weeks the non-www dropped out of the index (more through duplicate content penalty than Google knowing about the redirect I feel - that is, IF the content had been changed during that time, I really do believe that non-www would now be a supplemental result and would stick in the index forever with that same cache for ever more).

charlier




msg:712837
 9:03 pm on Nov 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just to be a contrarian I will say don't put in a redirect until you have changed all the internal URLs to absolute URLS containing the domain ie full http: //www.example.com/dir1/page.html and you see those pages in the google cache. Then put in a 301. We had the duplicate domain problem and lost 1/3 of our traffic (15,000 uniques/day to 10,000 over 3 weeks), we changed to absolute URLs and in three weeks we fully recovered and in fact now have around 17,000 a day.

Sweet Cognac




msg:712838
 5:22 am on Nov 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is an update to msgs #:176 & 179 on Oct 17th & 18th, where I reuploaded my old folder that was deleted for a year, had a 301 redirect on it that was permanent, and this has what has happened since Oct 17th.

The next week Yahoo spidered all the pages in old folder. With Jagger, Google respidered all the old pages in old folder. MSN also respidered the pages. The 301 I had on it was totally forgotten. And they are ranking better now than they ever have.

So now I have new domain with rebuilt old pages still in the sandbox. and... my 1999 old folder ranking where I wish new domain was ranking.

Lessons I learned:
1. Supplementals stay in the Google index for over a year.
2. The 301 redirect was not permament, after I deleted it the engines came back.
3. Leave well enough alone... if it's not broke don't fix it.
4. If you have deleted pages that you can bring back to life, do it.
5. Stop deleting pages... just rebuild them and let them run.

icarus




msg:712839
 12:26 am on Nov 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just an update on msg: #220. It's now day 11 after the http:// to [www...] redirect

Starting to see some improvements with ranking even in "live" SERPS. Some pages end up back where they were, some dropping, some rising - no clear pattern at this point in time. I can actually start finding many pages on the site via G with relative ease again.

Traffic doesn't reflect rankings, it's basically the same as it was when we hit the skids the day after the 301 was put in place; but given current instability across some DC's, and whatever else is going on behind the scenes - it doesn't surprise me.

Googlebot is still very busy on the site and seeing plenty of fresh tags on listings.

link:site.com still displaying 0
link:www.site.com still the normal number

I'm not making any further changes to the site as this stage, just working it as normal, waiting for the dust to settle - which I'm *assuming* it will do some time :).

Any word from PubCon about 301/canonical issues?

icarus




msg:712840
 8:09 pm on Dec 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

Just another brief update for anyone who's still interested.

It's now nearly a month since the http:// to [www...] 301 was implemented for our main site. It was done correctly and various other checks carried out per the advices from various WebmasterWorld members who are familiar with related issues.

Since that time..

- no change in G traffic, still way, way down and has been like this since the day after implementing the 301 (Nov. 6)

- link:www.site.com brings up the usual number of links

- PR remains static (6 for home page)

- link:site.com shows 0

- site:www.site.com doesn't bring up the home page first

On our few other sites, site:www.othersite.com brings up the home page as the top listing and it's the same for other sites I've tried at random. Yahoo and MSN don't display the same problem - home page is always first.

Dayo_UK has made mention of this type of issue in the Jagger update threads.

It's as though our home page has still lost it's "oomph", the effects of which is being passed on to the rest of the site in terms of rankings on various queries, which were basically rock-solid before - some for years.

Some pages have held up better than others, mainly those that have many external links pointing to them, but the overall dampening effect is definitely across the board; for some pages, quite extreme.

I can still find the home page at the top of the SERPs by querying:

site name
site.com
www.site.com

Other queries do bring the page up, just well down. There's no uniformity to the drops on various queries in relation to the home page.

Googlebot still on the site basically 24/7 and the home page is being regularly crawled. Fresh tags appearing on home page every couple of days per normal.

Out of curiosity - have others who have recently implemented the 301 fix seen link:site.com numbers restored to normal? I remember that a few other people mentioned this being an issue.

I guess my only advice at this point, and only based on this single experience, is that the site-wide 301 http:// to [www...] (or vice-versa) fix should not be implemented unless you feel it's a critical issue and you're already suffering.

If you do implement it, be prepared to take a further hit for an undefined period. I guess it's possible that something else is the cause of our woes, and it could have gone this way regardless with all that was going on with Jagger - but the timing is a bit too much of a coincidence IMO. Perhaps if Google was working on the canonical issue at the time we implemented the fix, we've just thrown a spanner in the works?

There's other more experienced WebmasterWorld members who would probably disagree with this, especially those who have used this fix many times before with success, and I respect that. Just my added 2 cents on the subject. If things bounce back, I'll be sure to report as such :).

CainIV




msg:712841
 6:48 am on Dec 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Not entirely sure of this in my case:

I implemented the sitewide 301 (from non-www to www) on Nov.1 /05 after the update was in effect. The site I am talking about was online in March of this year.

I was suffering in Google as you are. A search for the key words of my business did not show me in the top 50 results. Ohter sites ranked before mine for even fairly unique keywords to my site.

site:domain.com showed my home page at about 21st place.

Still my home page does show a non www page in existence. It has gone supp and has a cache date and a page showing from March 2005.

My ranking today went up from 300 to 100 for our keyword, which is ery competitive. A search for non-www page on our site shows only one now, the homepage.

Maybe things are getting better?

icarus




msg:712842
 8:41 pm on Dec 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi CainIV,

Great to hear things are getting better for you. I've run the site:www query again today on quite a few DC's, including the experimental one being commented on in the update saga thread. Still no further progress - our home page is around the 100th listing for our site pages. I'm not seeing any non-www pages.

Our 301 from http:// to [www...] was put in place 5 days after yours, so you've given me a little hope ;).

Last time I 301'ed a page of importance was a few years ago - it was around 24 days before everything settled again. In that case, the 301 was old file name to new file name, so it was a totally different scenario and without the Jagger complications thrown into the mix. We're on day 33 now of our own saga. Holding up fine on other engines, it's just G with something stuck in it's craw.

CainIV




msg:712843
 7:17 am on Dec 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

icarus. Make sure that you run the 301 through a header checker and see a '301 moved permanently' header response as well as a new url and a 200 ok.

I 301'ed one site which appeared to redirect corectly but was actually done wrong, and after using a header checker found out it was making things worse rather than better.

Keep in mind I am on a linux box. I am not certain of the intricate makings of IIS and windows redirect standards.

icarus




msg:712844
 10:18 am on Dec 9, 2005 (gmt 0)

CainIV,

Thanks for the advice - yep, checked all that when it was first done, plus checked internal links pointing to www etc. But of course after your post, I couldn't help myself but to check again :); all is fine on that side of things.

bether2




msg:712845
 2:36 pm on Dec 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Make sure that you run the 301 through a header checker and see a '301 moved permanently' header response as well as a new url and a 200 ok.

I did a 301 redirect from non-www to www in July. When I did a header check after that, the www was "200 OK" and the non-www was "301 Error". The header checker showed the Redirect Target as [www....] mysite.com (without the space).

I asked my webhost if the "301 Error" was correct and they said it was. Now that my pages have been dropping out of google, I'm beginning to wonder.

Here's what my web host did:
1. In Windows IS, created an entry for mysite.com (without www).
2. Pointed mysite.com to www.mysite.com as a 301 permanent redirect.

Any suggestions or advise would be welcome.

skunker




msg:712846
 5:10 pm on Dec 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

I had 301 redirecting on my site starting in September and it did nothing but slam my entire site down into the Supplemental index. So, forget that, I just took it off and now am awaiting for Google to just, for the love of god, index me in their real index.

I'm tired of trying to following Google's guidelines as it does nothing but penalize me it seems.

otech




msg:712847
 6:05 pm on Dec 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

Hi Guys,

I recently just changed my sites domain from a subdomain to a normal .com.au domain.

It had 111 pages of 1200 in googles index, and the subdomain was only a few weeks old (on a 1 year old domain - just the subdomain was 2 weeks old) when we made the change to a brand new domain.

We applied 301 redirects for the whole subdomain and and files/parameters to be redirected the new domain (in IIS using the fulldomain+$S$Q in the forwarding address).

Another two weeks and about 50 new backlinks later and all the old URLs have been completely removed with 180 pages of the new domain in the index - perfect!

Just thought I would let you know my luck and what I did in the hope it helps someone out, and will post back if anything starts going backwards.

texasville




msg:712848
 7:05 pm on Dec 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

bether2-
It should NOT read 301 error. the correct reading should be:

Server Response [1]: [yoursite.com...]
HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Content-Length: 152
Content-Type: text/html
Location: [yoursite.com...]
Server: Microsoft-IIS/6.0
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2005 18:45:15 GMT
Connection: close

The proper way to do a 301 redirect in windows server is:

In IIS Admin:
1. Browse the website you want to do the redirect for.

2. In the right pane, right click on the file you want to
redirect(http://yoursite.com), and click "Properties"
3. Under the "File" tab, hit the radio selection "A redirection to a URL"
4. Put the target(http://www.yoursite.com) in the "Redirect to"
textarea.
5. Make sure "The exact URL entered above"(http://www.yoursite.com)
and "A permanent redirection for this resource"(http://yoursite.com)
are a match.

That should give you a 301 nicely on an existing site.

bether2




msg:712849
 7:37 pm on Dec 10, 2005 (gmt 0)

texasville, thanks so much for the info. I'll get back to my webhost right away. The steps you describe are what what I believe they did (except they had to first create an entry for mysite.com in order to have something to redirect from), but the result was that 301 Error. I read to them bakedjake's directions from a previous thread - which the same as yours.

I thought since the header checker showed the target URL for the redirect, all was well. Unfortunately, I don't have access so can't do it myself. Thanks again.

BTW, this what I'm getting:

1 Server Response: [mysite.com...]
HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 301 Error
Location: [mysite.com...]
Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
Content-Type: text/html
Content-Length: 146
Redirect Target: [mysite.com...]

#2 Server Response: [mysite.com...]
HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 200 OK
X-Powered-By: ASP.NET
Content-Location: [mysite.com...]
Content-Type: text/html
ETag: "bae9f7d4b1f7c51:c6a"
Content-Length: 22605
Last-Modified: Sat, 03 Dec 2005 02:32:40 GMT

icarus




msg:712850
 5:52 am on Dec 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

Skunker:

"I had 301 redirecting on my site starting in September and it did nothing but slam my entire site down into the Supplemental index"

Sorry to hear it - out of curiosity, was it a non-www to www redirect you had on? How long after the 301 was applied did your site go supplemental?

g1smd




msg:712851
 8:35 pm on Dec 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

bether2: It seems that IIS/5.0 gives out "301 Error" whilst IIS/6.0 gives out "301 Moved Permanently". Can anyone else confirm this? I only ever use Apache servers.

.

icarus: One more thing to try. On the index page of your site, add this in the <head> section of the page: <base href="http://www.domain.com/"> and see if that makes any difference in the next few weeks.

skunker




msg:712852
 9:06 pm on Dec 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

icarus, immediately right after the redirect, it went supplemental, or what I call, "mental".

icarus




msg:712853
 11:53 pm on Dec 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

Skunker,

Thanks for that info. Hope it sorts itself out for you soon.

g1smd,

Thanks for the tip. Could you please clarify:

"add this in the <head> section of the page: <base href="http://www.domain.com/">"

Did you mean that should be added just to the home page, or to every page on the site?

g1smd




msg:712854
 11:58 pm on Dec 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

icarus: One more thing to try. On the index page of your site, add this in the <head> section of the page: <base href="http://www.domain.com/"> and see if that makes any difference in the next few weeks.

icarus




msg:712855
 1:38 am on Dec 12, 2005 (gmt 0)

g1smd

How I missed that part of your last advice is beyond me :). Thanks.

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