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|The 301 Club |
301 permanent redirect's & Google
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)
--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
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.
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.
To add insult to injury, I'm still waiting for my 301 Club membership card.
I've posted elsewhere about this and I'm basically in the same situation as ModemMike. A few slight differences in details (page count, back links, etc.).
I want to stress that in both of our cases the domain that was redirected to had been registered for quite a while (4 years in my case). So we're talking about redirects that don't involve new domains -- although that doesn't seem to matter.
It would be nice if someone from Goolge would take note of this problem as it seems to be affecting a fair number of people who for one reason or another need to change the domain name of an established website.
The webmaster guidelines are no help on this. We need some official guidance.
I used an honest 301 redirect (a bunch of pages moving to another domain) and Google nuked both sites from its index. After reading about this on the forum, I changed it to a meta redirect-- it's against HTTP standards, but at least now people can find my site.
Currently there is a problem with proper handling of 301 redirects. I've been making major URL changes in one of my sites for months, and 301 redirects I put were handled properly until about August, then Google started showing old URLs as url-only instead of forgetting them. But it happened before, it's just a matter of time.
Ok, sometimes you have to change domain or just URLs of pages, but it means that you're out of index for a few months, just face it. That's one of the reasons I was making the URL changes gradually for months, some pages are already ranking very high, other have to wait.
Fast way is to use URL Console, but it means facing all side-effects. Slow and secure way is to use 301 and wait until it is handled properly by Google.
Notice: remember to leave a link to old URLs to ensure 301 will ever be crawled. On the other hand, leaving such link too long results in reappearing of old URLs. And all rollbacks in the index make it even more difficult.
Has anyone tried putting a simple "We Moved" home page with a link (no redirect of any kind) on the old domain? Maybe throw in a custom 404 page with a similar message and link for non-home-page requests?
This is what I would have done when I was very new to the web and quite naive. I'm beginning to think I should try it now. The current situation for anyone trying to change their domain name is pretty ridiculous.
My guess is that using the "we moved" approach would still land the new site in the sandbox.
Also, using a 301 redirect will transfer backlinks and PageRank to the new domain. So now I've got a site with 700+ pages indexed, 230+ backlinks, a PR4 home page and a couple dozen PR5 internal pages, and no ranking. It's been this way for almost four months.
BTW, Yahoo and MSN handled the redirect properly and I've seen no interruption in referrals from those search engines.
We also re-branded our site in March 2005. We placed a site wide 301 redirect. Initially our new domain did not rank well in G but after about 6 weeks we got our old ranking back. But on 16 June we lost our ranking again. Not sure if this is related to the 301's as many sites got hit on that day.
My theory is that G increased their DUP content filter during that time, and because G was still indexing pages from our old domain, we got hit. The pages from our old domain are still in the index and I think this is the reason for our problems.
I think the trick is to get all pages from the old domain out of the G index. (but how?)
301 redirects to a new domain do not pass full PR or SERP placement-at least not in the 5 months we've had ours in place. Old site was PR5, new one was a PR3 within 10 days of being live (and redirected to), and still is. Have recovered roughly 40% of SERP placement.
This is curious because so many aspects of our stories are similar, but the outcome is quite a bit different when you look at the details.
In my case most of the page rank was transfered (was 5, now a 4), but the interior pages now have much higher PR.
Also, all of our old pages dropped out of the Google index without within a couple weeks of doing the redirect (except for one page with a strange URL variable on it). . . . until now - I just checked to see if that single page was still in the index and now I see that about 20+ pages from my old site are back in the Google index (after being out of the index for 3 months).
This is strange.
3 months ago I changed my URL format for a site. Yahoo & MSN picked up the 301s within a few weeks. Months later Google still shows the old pages as supplamental results. This particular site's Google traffic diminished considerably after the URL changes, which was expected. What I did not expect was Google would be slow to follow and correct the 301s. People at work ask what to do and my only response is to wait it out and hope G fixes the problem.
These oldm pages reappearing is sergey brin's acid reflux in response to yahoo saying they have more pages indexed. Remember when he made that retort that yahoo was lying? Now, he has decided google will bloat itself. hence, the acid reflux. And we all need tum's.
Something I have noticed is that someone of you are saying that your sites do show up in the suppliment results where as mine does not show up in any results unless I do the "search within results". I have gone as deep as I can into the results by going to the next page and never found my site.
BTW, I don't want to make a big deal out of this next statement but it's worth commenting on... several times in these forums users have asked for some sort of comment from GG regarding 301's and I haven't found any responses... now I realize GG is not an official spokesman for Google but the lack of a response could be either that he has simply doesn't want to respond or that maybe Google is working on fixing 301's... just MHO.
>> but the lack of a response could be either that he has simply doesn't want to respond or that maybe Google is working on fixing 301's... just MHO
More likely they don't see it as a problem.
Well, then there's that as well!
To further add to my own 301 story, I'm noticing today that my index page count is slowly dropping, 10,900 - 10,800 - 10,300 - 10,200 and today most DC's are reporting 10,100. I have a mental image of someone at Google turning a big red knob backwards throttling back page count to make it look more believeable.
If this were true, presumably they would say so.
|More likely they don't see it as a problem. |
Clearly they know they have a problem but it is not important enough for them to put in the effort necessary to fix it. That either means that they simply don't care about webmasters or the problem is so tricky that they haven't figured out how to fix it despite their best efforts. You choose.
I think its time to make it clear..
Google is not #1 anymore.. as in they do not bother to keep their index up-to-date!
Why would u expect them to fix the 301 issue?
It took them Nine Months to update the DMOZ directory, I think some of it still has lats years time stamp on.
This is crazy!
Here's my story: Had a 4-5 months old web site, which already had good inbound links and a PR of 4, and I decided to change domain name because it was too close to an existing company I wasn't aware at first and preemptively decided to avoid problems, since I was still relatively new. I moved my site in April 2005 and set up a 301 redirect on all my old pages in the old site using PHP redirect to the new ones. I also contact web sites that link to me asking them to update the link for the new address, which a good portion of them do. All is well for a month or two, until I realise a whole section of my old site had gone into supplemental results instead, and that section isn't being indexed in my new site. So now, those supplemental results compete with my site, beating it in SERPs, and my corresponding section in the new site is never spidered or cached or indexed. In June, with the new updates, my site has just being slowly phasing out of Google SERPs, only appearing in very exotic searches and typos. Searching for my domain name brings up people linking to me instead of my web site, even though that new site has now a PR of 5. I don't want to pay for hosting the old site forever so it is just a domain forwarding with my registrar.
It feels like moving that site has brought on the fury of sandbox and duplicate penalties on it. I can live through it for a few months, I just hope this supplemental results page mess gets cleaned up one of these days, it's rather absurd those old pages beat so many real pages in the SERP. Yahoo! and MSN never gave me any problems with moving my site. I mean, if it's all a pissing contest to get as many indexed pages in their database for marketing reasons, that's the kind of behavior we expect from old-school companies, but Google was supposed to be over the sleazy tactics. I wished it was at least for a different reason, like maybe collateral damage from spam prevention. But my site is 100% white hat, very standard compliant using structural tags like HTML is supposed to be. I'm still waiting, working on the content reguraly, improving features for the few visitors I still get. It's rather discouraging though.
PS: The new address was also inclued in the DMOZ directories around may-june, so that may be a factor with the sandbox (acquiring too many links too fast with all those directory clones out there).
If I was a gambler, I would wager that the appearant 301 issue revolves around this:
If you 'turn on' a new domain that is redirected to from an existing domain, it would be easy to game the system by buying a new domain, putting up content, and then 301ing it to another new domain.
I would guess there is some type of issue with transferring all information associated with the old domain to the new domain it is redirected to.
It seems like a simple problem -- I moved my site, figure it out, duh!
From a statistical history and tracking pov, it is much more difficult.
Just some thoughts:
If you transfer history information, what happens when the old domain comes back online, either bought by another party or the redirect is removed?
Do the stats stay with the original domain or are they transferred to the new domain?
If they stay with the original, then is the new domain that was redirected to removed?
If they are transferred to the new domain, is the old domain then deleted of history?
How do you track the two to see if the original domain is still redirecting, and what do you do if it is not any longer?
What if only part of the domain is redirected? Which site gets the history?
Answer: Much simpler and significantly less chance of user manipulation to start the historical data over at the time of any major changes in location, focus, theme, or ownership.
So what you are saying then jd01 is that using a 301 redirect is starting over?
Your theory makes complete sense to me...
Sure wish I had known that before I did a 301.
But, why are some reporting success with 301's and others are completely banished?
A system where a webmaster could pay for a manual review would be nice, if you have nothing to hide, the 301 was legit and nothing else has changed a webmaster would eagerly pay for a manual review.
|So what you are saying then jd01 is that using a 301 redirect is starting over? |
Basically, yes... those are only a few question that would have to be addressed when trying to associate history via a redirect -- I could easily come up with 50 and with some time, who knows how many...
When you get into the association of history, making the system so it is not easily gamable is exceedingly difficult.
Imagine, if you associate history with the new location...
Say I have a 500 page established site:
If I transfer part of my established site (50 pages) to a new domain and the history goes with those pages, I now have a new domain with history, and can easily add to that domain using the established histroy as a base, so my page will be indexed faster, rank better, and have the power of the established site behind them... What if I did that 10 time? Now I have 10 established sites...
What if I transferred the entire site, and the history went with, while waiting for the transfer to take effect (usually a couple of weeks), I rewrite the text on the old site (cannot be accessed) to avoid duplication, and when the new site starts to rank, pull the redirect down... unless all history is deleted, now I have 2 established sites...
There are an enormous number of issues that transferring history brings up, so the best answer is to not do it.
|My guess is that using the "we moved" approach would still land the new site in the sandbox. |
That would be my guess as well -- but one client who came to us had success with this very naive approach about a year ago, back at the very beginning of Google's "aging algorithm". Because it worked for them (moving to a brand ne domain name) I wasn't going to mess with their success.
I'm thinking that part of the 301 problem comes from Google working against manipulation attempts, and not just looking for "aged" domains. Google's handlinh of 301s is certainly a complexity, rather than a simplicity like Yahoo's relatively straightforward approach.
Because I did see one successful use of a non-301 approach using a simple link and 404 pages last year (the old domain went completely offline within 2 months), it does make me wonder. Maybe the more technical we get, the more we look like we're attempting "search engine persuasion."
|(usually a couple of weeks) |
I wouldn't have started this thread if it was only a couple of weeks unless your definition of a couple is 7,8,9 or more!
Question for those that came out of 301 if any even care to read this thread (might be tramatic for them :0) ... what, if anything changed before you got back into the SERP's... I'm wondering if PR has to be completely removed from the old domain before anything moves or if the index page count needs to be stable or more links or moon dances or anything... through me a bone here!
I'm speculating that the return of my old site to the index corresponds with the 90 day link removal period being discussed in another thread right now. It's been about 100 days and those pages are back now (but marked as supplemental).
I've noticed that a check for backlinks on both the new domain and the old domain returns the same set of links. This is notable because checking for backlinks on the old domain returns new links to the new domain. Based on this it seems pretty clear that Google has associated the two URLs in both directions (not only old to new, but also new to old).
This makes me wonder what would happen if I turned off the 301 redirect. Would Google still associate those URL's in the same manner? If so, for how long? And more importantly, if Google were to break it's association between the two, would that have an adverse impact on the new domain?
I'm almost tempted to turn off the 301 redirect, write a bunch of new content and host it at the old address, and link each page to the new domain. On the other hand, there's always the chance that I could make things worse than I already have.
|(usually a couple of weeks) |
Should have been more clear: I meant until the original site is spidered and G *knows* of the redirect, *not* the time for the results of those redirects to populate through the results or for the new domain to be included. IMO the population and new-domain in the results, will be a couple4 at the very least.
I think things are starting to normalize for my domain.
33 DC's report 10,100 indexed
6 DC's report 10,200 indexed
PR is still on the old domain in 2 DC's - still had PR on about 8 yesterday.
These numbers are very different from yesterday so if my theory that everything has to stabilize before you get back into the SERP's is correct I could see some change in SERP's soon.
"trying to figure out how to make a some what smooth transition and to avoid the sandbox."
If you don't avoid the sandbox, then Google is doing things right... within the context of their own goals.
It should be obvious that a 301 shouldn't make a new domain avoid the sandbox. Whether the sandbox is stupid is another issue, but I'm surprised anyone would think a 301 would magically keep a new site out of the sandbox. Google engineers certainly have thought to prevent such an obvious tactic.
Maybe, Steve, but wouldn't you think they also might want to keep a "website" in their index if it was performing well and just changed its domain? It wouldn't take that much for the algo to see that the new domain is a dupe of the old, you know? Instead, they both go away. This feels like collateral damage to me.
Yes. I have belonged to this club for a long time. Fortunately, our business is still growing although it makes me want to puke to still pay the adwords bill each month. MSN has us @ 5 or 6 and Yahoo we are now 14 and moving up fast.
What's interesting is that we are only in the club for our home page. Other pages in our site get some play on page 1 sometimes. Problably just when I check.
I sent 20+ emails to google and got the same response as does everyone. I fixed all of the 301s, but it's been months and we are nowhere. I just searched for our main keywords, Children's Boutique and I went to page 20 and didn't find us. After the first couple of pages it's just pure junk too. What a joke.
I hope MSN can grow and capture the Google marketshare. Bill Gates has the money and I hope they have the vision to execute. Once Google has some real competition from MSN, maybe they will try and get their SERPS more relevant!
INstead of commenting on when the next update will or won't be, how about commenting on something like this?
That, would at least be something useful. Yahoo, and MSN both handle 301 correctly, Google simply puts sites in the garbage that 301, yet transfers rankings and pr with a meta refresh?
Like hello? what tha! As if a meta refresh is not more liekly to be the tool of a spammer.
"wouldn't you think they also might want to keep a 'website' in their index"
I think what ever they might want or logically thing makes sense, they can't do it.
Wouldn't you think that they would be sharp enough to discern high quality, official-type websites and not subject them to the sandbox?
Wouldn't you think they were good enough to pick and choose rather than use blanket, unflinching policies?
This problem described exists and fits exactly in with how Google is *choosing* to handle things in a blanket way.
If they have this silly sandbox, then clearly they should not offer any benefit to 301s to new domains. That follows. The 301 thing is a branch. The root of the problem of course is the broad, simplistic application of the sandbox.
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