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URL renaming with 301 redirects killed site wide page rank
help please!
jamesklee




msg:3214423
 8:38 am on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I maintain a travel content site.

Since we had over 1000 articles, and it was getting hard to maintain, we recently moved everything into a CMS, which required renaming the URLs from, for example:

www.example.com/brazil/guide_brazil.shtml

to

http://www.example.com/guide/216/brazil-travel-guide-online

I added a 301 redirect in the .htaccess file as follows:
Redirect permanent /brazil/guide_brazil.shtml http://www.example.com/guide/216/brazil-travel-guide-online

... this was implemented 1 week ago, and now our google PR had dropped from 5 to 3!

I feel like 2 years of work building PR is up in smoke... What can I do? Should I re-establish the old files & URLs?

It's too bad, we were finally making enough from affiliates & adsense revenue to grow the site and hire outside help and now I feel it's mostly gone up in smoke... god.

[edited by: engine at 11:48 am (utc) on Jan. 10, 2007]
[edit reason] examplified, See TOS [webmasterworld.com] [/edit]

 

tedster




msg:3214703
 2:42 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

If your work is technically sound, then your old PR is not up in smoke. It just does not transfer through a 301 on an immediate time scale, it can take a few weeks. Google needs some time to process and check out this kind of major site-wide change.

However, there also is, just this week, a general update of PR. If you are seeing your home page PR go down and the url did not change, perhap you lost credit for some important backlinks. Even so, all those URL changes did temporarily disrupt some of the PR circulation within your site and back to the home page, and that much PR should re-appear in the near future.

[edited by: tedster at 3:33 pm (utc) on Jan. 10, 2007]

g1smd




msg:3214749
 3:22 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

>> http://www.example.com/guide/216/brazil-travel-guide-online

What HTTP status code do you get back if you request:

http://www.example.com/guide/216/brazil-travel-guide-online/

instead?

tedster




msg:3214768
 3:34 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

And welcome to the forums, James - thanks for joining us.

vikram lashkari




msg:3214854
 4:21 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

hi james,
We have done similar 301 redirect to one of our client's website 6 months ago and it tooks nearly 2 month to fully gain the PR on all pages.

So donot affraid, keep faith on google they won't let u down

thanks
lashkari

Haecceity




msg:3214950
 5:25 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi Vikram,

Were that site's rankings significantly affected over the time that the PR took to bounce back?

theBear




msg:3215170
 7:52 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

tedster,

Even beating me in removing the domain fails. Those trace bits are like having big blinking neon signs ;-).

jdMorgan




msg:3215186
 8:00 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

> Should I re-establish the old files & URLs?

No. You'll just re-start the clock and then have to wait even longer.

Try to get some of your important link partners to update their links to point to your new your internal-page URLs, but avoid an all-at-once change as occurred with the redirects.

Jim

theBear




msg:3215198
 8:07 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

That may also not be the only reason why your PR dropped.

Although from 5 to 3 is a bit more than I would have expected.

I also agree with jdMorgan about puting the old stuff back at this point, just prolongs the agony.

jamesklee




msg:3217991
 2:02 am on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

yeah it is agonizing...

i have the feeling that google will never restore the old PR of the redirected pages, many of which were 4.

it's like whatever incoming links to my old URLs are no longer counted whatsoever towards my total sites PR hence the heavy hit.

Predictably, traffic is down 50% now.

well thanks for the advice guys. i'll just suck it up and wait and report when (if ever) we get back up to PR5.

tedster




msg:3218016
 2:23 am on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

I suggest you not focus on the PR number -- just on ranking secondarily and, most of all, on traffic. Even ranking reports can be difficult to depend on, because of geo-location, datacenters and so on. So traffic numbers are the telltale. Sorry to hear to hear your traffic fell off so badly. That can happen in situations where many urls are changed at once.

It will take some time for backlink influence to be updated, so that Google flows it through the 301s to the new URLs, but it will happen if you executed properly. It may be a good idea to verify that all is working as you intended -- checking http headers for the old style urls and so on. It is common to see some errors on the first pass. I also suggest you verify that your 404 handling sends a 404 response code.

CainIV




msg:3218019
 2:39 am on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Also, look at what g1smd said in this thread regarding checking the headers on the page with and without an ending slash '/'.

I have had this issue before on one website, and there was actually duplicated content when one version was not redirected properly.

man in poland




msg:3218226
 12:16 pm on Jan 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi James,

I suggest you don't worry too much at this stage. I did something similar to one of my sites about 3 months ago. The front page PR didn't change (as the url didn't change!) but I lost PR on all my internal pages (where the urls DID change). However, that PR has now come back following this latest PR update.

Be more concerned if your ranking has changed - if the switchover was done correctly, you should not have dropped much (if at all) for your target keywords, and your traffic should have stayed at the same level.

I know its a bit heart-stopping to see that green bar disappear, but I certainly would not suggest you go back to your old set-up - I really think THAT would be a bad move. I'm sure when the next PR update comes along, you'll be in good shape again!

jmorty732




msg:3230480
 6:56 pm on Jan 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi All,
I seem to be having the same problem on a site that was redone in Sept 2006. I thought that I would see the old PR diplay with the new PR update, but so far, there is zilch.

Here is the situation:
Site was a solid PR5. With inner pages ranging from PR4-PR2. The old structure followed www.example.com/report1.htm

The new structure is www.example.com/market-reports/report1.asp
(It was switched to an ASP site).

About 600 pages were redirected.

In the httpd.ini file I have

[ISAPI_Rewrite]

RewriteRule /report1.htm http://www.example.com/market-reports/report1.asp [I,O,RP,L]

and so on.....

The PR of the index page for the domain hasn't changed. But the PR for all other pages is still at zero.

I know the traffic numbers will tell of an impact, however, beleive it or not, the previous traffic numbers are not available.

Any advice, is there anything I can check?
(I have spot checked the header codes for some of the pages and they all seem to be correct).

Any help/thoughts/suggestions is greatly appreciated, as my client wants to know where the PR went..... I was sure it was just a toolbar update away, but now I am stumped as to the reason.

Thanks!
Morty

classa




msg:3236400
 9:29 pm on Jan 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

We completely converted our website to a cms that we developed for clients of ours. Once we got it to a point that we liked, we figured, why not use it on our own site?

We knew that we would wind up loosing our internal page PR, and we did. We bit the bullet and held on. We did the conversion on 12-20-2006, and today, we see that all of our internal PR has returned and some has even gone higher.

We did 301 re-directs where appropriate through apache and now see that PR has passed through and we are happy, but only because we just liked seeing the green stuff at the top of the page. We still ranked very well even though we had no internal page pr.

vikram lashkari




msg:3236414
 9:45 pm on Jan 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

hi classa,
Since 20 Dec till u get the PR back ,,have u noticed any SERPs change for ur keywords or any drop in the traffic.

please do let us know

thanks
lashkari

jmorty732




msg:3236460
 10:10 pm on Jan 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi All,
Just a quick update. With the "second" January PR update, the PR has returned. Whew!

RE ....................................
Hi All,
I seem to be having the same problem on a site that was redone in Sept 2006. I thought that I would see the old PR diplay with the new PR update, but so far, there is zilch.

Here is the situation:
Site was a solid PR5. With inner pages ranging from PR4-PR2. The old structure followed www.example.com/report1.htm

The new structure is www.example.com/market-reports/report1.asp
(It was switched to an ASP site).

About 600 pages were redirected.

In the httpd.ini file I have

[ISAPI_Rewrite]

RewriteRule /report1.htm http://www.example.com/market-reports/report1.asp [I,O,RP,L]

and so on.....

The PR of the index page for the domain hasn't changed. But the PR for all other pages is still at zero.

I know the traffic numbers will tell of an impact, however, beleive it or not, the previous traffic numbers are not available.

Any advice, is there anything I can check?
(I have spot checked the header codes for some of the pages and they all seem to be correct).

Any help/thoughts/suggestions is greatly appreciated, as my client wants to know where the PR went..... I was sure it was just a toolbar update away, but now I am stumped as to the reason.

Thanks!
Morty

g1smd




msg:3236466
 10:17 pm on Jan 29, 2007 (gmt 0)

Could you answer the question that I posed on January 10th please?

See above.

Umbertide




msg:3237182
 2:50 pm on Jan 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

i read this with interest. We are a similar business to this (travel) with similar problems and need some help:

we have some 301 redirects set up as well as a "fuzzy" searching facility (i.e. /widgetsojbod would direct to /widgets ) - we suspect this is causing our woes (in and out of the indexes week by week)

My web manager has asked me:
===========================
Can you confirm what the required behaviour of the website should be after fuzzy searching is removed.

Requests for pages like /grommets/ will respond with 404 (because the page does not exist).
Requests for mixed case URLs will respond OK and deliver the content in the lower-cased page. For example, /WidGeTS/ will return the information on the /widgets/ page but will not perform any redirection.
=============================
Our servers are Linux/apache.

in reponse to g1smd's question - "/directory/" returns a 200; "/directory" is 301'd to "directory/"

how should I reply?

thanks in advance.

classa




msg:3237213
 3:13 pm on Jan 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

lashkari,

I actually have seen a slight increase in referrals from Google since the site wide increase in PR.

January 7 - 13 we had
Total unique visitors: 2,588
Total new visitors: 1,403
Total repeat visitors: 1,303
Average unique visitors per day: 591
Average new visitors per day: 200
Average repeat visitors per day: 399
Visitor repeat rate: 50.3%
Average length of visit: 2 minutes, 49 seconds
Average visits per visitor: 2
Google 545 referrals

Jan 21 - 27 shows
Total unique visitors: 3,233
Total new visitors: 1,776
Total repeat visitors: 1,582
Average unique visitors per day: 709
Average new visitors per day: 254
Average repeat visitors per day: 465
Visitor repeat rate: 48.9%
Average length of visit: 2 minutes, 33 seconds
Average visits per visitor: 2
Google 699 referrals

Just this week;
Total unique visitors: 1,428
Total new visitors: 516
Total repeat visitors: 936
Average unique visitors per day: 728
Average new visitors per day: 221
Average repeat visitors per day: 515
Visitor repeat rate: 65.5%
Average length of visit: 2 minutes, 25 seconds
Average visits per visitor: 2
Google 215 referrals

134 of the google referrals happened yesterday when we noticed the increase in PR site wide. We have also seen an increase in the keywords that are being used on Google to find our site. Variations of our 4 biggest referrers are showing up quite a bit now, and a suprising appearance of a 1 word search term that has been frequenting our logs. Even though this is an increase, this doesn't hold a candle to the traffic we have on another site of ours.

Jan 21 - 27
Total unique visitors: 29,282
Total new visitors: 21,773
Total repeat visitors: 10,043
Average unique visitors per day: 6,140
Average new visitors per day: 3,111
Average repeat visitors per day: 3,249
Visitor repeat rate: 34.3%
Average length of visit: 7 minutes, 26 seconds
Average visits per visitor: 3
Google 9389 referrals

g1smd




msg:3241785
 3:48 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Mixed-case URLs need to return a 404 HTTP status code too - otherwise you have a duplicate content problem to unravel.

kevsh




msg:3241890
 6:35 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

While on the topic of 301s, I'll chime in with a scenario particular to my own case but I'm sure that happens to others.

I have a navigation of:

/category/
/category/product/

(The product name is treated/looks like a directory instead of a file, not important to this but just to clarify)

Now if I remove say 20 products in one category is it better to:

- 301 all the product pages to their category URL?
- Simply delete them so Googlebot gets a 404 and (hopefully) them from the index?

And, does it make sense to, in either case, keep links up to the deleted product pages to help ensure Google updates it's index? (I.e. if the links to the pages are removed, it may take longer for Googlebot to revisit them?)

g1smd




msg:3241907
 6:47 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would 404 them, with a custom error page that contains navigation pointing to the index page for that section and any other related sections.

pageoneresults




msg:3241909
 6:49 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

We recently moved everything into a CMS, which required renaming the URLs from, for example: www.example.com/brazil/guide_brazil.shtml
to http://www.example.com/guide/216/brazil-travel-guide-online

First thing I noticed is that you are adding a layer (sub directory level) in the new URI naming structure. You now have to push PR down another level.

You'll have to wait this one out while looking at the architecture of the site to make sure you are pushing that PR to those 3rd level destinations. You went from 2nd level to 3rd level. Depending on how many pages make up the site, that is a big PR redistribution internally.

tedster




msg:3241918
 7:06 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Pageone, my understanding and experience both differ with that opinion. The number of "levels" in the url does not really affect PR, only the number of steps in the linking path - the click depth. The visual appearance of an extra level in the url looks like just a virtual thing in this case - an extra pseudo-directory included to make the rewrite engine's job simpler.

PR calculations do not count slashes, just links.

pageoneresults




msg:3241935
 7:37 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Pageone, my understanding and experience both differ with that opinion. The number of "levels" in the url does not really affect PR, only the number of steps in the linking path - the click depth.

Hmmm, my experience has shown me otherwise. I've moved pages down a level without any change in click path. The PR of that page dropped a point after a PR reiteration. As time passed, another reiteration, it gained the original PR before the move. It didn't really effect the performance of the page. There is a point where both old and new show. Then they disappear for a brief period, then the new one replaces it.

P.S. I try not to watch this stuff too closely. Its like watching paint dry. ;)

tedster




msg:3241943
 7:51 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Yep - the apparently lower PR was just the toolbar's estimate and is not based on a real PR data export. Getting the toolbar number to come back is only a waiting game -- no extra PR pushing, circulating, or linking required.

It didn't really effect the performance of the page.

That's exactly right. The real PR does not suffer, just the toolbar's green pixels.

kevsh




msg:3241948
 7:55 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

>> I would 404 them

Thanks, that sounds right.
I wasn't speaking specifically to my situation (just using as an example), as I am using Rewrites to create the directories on-the-fly which presents another series of challenges.

Without spelling out the whole mess, I'll jump right to the important question:
Is using 301 to redirect to a non-existent page sufficient (i.e. Will Googlebot "listen" to and note the last status code given)? In my case, I 301 the product pages to, e.g. abcdef.html (which returns a 404 message).

Sorry to get side-tracked but I've never seen anything/anyone commenting on whether it's an issue to, in a similar case, return 2 status codes. As they are now 2 unique requests, if Googlebot doesn't attempt to connect to the pseudo-404 page *immediately* then I assume it will update it's index with the new page URL (abcdef.html) at least temporarily. That I would conclude is probably worse than the original problem!

g1smd




msg:3241986
 9:37 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

A redirect to another URL is not the answer.

A "hanging 301" pointing to a 404 error page can be indexed with the redirected URL and the error page content, and multiples of those will be causing you duplicate content stress yet again.

An immediate 404 HTTP status code is what is required.

kevsh




msg:3241999
 10:09 pm on Feb 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>
An immediate 404 HTTP status code is what is required.

I figured as much ... So as a workaround I'm forcing an HTTP 404 response code and creating the custom "not found" message on the php file itself (the file that dynamically creates the product page). It works in practice, I'll see in reality.

Unfortunately, there's no other option based on the way the software is configured to deal with removed products effectively using the standard techniques.

Thanks for the input.

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