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301 site move causing duplication problems?

 9:57 am on May 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

I moved an entire site to a new domain name using a 301 redirect in the htaccess file of the old domain.

Everything redirects fine but after 6 weeks Google is still showing my old site in its index PLUS all of the pages of the new site. If you click on any of the listings in Google SERPS for the old site it 301s to the new site just like it is supposed to.

Obviously, this means that there are two versions of my site in the Google index which is probably why my site now does not rank for any of its terms for the past 2 weeks.

There are no Webmaster Tools to tell Google that a site has moved. Will everything correct itself or will the new site now always be flagged as a "possible offender site" because it is a carbon copy of a site that Google still has in its index even though it shouldn't.

Strangely enough, Google has attributed all the backlinks for the old site to the new site in Webmaster Tools ... but the new site still has not moved to the rankings it previously held. It does not rank at all.



 3:11 pm on May 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

This makes me wonder if it is ever worth moving a site to a new domain. What must the move have ended up costing you? Unless the new domain eventually converts significantly more business will this ever be paid back?

No need to answer those semi rhetorical questions.

I sincerely hope that you come back and would be very interested to hear your take on this is 6 months time, ie after what you have learned and the time that will have elapsed would you ever do it this way again?




 3:41 pm on May 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

We did 3 months worth of research before making the move. We had a www.keyword-keyword.com domain and we changed it to a www.brand.co.uk domain. Seemed like the clickability would go up in the industry we were looking at unlike some other industries where keywords in the domain are better.

It was "supposed" to more than triple clickthroughs based on tests we did. Now, we have zero traffic and have done for weeks.

Will I do it again? I just did this morning ... :(

How hard is it to add a 301 confirmation area to Google Webmaster Tools?


 3:55 pm on May 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Moving to a new domain has long been a challenge for Google rankings. I still recommend setting aside a nice war chest for PPC and other advertising anytime someone needs to "rebrand".

I remember talking about this with Matt Cutts at a convention in 2004, and he acknowledged how difficult things are for businesses who legitimately need to change domains. Back then, moving to a new domain was a guaranteed 6-12 months of depressed rankings. Things are somewhat better today - but still far from good.

We can't know all the trust issues that Google needs to check with 301 redirects, but for many years, this has been a playground for manipulating ranking. Redirecting to a new domain is not as elementart as, say, using a search-and-replace function.

I'm curious, internetheaven - how much of Google's April advice [webmasterworld.com] did you follow when you moved to the new domain?


 8:01 pm on May 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

how much of Google's April advice did you follow when you moved to the new domain?

I do everything on there except moving "just one directory first and then waiting to see if it shows". Seems kind of pointless on a site with only 20-100 pages really ...


 8:14 pm on May 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, six weeks seems pretty long for Google not to drop the old urls, especially if the new ones are already indexed. April did seem to be a heavy-duty month behind the scenes at Google, but that lack of coordination does seem odd.


 11:26 pm on May 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

*** Well, six weeks seems pretty long for Google not to drop the old urls, especially if the new ones are already indexed. ***

The old URLs get dumped to Supplemental and hang around in the SERPs for anything up to a year. After a (assumed internal) PR update, they cease to be an issue as far as the new site goes.

The new site, however, doesn't have the benefit from the old site's backlink profile, nor the domain age and history. It can take a while for some of the old influences to be transferred over.


 5:45 pm on May 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, six weeks seems pretty long for Google not to drop the old urls, especially if the new ones are already indexed.

Down to just one page of the old site still returning on a site:example.com search.

But the new site still has not moved up to the position the old site was in. Surely it is not possible for Google to slap me with a duplication filter that needs to be lifted manually when it is them that has created the duplication problem by being lousy with 301 change indexing?


 8:16 pm on May 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

They are not slapping you for Duplicate Content. The 301 redirect already says the old site has gone.

They are slapping you for the new domain having less age, less trust, etc.


 8:23 pm on May 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

They are slapping you for the new domain having less age, less trust, etc.

Webmaster Tools has been showing the backlinks and info as being attached to the new site for a couple of weeks now. Purchase-wise, the old domain is 3 years old, the new one is 2 and it had other similar content on it for the past year.

Duplicate content would be the only thing that would cause a complete drop from rankings as far as I can tell. The new site was already ranking much higher than this itself before the move.


 2:01 pm on May 19, 2008 (gmt 0)


We have a site that used to be in a subfolder of another, unrelated site. But this unrelated site was loved by Google and we had thousands of terms that ranked #1 or #2.

But Google caught on after a number of years and actually penalized this 1 folder, and all our rankings dropped to about page 6 in the SERPs. The rest of the site still ranked very well, the penalty was definitely on just the one folder.

So we 301 redirected the entire site (about 7000 pages) about 5 months ago to a domain that I had owned for years.

Now this new site ranks as well as the old one for a handful of terms only. Some of these great rankings are for extremely competitive terms that have millions of results, yet we rank #1.

But this is only the case for 5% of the terms, the rest seem to be cached by google but don't rank at all, not even in the first 100-200 results.

So, I think that you ought to give it some more time. If your site ends up like mine is now, then you can at least expect some of the new pages ranking as well as the old.


In our case, the new domain we 301'd it to was actually older than the original domain. The trust is as good as the original domain, but in theory, 301-ing a page that has PR to a new domain ought to pass on most of that PR and therefore it should rank almost as well, that's why 3012 is recommended.

Does anyone have any odea why this could be happening to us?


 2:18 pm on May 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'd expect a change like this to take upwards of 60-90-120 days to propogate. This does not happen overnight. There are numerous factors that will determine the speed at which the updates occur. I believe some of them to be PageRankô, Indexing Frequency (usually determined by PageRankô), Site Architecture, etc.

If this were a 301 within same domain, the time factors would be less. But, you've got a 301 to a new domain so things are going to be a bit more involved. And I'll assume that you are very familiar with the history of the new domain and it does not have a cloud hanging over it?

There would be no duplicate content penalty or whatever in this instance. What you saw during the recalculation is normal. It takes a while for the process to fully propogate. Its like changing DNS but without the 6-12-24-48 hour lead times. :(


 5:02 am on May 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm having a similar issue with a client site, except that it's made even worse by the fact that the old site, which was a *static* site with over 2500 pages, had three separate domains pointing to it, representing three separate product lines, for the past eight years or so. Everything was in the same shopping cart, and all three domains were allowed to be indexed, so that you never knew which products would appear under which domain. Now the client has split the site into three separate sites, one for each domain, *plus* gone to a cold fusion database, which of course changed all the urls. I told 'em they'd be lucky if they recovered in six months; we flipped the switch on March 21. Actually, we're doing better than I expected, but there's still all kinds of messes - like the home page doesn't come up for the domain name, and some of the wrong products are still coming up under each domain name. Everything is 301'd to the hilt, but it's still a nasty mess.


 6:40 pm on May 20, 2008 (gmt 0)

For "wrong" URLs in the SERPs, does the visitor get delivered to the right content, or does the click fail?


 8:31 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

For "wrong" URLs in the SERPs, does the visitor get delivered to the right content, or does the click fail?

The URL corresponds to the right page on the new site using a 301. We didn't even change the file names.


 12:48 am on May 24, 2008 (gmt 0)

You did good then.

Google will easily work out what is going on. It might take a few weeks to months, but not changing the page URLs is a key element.

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