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Google Panda Purge and Merge - Do 301 Redirects Work?

 7:08 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

A highly discussed "fix" for a perceived Panda slap has been the purge and merge approach, where a webmaster selectively purges low value content and/or merges low value pages together.

With regards to the merge half of that equation, is a 301 permanent redirect and content move from one low value page to a better location not essentially saying "Yo, Panda, this crappy content of doom is being moved onto that page or pure awesomeness"? That in turn might be interpreted as "hmm, the crap is on the move, step on it again" resulting in a lower value to the receiving page?

- fewer low value pages = good
- fewer low value pages via 301's from them to better pages = ?

All kidding aside, should I worry about redirecting low value content onto pages that were not affected by Panda? e.g. should purge and merge become purge and purge some more? I don't have enough data to have a definitive answer on my sites just yet.


Marketing Guy

 9:24 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I 301'd my removed low quality content to either homepage or closest other piece of content and recovered fine (everything but rankings for content that was removed). Overall traffic is slightly higher than it was pre-Panda.

A couple of low content articles I merged the content into a single article and that's ranking fine now too.


 9:37 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Why not delete without 301? Why not just delete and make sure you have a good 404 not-found page.
Could be that your WMT error report will scream not-found for those deleted but who cares.


 10:01 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Pretty sure loads of 404 not found will effect quality score.

Marketing Guy

 10:23 am on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

If they have IBLs, why 404 over 301? IMO if there's any chance of visitors hitting the old page then a redirect to HP / parent page / similar page would be a better user experience than returning a 404.


 2:51 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I heard somewhere that 301 keeps the old one alive in the SE index while simply deleting kill it forever (after a while).
I may be wrong. I don't make 301.


 3:18 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I heard somewhere that 301 keeps the old one alive in the SE index

I don't know about Panda-specific issues -- I've just merged a lot of content via 301s but it's too soon to tell what the results are yet -- but I disagree with that in general.

I've moved lots of content using 301s before. Eventually Google catches up and indexes the new URL, and the old URL is removed from the index. That may take a while, maybe longer than it would if you return 404, but eventually the new URL structure is what will be indexed.


 4:54 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

My simple logic tells me that a dead URL is a dead one and not 'something' to forward otherwise you get a low score.
The Internet must be flexible - pages are added, removed etc.
Should one thinks about SE ranking or SE quality score for any move that is taken?
I still believe that 'I am the master of my domain' :-)


 5:12 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Back when Panda first rolled out I was asking myself these same types of questions. Panda is all about quality of content, and I have some good content on a penalized domain. What is I took the good content and left the bad. Will the 301 redirect transfer what good juice I have and eliminate the bad? The simple answer: YES. Back before the holidays I took some decent content from a pandalized website and moved it to high quality site (that didn't have that many pages). By creating new pages and placing the content on a better site these page started to rank. And rank very well in a pretty competitive niche. The pages on the old domain that had pretty bad content (Or over optimized content) were left behind. Those specific pages were 301 to less important pages on the new website (like the site map, about us, contact us). The panda penalty applied to my old domain was lifted and the good content that I moved over brought those pages higher up in the SERPs. I thought it also helped that I redirected other dead pages from the old website that still appear in the index.


 11:45 pm on Mar 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Marketing Guy were you receiving traffic to those pages before (the ones you removed) you were Panda bitten? Also, how long did it take for you to see recovery?


 12:57 am on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Great discussion.

I'm also curious if too many 301s can cause problems... Say 100K+ of them? :)

Also could canonical possibly be used instead of or in addition to 301s for merging content?


 9:05 am on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Why not delete without 301? Why not just delete and make sure you have a good 404 not-found page.
Could be that your WMT error report will scream not-found for those deleted but who cares.


Marketing Guy

 9:27 am on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Marketing Guy were you receiving traffic to those pages before (the ones you removed) you were Panda bitten? Also, how long did it take for you to see recovery?

There were different types of content;

1. Panda hit articles. Yes they were bringing in traffic previously. Some had IBLs, some didn't.

2. Discussion forum (bulk of the URLs - 40k or so). The forum sub directory wasn't Panda hit when the rest of the site was. Lots of threads ranked well and brought in traffic continously.

There was an overall net gain in traffic to the article content (10% was removed, so lost rankings there, but overall gain due to improved rankings via site redesign and possibly 301s). The removal of the forum saw some traffic loss to those pages, but they only ever contributed 20% of the total traffic to the site.

Overall the site traffic is 5-10% down compared to this time last year. Organic referrals only 2-6% down.

If you look at pageviews, excluding the forum, compared to same time period last year they are about the same (although the comparison starts to fail due to increase social media activity this year and various other factors changing).

Implemented fix early January - recovery on Sunday 26th Feb. Site still has 3k pages indexed (realistic figure should be 1/3 of that) - Google has indexed & dropped around 40k URLs (all 301) in that time.


 12:27 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Here is official Google webmaster world post about:
"Do 404s hurt my site?"

some quotes:
404s are a perfectly normal part of the web...
If some URLs on your site 404, this fact alone does not hurt you or count against you in Googleís search results. etc etc


 1:52 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Matt Cutts has said several times that Google prefers to receive a 301 redirect in every case of a address for content (and 410 Gone if it's completely removed).

However, my experience with clients who did redesigns has been better when we only cherry pick the important URLs for 301 treatment. In this case "important" means strong backlinks and common direct entry pages. The rest we let be 410 and Google seemed to crunch up new rankings a lot faster that way.

However, you are also dealing with Panda so my past experiences are not exactly parallel.


 2:14 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Tedster please refer to this. I found this quote in the post "Do 404s hurt my site?" (the post is quite freshy May2011):

If youíre getting rid of that content entirely and donít have anything on your site that would fill the same user need, then the old URL should return a 404 or 410. Currently Google treats 410s (Gone) the same as 404s (Not found), so itís immaterial to us whether you return one or the other.

So according to Google 410 or 404 both are OK.


 2:23 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

They're both ok, but the 410's tend to drop out of the index faster. I've got 404's that have been around for years.


 2:32 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Related to the 410 vs 404 debate.. if I have an ecommerce site where products go away and may never come back does it make sense to return a 410 but still serve the product info just in case someone bookmarked it? I am currently just setting meta robots to noindex. Would a 410 be better?


 2:36 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

For ecommerce, if the product is really and truly never coming back, my first choice would be to 301 it to something similar or a replacement, but if there's no replacement, I guess it would depend on how much traffic that page gets. If it doesn't get much traffic on its own, I'd probably 410 it. If it *has* gotten a lot of traffic, then I might want to NOINDEX it, so that my visitors at least have a chance to see that I'm no longer carrying it (via bookmarks or my site search). I don't think I'd use a one-size-fits-all strategy here.


 3:00 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes, Google did upgrade their handling of 410 Gone responses, and that happened after May 2011. Now they will stop requesting a 410 a lot sooner than a 404. It was officially mentioned by a couple of Google reps at the time.


 3:13 pm on Mar 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks netmeg for the great reply! That definitely clears things up.


 6:00 am on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)


Now they will stop requesting a 410 a lot sooner than a 404.

According to a recent tweet from Matt Cutts [twitter.com], they are treating 404/410 eaqually at the moment.

currently 404 and 410 get the same treatment. But folks are looking into whether we should treat differently.


 1:04 pm on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Interesting. JohnMu definitely said there was a change a few months ago, and members here have reported seeing requests that get a 410 response drop off faster.


 4:38 pm on Mar 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

Would be nice to think g### reflected the human user's experience.

404 = you fumble-fingered illiterate, there ain't no such page
410 = sorry, it used to exist but I yanked it

I guess this does kinda fly out the window if you use the same ErrorDocument for both. Oops.


 8:09 am on Apr 4, 2012 (gmt 0)

A+ for use of 404 profanity Lucy.

I've just spent some time trying to find that JohnMu post in which he said 410 was handled differently. I couldn't find it(which doesn't mean it doesn't exist) and I couldn't find any other Google employee saying that either.

Another aspect of this 301 vs 404 vs 410 that I'm curious about is what happens if I 404 a lot of pages but some months down the road decide to re-use the same url(or do so accidentally) should I expect any ranking problems due to old history?

Google never forgets a url but I might, ya know?


 2:49 pm on Jun 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

3 months have gone by and I'm still not getting definitive recovery signals regarding 301. Does anyone have anything more to ad on this Panda recovery topic?

- existing well ranked in depth articles: remain unchanged
- Panda downgraded "low quality" pages: redirected via 301 to the well ranked pages

Is this the best way to handle Panda affected pages or would it be better to simply delete them since Panda has passed judgment? I don't want to risk carrying the penalty onto unaffected pages, does that happen?


 1:21 am on Jun 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Sgt_Kickaxe ditto. 301'd about 1000 pages to higher quality pages along a similar subject line. A further 1000 pages were removed (404).

No change.


 3:00 am on Jun 19, 2012 (gmt 0)

@synthese I did the same as you and haven't seen any changes. My purge began in February. Actually, things have gotten a lot worse since then.


 12:16 am on Jun 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

Have done a lot of purging and merging and no change for me either.


 5:09 pm on Jun 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Those people 'purging and merging' and not having any success - how are you deciding what to purge?

What if you're not purging the right pages? You could be removing the good stuff.

Just curious what method people are using to decide what the bad content is.

This 40 message thread spans 2 pages: 40 ( [1] 2 > >
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