|Re-branded to Another Domain - How to handle old unhealthy backlinks|
A couple of years ago, our company rebranded. We now have two sites. The old domain (our old brand) consists of content related to our current brand, but this old site also has a large unhealthy backlink history. This history received a flag in Google's webmaster tools for those unnatural links.
If I 301 redirect all related content from the old domain (old brand) to our current domain (current brand), will the new backlink profile be associated with those unnatural backlinks and hurt my current domain's backlink profile and organic traffic?
For branding, it is important that we do this, but for lead generation, the old domain is performing in traffic equivalent to our current domain.
Anyone have any advice?
I am a bit confused. If old site is radioactive with "large unhealthy backlink history", why would you want to associate your new clean site with that radioactive history?
|I am a bit confused. If old site is radioactive with "large unhealthy backlink history", why would you want to associate your new clean site with that radioactive history? |
The old brand established our market online over 10 years ago. We have customers that refer to thisdomain as our product catalog (even though our new domain (brand) has the catalog. For branding and our customers, it makes sense to close the domain out and 301 redirect it over to our current brand domain.
In essence, business-wise this is what we should do.
So you'd in essence like to redirect only to preserve historical traffic and get visitors to the newly branded domain. I assume that to accomplish this, you'll have to go through the disavow process on the unhealthy domain before 301ing.
If you did a 301 under present circumstances, the tainted backlink profile would follow the 301s. There's currently no such thing as a "nofollow" 301 or equivalent... and, since it's likely that your old index page is tainted too, you couldn't selectively 301 untainted pages.
I suggest that you get as many links physically removed as possible, then disavow other likely offenders. As your goal is not to retain link juice to the old domain, but just to get the domain clean and to retain good traffic, I'd prune all links that are unlikely traffic sources and disavow more than necessary,
Once the disavow request is accepted, I assume that you could safely 301 the old domain. I would not do it before.
This approach is conjecture, as I haven't yet heard of anyone doing it... but I'm seeing other sites floundering in similar situations, and it's the only approach so far that makes sense to me.
I have tried the disavow process, however, there are too many URLs to dig through in a reasonable amount of time. Reaching out to webmasters to remove links is practically non-existent for the sample I attempted. When we are talking over 50,000+ backlinks in Google, it's also very difficult to label which ones you think are bad links. Google doesn't tell you which links are bad, so therefore, making assumptions leaves room for error.
I then have to ask myself, "is it even worth gambling with our clean domain?".
For a resolution, I did receive a recommendation of noindexing the entire site and adding links to related content with rel='nofollow'. Basically, a message tells the customer we have re-branded allowing them the option to go to the corresponding page. Since we can't force the 301s, this seems to make the most sense.
The most important driver is to ensure customers are aware the domain is not the catalog, we are now a new brand and the SEO integrity of the new domain is not put at risk.
A messy alternative would be to use a very long chain of 301 & 302 redirects. Google tends to have issues following long redirect chains but I wouldn't suggest it.
Just tossing ideas out there.
Yes, the bad links will follow you if you simply redirect the entire site. Don't do it, unless you want the new domain to have a similar fate. You have a few options.
1. Did you have any interior pages that earned quality natural links but don't have a lot of spam links pointing at them? If so, 301 those pages to the equivalent on the new site.
2. Don't redirect the homepage (assuming it was the target of your bad links), but put a link on there to your new domain, notifying your visitors that you've moved. This *might* satisfy the branding concerns, and will at least send you some referral traffic.
Basically, you want to preserve any natural value being passed to interior pages, without passing on the negative things that have been done to other pages. So a wide sweeping 301 redirect will likely hurt you. You have to be a surgeon on this one.
I believe I've seen on Google's Webmaster Tools Help somewhere they were explaining a similar situation (have people follow but not the PR/penalties/etc.) : old page - > 302 -> NEW page on OLD domain that's no-indexed or disallowed in robots.txt (and I vaguely remember they preferred robots.txt for some reason) -> 302 or 301 -> New page on NEW domain. You may want to try that on a few pages and watch what happens.
In my post above, I twisted one of my main points around like a pretzel....
|...since it's likely that your old index page is tainted too, you couldn't selectively 301 untainted pages. |
I meant to say that in this situation you can't simply redirect the entire domain with a 301... you'd need to select untainted pages. Sand said it right.
Following up on other questions...
|When we are talking over 50,000+ backlinks in Google, it's also very difficult to label which ones you think are bad links. Google doesn't tell you which links are bad, so therefore, making assumptions leaves room for error. |
This is why I suggested disavowing many more than necessary. You're not worried about preserving link juice, and you could disavow entire domains, which might cut into the 50,000 very quickly.
If you are going to do any redirects from the old site at all, it's likely that the links which send the old site good traffic (if there are any) would turn out to be good links, and those are the links you should consider redirecting rather than disavowing... but redirect them only after the disavow request is accepted. You're right... don't consider redirecting pages on a partially penalized domain... not when the penalty is for spammy backlinks.
It's worth noting, btw, that in mid-November this thread discussed that disavowing 100% of the inbound links to a site apparently isn't an acceptable approach....
My Google Disavow Story
I'd stay away from using these here. Either might be seen as the kind of "sneaky redirect" that Google warns against in its quality guidelines.
|For a resolution, I did receive a recommendation of noindexing the entire site and adding links to related content with rel='nofollow'. Basically, a message tells the customer we have re-branded allowing them the option to go to the corresponding page. Since we can't force the 301s, this seems to make the most sense. |
The idea hit me as well, that it might not be bad to have visitors pause at the old site to get the news of rebranding. Though the approach does comply with the "letter of the law", and there are no sneaky redirects, something about the approach gives me pause. In my gut, I feel that Google wants best efforts made to clean up the old links first, and somehow that's going to override everything else. This is just a gut feeling... no strict logic to it. I'm curious whether anyone has successfully done it this way.
There's very clear logic behind it: to be able to disavow a link, Google needs to keep at least one or two records in databases: one about the original link and another about it's status. I am assuming they are separate because they are created separately and seem to be parts of separate retrieval system but perhaps they are combined - still they need *some* storage space for the link. Multiply that by the number of datacenters and separate index storages and add whatever other info they chose to store for the link and you get a respectable amount of storage space and therefore power, physical space etc. that Google needs to spend on "remembering" a link that's certifiably bad - even the webmaster on the receiving end of PR said so. Then multiply that by the unimaginable gazillions of such links they already store in their system.
|In my gut, I feel that Google wants best efforts made to clean up the old links first, and somehow that's going to override everything else. This is just a gut feeling... no strict logic to it. |
It costs them absolutely *nothing* to demand that you remove the link and expend *your* time, effort and sometimes money doing it and it costs them *something* to keep the link in the system - as a publicly traded US corporation they are bound by law to demand the former.