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301 redirect catchup or penalty

changed the name of a page, used 301 - rankings plummet



12:14 am on Aug 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hello all,

Around 2 weeks ago I change the name of a page on our site from file.htm to new-name.htm. The page stayed on the same site in the same folder. I used a 301 redirect and the correct syntax.

This was a very popular page on our site. Up until yesterday morning, Google displayed the old URL in the SERPs. I was watching our stats and noticed them plummet in the afternoon. I checked Google and the newly named URL was now displaying - but at 30 - 40 places down in the SERP's on around a dozen of our usually high ranking criteria. These ranks hadn't moved 24 hours previously.

What I would like to ask is, under the circumstances where *no* other changes where made to the page apart from the name and extension, and all internal links were updated at the time of the change - whether it should be panic time for me, or given the situation perhaps Google is in "catch-up" mode in relation to this page? - after all, it is only 24 hours since the new file name started displaying.

I approached all the major sites that were linking to us and asked them to change to the new URL; and most of them did over the last two weeks.

I would appreciate any advice or thoughts.


1:51 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

agh.. after the last "freshie" update in the last couple of hours we've virtually disappeared on most of our previously successful keyphrases. I still can't find any rhyme or reason to this; any views would be greatly appreciated.

The rest of the site isn't affected, still have good rankings on our chosen keyphrases - just this one page that was renamed and a 301 redirect put in place to point from the old to the new. I noticed in this "freshie" batch of results that the new page didn't have the fresh tag and the cached copy was around a week old.


2:15 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

How long has the site been live? How long has it been rooted in the Google index?


2:17 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

In my recent experience, Google will drop a page for a little while (1-3 weeks) when you redirect with a 301, but it comes back with all the vigor of the origional page. I've seen this with several pages. Relax, it may be another week or two.

(of course if a week or two stresses you out you can revert the page and probably be back in the index in couple days)


2:43 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

My opionion only, but I think it's better to just update your internal links, leave the original page in place, and only delete or redirect it once it's dropped out of the index or your new one is in there OK.


2:45 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Thanks for your responses. The page in question is around 2 years old, the site itself nearly 3. I'm somewhat regretting the decision to rename the file at this point in time, but I'll probably hang in there as per your advice and hope for the best. I'm concerned that if I return the page to it's previous name, I may just extend this period as the old filename has now totally disappeared from Google - which was the intention - definitely wasn't trying to play any tricks on G.

It's good to see that someone else has recently experienced this and I thank you both for taking the time to respond.

I've implemented these 301 redirects before, but that was some months ago and I didn't have a problem - old page dropped, new page in - at it's previous spot in the SERPs (PR didn't update straight away, but I wasn't expecting that; nor in this instance), so this rattled me a little.

Next time I'll learn to name my files correctly from the outset..


3:11 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi Morgan,

Thanks for your input; I was considering doing this but I was concerned about being hammered for dupe content. I gather you haven't had problems before in using the method you suggested (just for future reference)?


3:40 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

icarus, I'm sure you've done this but, just to be on the safe side, make sure you are returning the proper 301 information in the Server Header [webmasterworld.com].


3:56 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi pageoneresults,

Thanks for the tip; I hadn't done that. The only test I ran was to type in the old URL into my browser and then saw that it redirected no probs; so I assumed all was well.

This is what I get back on the WebmasterWorld script when I put in the old url e.g. [mysite.com...]

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2003 03:48:44 GMT
Server: Apache/1.3.27 (Unix) mod_gzip/ mod_ssl/2.8.12 (etc)
Location: [mysite.com...]
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

everything looks ok - thanks though for pointing this out, this will be very useful in the future.


4:04 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

That is the neatest little webmaster tool and I've been using it for quite some time. All those tools that Brett has back there are very useful on a daily basis. I'm always checking 200, 301 and 404 status. I've found many problems with sites returning incorrect status codes.


4:10 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

icarus: If it ain't broken... You say that file.htm was doing fine in the serps so I would never touch a file name in that case. If you wanted a new page like new-name.htm, you could have written new content + some part of file.htm and wait to see if it would climb in the serps.

One question: what was the reason for changing the name in the first place? With these days yo-yo results on Google, I would not trust them to give new-name.htm the same stable high ranking anytime soon. I think I would put back the old page asap! Maybe you wanted to fly to high in the results with a keyword-name.htm icarus? :)


4:45 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi Mundonet,

I did this for a variety of reasons, but in this instance SEO wasn't the primary one although it was naturally taken into consideration when selecting a new name. I didn't go for this-is-a-new-file-name.htm - just a single hyphen.

But your point is taken about "if it ain't broke".

This file name had been annoying me for nearly 2 years - Sigmund Freud had a term for people like me: "....-rententive" ;). Also, people linking to the page were often getting the url incorrect for some reason.

I just believed that based on my past experience, that the 301 redirect would be a smooth transition. If the name change helped boost our rankings, great; if not, it wasn't going to really worry me either - just wanted more uniformity throughout the site. I wasn't expecting what has occurred and I've learned from it.

I'll see how all this pans out and update this thread in case anyone else is interested in the results/timeframes.


5:02 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Give it some time icarus. Try not to get caught up in the daily or even hourly watching of the Google index. ;)


7:36 am on Aug 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Definitely not, in fact, you can get a little boost for a while sometimes if your fresh content gets pushed up high and your original page is still there. I've never had any problems, or at least I've never noticed.


10:34 pm on Aug 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Hi pageoneresults,

Thanks for the words of wisdom, it's hard not to tho ;). Morgan, thanks for the info.

Just an update on this issue for anyone who's interested.

I've decided to hang tight on this one and just leaving the page as it is now.

About 24 hours ago PR was assigned, PR4 (one point down over previous named page). The rest of the site remains unaffected. Page is still buried deep in the SERP's, so deep it's not worthwhile reporting a value.

There's been no fresh tag wheras other pages on the site do have. The cached copy is a few weeks old. This page was very regularly "freshed" under the old filename.

If I do a link:www.mysite.com/folder/new-file.htm, I see backlinks beginning to appear, instead of a zero number as it was a few days ago. Many are missing at this stage.

I've been checking my logs and I haven't seen googlebot requesting the new file name for some days; still calling for the old one. The Googlebot is still very active on the site today as per usual.


I've checked various other engines - AV, FAST, Pure Ink search. They are all showing updated results from the last couple of days and this page's ranking has held firm - even though they are still showing the old page name.


3:13 am on Sep 5, 2003 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Final update for those still interested: All SERP rankings restored to what they were prior to re-naming the page. So, from the time of the 301 redirect being introduced to Google showing the new file name, all backlinks and previous rankings restored was approx. 24 days.

Only the last 8 days were particularly worrying (after the old file name dropped and the new file name showed up buried in the SERPs).

A big thanks to everyone who provided feedback.


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