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Does Google Have Problems With 301 Redirects?

8:26 am on Apr 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Here's one of those tales of woe and suffering-- we changed the domain name on a well established 6 year old site with high SERP and PR ranking using a 301 and got sandboxed. For 1.5 months so far. Google email support sent a few canned messages, then said "go away, we can't or won't help you, everything is fine as far as we're concerned".

Our site has been around since 1999. We review pdas, smartphones, notebooks and related accessories. PDAs are the main thing, and all content is original, in-depth. Google has always been our friend and indexed us in the SERPs very well. PR has been between 6 and 7 for the last 12 months. Seach for 100 keyword phrases and we're on the first page of results. Search for some of these and we appear somewhere between 1st and 4th on the SERP for Google, Yahoo, Teoma and others. It was pretty hard to avoid us in the SERPs for most anything we have reviews of or discssion on! The same is still true on Yahoo and Teoma.

So we change our domain name from old name (visit the URL in my profile and you'll see the old domain name listed under our logo on top left of the page-- I think URL posting is not allowed in posts here, yes?) to the new name 1.5 months ago. We use a 301 in our .htaccess to redirect users and spiders to use the new URL. All pages, directories and related structures remained the same, so all old pages still exist under the new domain name. We didn't change anything about our html pages (650 static html pages of reviews) except the logo and the page title/meta desc now use the new domain name rather than the old. We do not have mirrors, evil 302 hackers attacking us and don't ever use link exchange services or keyword spamming. We just do honest, hard work and try to provide strong original content.

Within 48 hours of the 301, Google dropped all our old pages from the SERPs but did not replace them with the listing using the new domain name. Traffic dropped by %75 as did revenue, and I'm facing the hard decision to lay off staff members if things don't return to something closer to normal.

The 301 checks out fine using online tools. Our pages are in the Google index but if they do appear, they are well below the first 100 results. One exception is a review that was slashdotted two weeks ago which does appear on the first page (but another recently slashdotted review does not!). Our toolbar ranking is still at 6 for some but not all of Google's datacenters (some show 0). About 5 sub-pages of the site regained their PR, but not the other 645remaining pages. Bloody weird. That's how it's been for 1.5 months.

Yahoo and Teoma simply updated our URL, following the 301 and we are still ranked very highly (first page for many, many terms). We have moved up in the SERPs for only one search term: "pda review". Suspicously, that was the term I used as a poster child when emailing Google help last week and only that one returned above the 100th listing since then. We appear for no other terms in anything better than the 10th page.

Googlebot still visits us frequently and indexes at least 1k pages/week. That's down from the several gigs of data they hit us up for each week, but still they're visiting and caching pages. Google shows 732 backlinks and 17,300 pages indexed on most of their datacenters for the new domain. Interestingly, they're still upping the number of backlinks and indexed pages for the old domain.

So, do you all think that 301's are penalized, demoted or otherwise hated by Google? Is our only hope to give up on our new name and return to the old domain name, or otherwise lay off folks? A friend of mine who runs a site in the PDA space also did a 301 and changed his domain name about 9 months ago, and he said they pretty much disappeared from Google's SERPs for 7 months (yikes!) and never fully recovered.



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