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The 301 Club

301 permanent redirect's & Google

     
9:08 pm on Sep 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



With so much conjecture about 301 redirects I thought it would be nice to discuss experiences others have had and to also explore possible consequences when using a 301 redirect. Letís try to explore alternative redirects and what might help one make a smooth transition if there is such a thing. I realize that this topic has been discussed already in some detail throughout these forums but maybe this thread can serve as a clearing house of the various ideas, theories and myths related to 301 redirects. Iím not speaking of the www vs. non-www redirects but, rather a whole domain redirect for the purposes of rebranding, avoiding copyright issues or any other practical reasons for changing a domain name.

Here is my experience with a recent 301 redirect:

--Popular travel niche website approx 4 years old.
--Actively covering all topics related to my niche but we also sell entire vacationsÖ think of this site as being a vortal covering everything and anything dealing with this niche including up-to-date news, weather, unique articles, forums, interactive tools for planning a vacation and a bunch more all of which are free.
--Very little link trading with the bulk of links coming in naturally
--Very little outbound linking
--Clean HTML (for the most part)
--Some JavaScript but nothing black hat or meant for SEO
--Listed in DMOZ, Yahoo Directory, Zeal and Google Directory
--Was a PR 4 with about 50 inbound links
--Index count was 6,080
--Was in the top 10 results pretty solid even through Bourbon and other various updates

The 301 bomb (website suicide), applied a domain wide 301 redirect via IIS to a domain that is 18 months old. E.G. olddomain.com/widgets --> newdomain.com/widgets
I have seen some people post ďwhy would you do this?Ē Ö this isnít a valid question in my opinion because there are lots of very good reasons to do so.

--301 was put in place roughly 80 days ago
--After approx 5 days the site was nowhere to be found in the SERPís
--Sent a request to help@ and was told the site was not banned or penalized
--Started the long waiting process
--Quasay non existent update Gilligan started
--Old domain was stripped of PR across all DCís
--New domain still has no PR on any DCís
--BLís update to 138 on most DCís
--Google Directory updated showing the new domain as a PR 6 and at the top of my niche
--site:oldsite.com would reveal the new domain
--index count is fluxing between 10,300 and 10,900
--PR begins to return to the old domain!
--alas, no where in the SERPís even after going 50 pages deep.

Sounds like classic sandbox in my opinion but I think a better name would be ďGilliganís IslandĒ because most of us in 301 club feel stranded on a deserted island with no hope of rescue but occasionally there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

I also want to point out that until you have been through an experience like this itís not helping anyone to call people in this situation whiners, or something inflammatory because we are simply trying to figure out how to make a some what smooth transition and to avoid the sandbox.

Well, if you are still reading you are probably in this position now but if you are thinking about doing a 301 redirect, do so understanding that you will loss rank for at least several weeks.

Here some alternatives that have been discussed

1)Meta refresh to new domain Ė bad, could get a dupe content filter
2)JavaScript redirect Ė bad, looks too black hat or spammy
3)302 redirect Ė is not permanent and is also very spammy looking
4)404 all old pages Ė donít know how this would work
5)Build a new site which simply wasnít an option for me because I have a lot of unique content that would take weeks to regenerate without having any duplication

Another way to look at this was put best by jd01

It appears...
New Domain with 301 from old site = New Site
New Domain with no redirect from old site = New Site
New Domain with meta refresh from old site = New Site
New Domain and old domain with old content = New Site & Dup Content
IOW New Domain = New Site
Don't change if you don't have to - the, for lack of a better term, sandbox is in play.
Justin

I have searched high and wide looking for success stories and only found a few where as horror stories are the norm.

Being that GoogleGuy is the closest thing we have to a direct contact (for most of us anyway) I would greatly appreciate his feedback.

3:58 pm on Sep 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Yes, 3 year old site that has only had the redirect for 6 months has pages that are not wanted still coming and going in the index - but the pages that are wanted are now FULLY indexed since the redirect was applied.

Year old site that had the redirect since the beginning is perfectly indexed under only one domain, and the seven redirected variants do not show in the index at all.

5:07 pm on Sep 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Has anyone written Google directly to explain the situation their site is in regarding the 301 redirect issue they believe is affecting their site? If so, please let us know what kind of response you received and if it helped the situation any.
5:30 pm on Sep 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I received an automated response directing me to review the webmaster's guidelines - which of course sugges that you should use a 301 redirect when you move a site.

Reinclusion requests are no help since Google denies that there is a problem. I'm in the index so technically there's nothing to re-include. I'm just not in the SERPs - which would suggest my site is in the (non-existant) sandbox.

Matt Cutts did a post this week on re-inclusion requests. I posted a comment asking about 301's. His response was that there shouldn't be a problem.

Obviously there is a problem. Yahoo gets this right - how come Google can't?

5:55 pm on Sep 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



PlanetTokyo, how did you contact Google regarding that? Was it through a form submission at "Google Help" center, a direct email to 'webmaster' or some other way?
6:09 pm on Sep 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I have contacted Google 3 times at help@google.com, same canned response as PlanetTokyo... don't waste your time. I also posted in Matt Cutts blog comments. Even invited him to look at this thread.
8:50 pm on Sep 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



since Google denies that there is a problem
I missed their denial. Can you tell me where I can read about it? AFAIK, they have neither acknowledged or denied a problem.

I'm confident these remaining 301 issues will be resolved in the next update. When Google did monthly updates, obviously they could and did resolve issues more quickly. IMHO, it's unrealistic to expect them to rearrange their update schedule for a few disgruntled or impatient webmasters with a few 301 problems.

In #22 at [webmasterworld.com...] Tedster posted:

I doubt that we're seeing an intentional penalty - more like a tangled up snafu. Clearly something about Google's basic approach, something really rooted in there pretty deep, has made it very challenging for them to deal with 301 and 302 redirects. For a long time they ignored the problem. Now they are doing this and that, but it keeps tripping problems.
That's my sense too, and I'm certain GoogleGuy read that thread. Patience! :-)
10:07 pm on Sep 20, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Patience!

Sorry, my patients wore out after 3 months.

I'm hopeful the next update will fix my 301 problem but I see no evidence anywhere this will be the case... 301 = Sandbox, it's matter of opinion if this is a feature or bug.

12:26 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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



I have a new domain sandboxed now for one year and five days. Why do people think they are special because they 301ed to a new domain?
12:56 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



My experiences identical to PlanetTokyo.

Steveb, because your site is a new site, in new domain. We are talking about old sites moving domains, via the google recommended means.

1:51 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Someone asked about making and redirecting to new subdomains.

I moved a folder out of my main site, and made a new subdomain, (to make it easier for me to manage the site.) I 301'ed the old folder location, to the new subdomain, and had no problems.

It was just a matter of weeks before G picked up on the new subdomain and the new (old) pages. I even renamed the pages. (gasp!) I changed all the old linking on the main site to the new subdomain. Checked it with Xneu This was last June and I am still being found 33% of the time from G. MSN is the major traffic.

PR passed from the main site to the new subdomain, but only to the old pages I moved (even with the new names.) More new pages I added in the middle of July, still have a white bar, (but they are still being found by Google.)

4:11 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



<blockquote>
I missed their denial. Can you tell me where I can read about it? AFAIK, they have neither acknowledged or denied a problem.
</blockquote>

As Mike stated earlier, 301 from an old to a new domain = Sandbox. Google has denied that there is such a thing as a sandbox. Since "there is no sandbox" I would guess that they're also denying that there's no penalty for doing a 301 redirect to a new domain.

Matt Cutts also answered a comment that I posted about this issue by stating that there should be no problem. Granted, he's not the official voice of Google, but at this point he's all we have.

The more I stew on this the more I think the idea of Google having a paid review service is a good idea. They could call it something like "premium webmaster support". Webmasters would get better guidance and Google would get a new revenue stream.

6:27 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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



"We are talking about old sites moving domains, via the google recommended means."

Exactly. It is a new domain. You will, and should be, sandboxed... if Google has a sandbox, which despite what PlanetTokyo assertes, they have aknowledged. Google has a probationary period for new domains.

I must say I find it very strange that some people think their new domains should get special treatment. You think those of us who built new domains didn't create them via "google recommended means"? To be blunt, it is really a very dumb idea to think you could avoid the sandbox by using a 301. Obviously if you could avoid the sandbox this way *every* mildly savvy seo would have 301s to every new domain. Google could not have a sandbox if it did not sandbox 301s too.

The very rigid probationary is a bad policy of Googles, but it is there for a specific reason. There is no "bug" about it. It is a choice, and it is a consistent choice that amkes perfect sense if you want to accomplish what they want to accomplish (have a probationary period for new domains).

8:50 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



their new domains should get special treatment

Steveb - agree to a point, but what about sub-domains of a very established domain. For many reason people wish to set up canonicals, but these seem to also fall into the 'new' trap.

8:58 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Ok - Why should they not get special treatment.

If I had a site widgets.co.uk and wanted to change to widgets.com and I did a 301 redirect from widgets.co.uk then why cant widgets.com get the backlink and the history/authority of widgets.co.uk as long as the 301 is in place.

>>>>Obviously if you could avoid the sandbox this way *every* mildly savvy seo would have 301s to every new domain.

Steveb - I may have mis-understood you but people can only do a 301 redirect to a new domain and *expect* the new site to take over if they have an old domain that they have 301d and the old domain has therefore lost its position.

That way where does every mildly savvy seo gain - they gain one domain at the expense of the other. - EG all they have achieved is a domian name change. (As soon as the 301 is removed then the benefits lapses)

As I say I may have missed the point though.

9:41 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



I'm all the way, with Dayo_UK.

A 301 is simply an instruction to a SE. "I was here, now I am there" There is no logical reason to sandbox.

11:31 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



It is a new domain. You will, and should be, sandboxed

Why doesn't this happen to everyone doing 301 redirects and why isn't this stated in any way shape or form in the guidelines? Why shouldn't I get credit for the old domain name?

Like I said before, I would glady pay $299 (or whatever) to have my site manually reviewed... besides all of this steve, this thread is really more of warning to others about the results of a 301 redirect.

Also, I have learned that my new pages are NOT being sandboxed, anyone care to explore why that is happening?

11:56 am on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



If you're staying on the same domain name and just changing URLs (so www.example.com/widgets/ is now moved to www.example.com/widgets2/), why would you even bother with a 301? Why not just move the page, have Googlebot receive a 404 on the old URL, and then re-index the new one? I don't see why this would even be a problem (if you're staying on the same domain) even if you do this in a large scale (thousands of pages). Thoughts?
12:54 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



errorsamac, we just did exactly what you're speaking of, to a php site 2 days ago. (We made the inside pages url friendly)The index page stayed the same.

So now all 160 of the internal pages 404. A scary situation, but we figured better to do it now than later. So our stats were mainly 404's yesterday, yet the visitors click thru the custom 404 anyway. So we didn't lose visitors.

It should be interesting how G responds to this. Last year in November we did a script change that changed all the inside URL's and we lost all the inside PR, but G picked up on it within 2 weeks. So we are curious as how big G will handle it this year. I'll let you know.

We don't believe in using 301's really, we think it's better to let pages just 404. We figure the sooner G finds out the pages aren't there, the better off we'll be. Hopefully not to many people are linked to our old internal pages.

3:50 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Steveb - We're talking about transfering an established domain. Google does transfer all of the assets associated with the old domain (page rank and backlink history). In effect, they're already giving the new domain special treatment by starting it off with all of the backlinks that were directed at the old domain.

If Google thought that people would use 301's to game the system why would they allow the backlink history to transfer to the new domain?

Also, since Y and M do not penalize for the use of 301s I suppose that means that black hats are using this technique to game those search engines? Strangely I don't hear a lot of talk about that.

3:56 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Hey Guys,

I have a client with a .net ASP site and he needs to get a redirect on there badly. For 3 years he held top spot until some scraper listed his domain with no www. So, the problem is, I am only familiar with PHP, so I am not sure how to go about it (I am working with him 'post-development' by another company). Can anyone please give me a good breakdown of what I need to do. He is getting killed in the SERPs.

Thanks

Benny

7:19 pm on Sep 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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



"As I say I may have missed the point though."

Apparently, even though you stated the obvious reasons, so I'm not sure what you aren't getting.

How about if I 301 one page of a 1000 page domain to 1000 different new sites? Or suppose I have a 1000 page old site that I break down into fifty twenty page sites, and 301 to the index pages of each of these from the sections of the old domain?

Even in the one-for-one scenario, you can 301 one of the zillion PR1 one domains out there, have it miss the sandbox, and then instantly build a real site, with strong backlinks, etc etc. Again, it would just be stupid for Google to not sandbox such a site but still sandbox a new site with similar content just because it didn't get a 301 from some abandoned piece of nothing.

"There is no logical reason to sandbox."

I'd be curious to hear even ONE logical reason for their not to be a sandbox for a 301. Of course their isn't one. To many folks here are unfortunately fixated on their own circumstances, where just moving the same site to a new domain name seems like it shouldn't send the domain back to square one, but again obviously, that isn't the only circumstance that could happen here.

"this thread is really more of warning to others about the results of a 301 redirect"

Exactly, and there should be no "warning". 301s aren't the problem here. The problem is new domains, something people reading this message board should be aware of for over a year.

Face it, launching a new domain these days commonly puts you at a disadvantage.

(By the way, y'all doing 301s ought to be more concerned about checking for Supplemental results for your old pages on the old domains. There you will find Google's 301 problem.)

12:26 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Steveb, while making very valid points you are also saying that Google doesn't have the algo/computing power to figure out when a 301 is being used for unnatural gain. Further more you are only hammering in the idea that webmasters should not use the 301 redirect because it will land you in the sandbox which in your opinion is not a problem at all, so who in their right mind would use the 301? Also, why are only some sites sandboxed during a 301 and others are only missing for a couple of weeks?

By the way, y'all doing 301s ought to be more concerned about checking for Supplemental results for your old pages on the old domains. There you will find Google's 301 problem.

Are you saying that the problem we may be seeing here is a duplicate content filter or that Google simply has a problem retaining old data?

something people reading this message board should be aware of for over a year.

I have been reading here for some years now but did not find any solid evidence that a 301 was a sandboxer until after my 301 took a plunge. My domain name is over 18 months and until recently I was under the impression that it was based on domain name age not how long the name has been recognized by Google.

4:41 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I am in the final stages of a redesign of my site. The new site is being tested on a development server and will replace the old site. Because of the structure of the new site, there are sitewide URL changes. Now, the domain will remain the same, but I had planned on setting up 301's for Google. The 301 Club is not one that I'd like to join.

Has anyone seen evidence of 301's to existing domains cause PR and SERP's loss?

What's the best method of setting up 301's? cPanel ok?

TIA
Chris

4:43 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Just to be clear...

URL's will change from...

[mysite.com...]

to

[mysite.com...]

TIA
Chris

5:24 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Chris, best advice, stay away from 301's in any way shape or form, 404 the old pages, I have even created a smart 404 page that will display the "page not found" error and a link to the page(s) the user might be looking for... just make sure the 404 page is writing the 404 code in the header response. 301's even on a partial basis can result in the entire domain being banished (for lack of better terms). That's my 2Ę worth.
7:28 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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



"that a 301 was a sandboxer"

It isn't, which is the point. New domains are generally sandboxed, whether 301ed or not.

301ing within a domain is the way to go and works fine, until you take the 301 off. At that point Google will likely serve up a ancient supplemental result for the URL that no longer exists. You can do things like put up a temporary "page moved" page, wait for that to be crawled and permanently cached, then delete it and put on a 301 for awhile, which will mean when you take the 301 off you will only have a harmless supplemental, but that isn't a solution for sitewide changes.

8:02 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Steveb,

Google started throwing up a lot of non-www results for my site two weeks or so back. And then sudden loss of rank, and appearance of some non-www pages as supplemental results with a feb 2005 cache.

The entire site has tanked. Funny thing is, this is a site with thousands of links, all natural. We probably have 70-80 % links as www, rest as non-www.

The correct technical solution to this I suppose would be to 301 the entire site to the www version. But this thread has been a nice warning.

I have two questions - one, can this drop in rankings happen because Google finally saw that my non-www links crossed some threshold? (I found that I even have a non-www link from DMOZ!) Our site ranks - RANKED - across thousands of phrases, and all rankings seem to be gone.

Two, I have a lot of time and patience. What would be the right way to go about this? Wait it out? Delete all pages with a non-www supplemental listing? Start those pages afresh under new filename and maybe rewriting? Use the URL removal tool?

The said site has practically no link-development effort or borderline stuff in it. Minor on-page SEO with titles, H1 and thats about it.

We are hardly techies. So would like to take this slow and easy, and we have a reasonable financial cushion - we are in fact looking forward to a less hectic time till this is sorted out.

Any suggestions?

8:34 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



>> The correct technical solution to this I suppose would be to 301 the entire site to the www version. <<

It would.

Do it.

You will see the www pages regain their title and description (if any have lost them) within a few days to weeks, and the non-www will lose title and description and/or turn Supplemental, and will gradually drop out (of the site:domain.com listing).

I have done this for several sites this year and the wanted pages all improved very soon after the redirect was added. The pages we didn't want showing up, mostly dropped out after about 6 weeks (but keep coming back as supplemental for a few weeks each time Google messes about with things).

The reappearance of the unwanted pages (non-www vs. www) doesn't appear to be affecting the indexing or positioning of the wanted pages. I think it is a display glitch rather than a deep algo fault.

9:28 pm on Sep 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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



The correct thing to do is the 301 of non-www to www or the other way around.

However, once a page is Supplemtal, you are dead, unless you choose to bring that page back to life by linking to it normally. Trying to redirect a non-www Supplemental to a www page just doesn't work. Others have posted it works for awhile then the Supplemental comes back, but I have never seen that.

And it is common for the non-www Supplemental listing to be considered the canonical listing for a page, which is total death. When it decides this, as yet I've found no way to make Google extract its head from its butt.

This is a problem with Google's idiotic Supplemental index, not 301s.

8:48 am on Sep 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Thanks Steveb and g1smd,

I have gone ahead and 301d non-www to www.

Now let's see if I truly join the 301 club or not.

In a way, as I have lost rankings across the site suddenly along with supplemental results, there is really nothing worse that can happen. Google traffic has reduced to 5% of what it was before, and I suspect thats just because the loss of rankings have not spread across all datacenters yet.

Would a sudden appearance of supplemental results and non-www URLs in SERPs also coincide with a widespread ranking loss? That is what happened in my case, and we have not touched the site from an SEO point of view in anyway apart from adding news content daily (not duplicate, we wrote it, and we have been doing it for more than 2 years).

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