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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.

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.

6:05 pm on Sep 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

" had used a custom 404 that redirected to my index page"

from a usabilty standpoint thats a bad idea.
you should have a custom 404 page that says "this page could not be found" and offers a site map or search feature.

6:15 pm on Sep 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Spine: Please ensure that you return a true 404 error even if you choose to display a more user-friendly body of the HTML page for your visitors. It won't help to return a page that says "File Not Found" if the http headers still return a status code of 200, or normal.

Taken from Googles info for webmasters.

This is what we are going to do when we launch our new site. This will allow the visitors to navigate to the page they were looking for, and will allow Google to drop the old pages and reindex the new ones.

6:20 pm on Sep 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

webhound, very good point, returning a proper header response is crucial... in ASP it's easy:

Response.Status="404 Page Not Found"

BTW, to redirect properly in asp use:

Response.Status="301 Moved Permanently"
Response.AddHeader "Location", "http://www.widgets.com/"

Don't rely on response.redirect as it return a 302...

8:03 pm on Sep 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

BTW ... I have also built a smart 404 page in classic ASP... if anyone wants the code sticky mail me... the script basically uses an algo to figure out the closest match to what the user is looking for and then shows those links while still returning a 404 page response.
8:05 pm on Sep 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

whats odd is that
cnn.com and google.com both do 302's to thier respective www based counterparts.
while webmasterworld.com does a 301.

Matt-err-GoogleGuy once said that 301s from non-www to www or vice versa is recommended so we'll go with that.

3:33 pm on Sep 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

our site wad dropped off the face of google. we were number 3 in our keyword now we are zero. as in no more reference to our site in google index. this was in august 2005. up to now, still nothing.

further research shows that google penalizes duplicate content. we have another domain name which is framing our main domain and thought this might be the culprit. so we created a totally different page for this alt domain. still nothing!

Then I read about 301 redirect today and realized that I had done this just around the time of our banishment! I did a redirect from mysite.com to www.mysite.com

big mistake!

I have removed the redirect now.

Hopefully this fixes the proble, we already did a lot of experimenting to get back in google's good graces.. like changing content, layout etc... we also applied to google sitemaps and reapplied to google..

now, I jus hav to keep my fingers crossed.

4:52 pm on Sep 30, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I read a post in another thread from anttiv which stated something about a manual review IP so I got curious and checked my logs, sure enough, there it was on the very same day I lost my rank after the 301 redirect. Anyone that has done a 301 go search your logs and see what you find... I'm really curious about what others discover. This IP appeared 1 other time shortly after an email to Google... the IP was hitting pages for like 10 seconds and then moving on very randomly for just a few minutes both times. What to do with this information, not really sure but still, I'm curious.

soned, sorry to say but I think the damage is done, 301 is permanent so you will jsut have to wait it out... being that you only did the non-www you should not have to wait very long, but this is only an guess.

3:43 pm on Oct 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i saw that ip in april, july and august. i dunno what that means... ahh wel..
3:56 pm on Oct 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Well, this should be interesting then. My site just came out of the sandbox this week. Not big but I went from nowhere in the top 1000 serps to in the top 200 and better for most of my kw's and phrases. Some, I was doing top 50.
Okay, up until yesterday, I was 302'd from [mysite...] to [www....] because I am on a windows server and my host did it wrong when I asked for the canonical redirect. Yesterday, they finally emailed me and said they got it fixed. I did a header check and now it is correctly 301'd.
I'll let you know if I fall back out or if I climb or if there is no change. Interesting. Getting ready to do a link campaign again so should climb.
4:15 pm on Oct 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For those on Windows host don't forget you can do the redirect in pure ASP... don't think that just because they are a hosting provider they know what they are doing. 1PlanHost and Hostway have both burned me really bad in the past so I went with a dedicated server but always check their work and again, to avoid such problems just do the 301 in ASP!
4:35 pm on Oct 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

There is definately a 301 bug. I 301'd all of my websites I built from non www to www and they are all gone from google.

that is 14 websites gone. You definately don't want to 301 your sites right now.

eyezshine i can second that.

exactly same symptom, 301'd, all gone from google.

3:00 am on Oct 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

>> Then I read about 301 redirect today and realized that I had done this just around the time of our banishment! I did a redirect from mysite.com to www.mysite.com

>> big mistake! <<

I have only seen good come from it; and it is the recommended action. Your 301 redirect must have exposed some other problem in the server configuration. Run Xenu LinkSleuth to see if that gives any clues at all.

2:16 pm on Oct 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Run Xenu LinkSleuth to see if that gives any clues at all.

This is good advice for anyone actually, this tool is awesome, I found links that I had forgotten existed like the the homepage button in my forums! Amazing what peole will put in for homepages and LinkSleuth exposed this to me as well as a few affiliate programs that were dead. This tool also revealed a few relative links that I was able to correct to absolute links.

3:46 pm on Oct 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Some of you are concerned about how long it takes for a site to recover from 301 redirecting old file names to new ones.

This is an update on my earlier post after I changed all .asp file names to .html and set up a 301 redirect to the new file names.

It is only 1 month since the redesign and I'm seeing quite a bit of change.

Keywords that were not ranking anywhere before the design have steadily climbed in the SERPS.

Out of 19 Keywords I'm tracking 7 are on 1st page of results, 4 are within first 4 pages and the rest are steadily gaining in rank every week.

PR went up one notch since the redesign and I expect it to go higher after the next update as we've been gathering links also.

5:22 pm on Oct 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Lorel, I have always speculated if .html got better ranking... your post seems to confirm that... with IIS you can make .html page process as ASP so I wonder if it's worth the trouble.
1:06 am on Oct 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Dumb question... I submitted a sitemap for my new domain name but should I also submit a sitemap for the old domain pointing to the same sitemap? Actually, I wonder how the site map crawler would handle this because if it requested domainA.com/sitemap.asp the 301 would kick in and redirect it to domainB.com/sitempa.asp. I confuse myself sometimes but wondered if anyone had insight into this.
1:10 am on Oct 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

Put the sitemap that refers to the content of DomainA on some other site.

Make sure the links include the full URL, in the right format.

2:09 am on Oct 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Put the sitemap that refers to the content of DomainA on some other site.

Okay, now my confusion is contagious! I guess I wasn't explaining correctly, domainA.com and domainB.com are the same hence the 301 redirect which is why I was wondering if Google would examined the sitemap from the domainA.com (the old domain name) and saw that all the links are to domainB.com (the new domain name) it would expedite the removal of the old URL's (not likely but thought I would ask). Gbot has been visting me everyday with a fresh cache on the new domain (everyday) and a search for the old domain shows mostly results from the new domain but ther are still thousands of pages indexed from the old domain which I believe is causing a dupe content issue. The removal tool doesn't appear to offer any long term help so I was thinking outside the box. The new domain has a sitemap already setup and is getting downloaded once a day... just thought that maybe I could kind of stear Google a little more with a sitemap from the old domain as well.

3:06 pm on Oct 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I did a 301 redirect from non-www to www 10 days back approx; and I can see that my non-wwws (as supplemental with cache, and url only) have partly disappeared from those two datacenters.

Not that its making any difference to my traffic though :-)

7:59 pm on Oct 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

After I did the 301 from non-www to www I had awesome rankings for about a month and then everything went supplimental and then there was only a trickle of traffic for a few months.

Then Google must have cleaned out their supplimental index because my sites are simply gone with the wind.

9:57 pm on Oct 5, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

Beware of a 301 redirect from non-www to www where the defaultsitename is domain.com and where you are linking to a folder, and where you forget to add the trailing / to the URL in the link.

If you forget the trailing / then your link to www.domain.com/folder will first be redirected to domain.com/folder/ {without www!} before arriving at the required www.domain.com/folder/ page.

The intermediate step, at domain.com/folder/ will kill your listings. Lucklily, this effect is very easy to see if you use Xenu LinkSleuth to check your site: it shows up as reporting double the number of pages (when you generate the sitemap) that you actually have, with half of the pages having a title of "301 Moved".

3:44 am on Oct 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For those that haven't heard yet, Matt Cutts posted some interesting info in his blog today about moving sites and domain names...
5:22 am on Oct 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Yeah, very interesting comments in his blog, especially the end where he comments on code used to proceess 301 redirects (from an old domain to a new domain):

... but we may be due to replace the code that handles that in the next couple months or so.
3:11 pm on Oct 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Replace it with humans and a paid review system, money for Google and serious, honest webmasters won't mind a fee too terribly much or least not the ones that are faced with a must change situation.
3:47 am on Oct 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Today I was reading the thread on how Google doesn't forget pages you delete, calling it the Supplimental Index. So I went looking for some missing pages that should be supplemental by now.

on Sep. 27, 2005 I posted this:

Our experience with 301's have been this:
- nonwww to www - were successful
- internal folder to a new subdomain - were successful
- subdomain to a new domain = sandbox

I have one site that is totally messed up.

Here's what I did.
I had a www.olddomain.com/old folder/

I decided to make a subdomain
... oldfolder.olddomain.com

I did a 301 redirect from www.olddomain.com/old folder/
to: oldfolder.olddomain.com

Then I found the perfect domain name for the "old folder." So I moved all the content from "oldfolder subdomain," rewrote it, added content, and uploaded it to the newdomain.com

I then tried to 301 redirect it from the former oldfolder.olddomain without success, (because I already 301'd the oldfolder to the subdomain,) so I totally deleted "oldfolder.olddomain.com," and "newdomain.com" is in the sandbox bigtime.

Now I was just checking Yahoo by the stats of newdomain.com, and found both "oldfolder.mydomain.com"; "www.mydomain.com/old folder/" and... "newdomain.com"

and... the 404 error page for olddomain.com, but ... the pages in Yahoo for "oldfolder.olddomain.com" are linked to individual pages on olddomain.com.

What a mess, and it's no wonder both sites are "not to be found in Google." So here's what I'm going to do, (since Yahoo is still carrying the old pages, and everyone is still linking to "www.olddomain.com/oldfolder") I'm just going to upload it back to the oldfolder... forget this ever happened... and hopefully so will Google? Or are these 2 sites hopelessly lost for dup content issues?

6:58 pm on Oct 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

Try it. You'll know within a week if things are improving.
9:18 pm on Oct 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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

I also notised a week ago more of my site was in a site:mydomain.com, but I think 80% supplemental and many supplemental was realy new pages. Still non www domain.com is in the index plus 200 non www internal pages in google I did a 301 5 month ago, once again if you have been hit by the googlebug 302, hijackers our just to many scrapers, then normal SE law dont apply for you.
9:31 pm on Oct 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks g1s for the encouragement. Last night I did just as I said, I uploaded /oldfolder back. Today checking the stats, I don't have any G, Y, or MSN, what I have is visitors from links on directory and mini search engines, and webask, links I didn't even know I had.

So after a year of deletion, the backlinks to /oldfolder were still there. So, we shall see. I'll report back in a week and let you know whether any of the major search engines respidered them. Thanks SC

4:18 am on Oct 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

i thought i missed it but oh no.. tanks to the google update it looks like im in the club!
1:32 pm on Oct 25, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Here is my situation.

Several long exisiting domains with 301 redirects from the non-www URLs to the www URLs (redirects have been in place for about 2 years).

Backlink checks for www and non-www URL used to always show the same number.

Now a [link:example.com] for all of them show zero (0)backlinks.

They are all hosted on IIS servers and the 301 redirects are to http://www.example.com and not to http://www.example.com/

Any insight into this?

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