Just recently started working on a client's website. Site was pretty much optimized to a point where it had become a honeypot to penalties. Url structure was like
Title was like Cheap Blue Widgets | Free Cheap Blue Widgets | Affordable Cheap Blue Widgets & More Widgets
I got them to change url structure from aforementioned to domainwidgets.com/blue.html and title to Cheap Blue Widgets 2013, Some Organic Stuff
This caused their ranking to disappear, previously they were ranking on page 3 for couple of keywords and since they had the site for 2 years and a lot of crappy links i had a feelings that they have several penalties in place, but they refused to believe it.
Anyway, once rankings disappeared, they got upset which is usual! i started digging down into the data to understand what went wrong, so one possible reason was that i had subtracted cheap widgets from url and also deoptimized title which caused some loss of extra/inorganic relevance to the pages.
Upon further digging i found that prior to changing URL structure, they had one other url structure in place along the lines of domainwidgets.com/freewidgets/cheap-blue-widgets, they had this structure about 6 8 months ago and later changed it to domainwidgets.com/cheap-blue-widgets.html
Most of the backlinks are pointed towards domainwidgets.com/freewidgets/cheap-blue-widgets and these urls are now 301 redirected to home page while domainwidgets.com/cheap-blue-widgets.html are redirected to domainwidgets.com/blue.html
There is an absolute chaos in terms of ranking and client frustration.
I shall appreciate your input on what should work in this case.
The strategy i believe can work here is
1: 301 redirect domainwidgets.com/freewidgets/cheap-blue-widgets to domainwidgets.com/blue.html. Please note domainwidgets.com/cheap-blue-widgets.html is also 301 redirecting to domainwidgets.com/blue.html. If i do this, there will be two 301 redirects to latest url structure
1: 404 domainwidgets.com/freewidgets/cheap-blue-widgets
2: Remove and disavow 90% of backlink profile (old school seo, directories, articles, social bookmarks)
3: 404 their immidiate previous url structure domainwidgets.com/cheap-blue-widgets.html
The second option is pretty harsh, but i think it can give me an opportunity to start from scratch and it shall also stop confusing Google with so many redirects etc.
What do you think whats happening here and what can work?