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Multiple 301, Poor Links and its Impact



11:44 am on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

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?


6:09 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Another option is to launch a brand new site. It is extreme but sometimes it is cheaper to build a new site without having to fix all of the problems (especially if the old site has few positive points).

Personally I would spend more time trying to figure out how to get quality content & backlinks because it sounds like this site has a poor value proposition.


6:19 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

I read this one a while ago and it kinda stuck with me when I see or hear about a drop after a change: Google's Rank Modifying Patent for Spam Detection [webmasterworld.com]

Seems like that could maybe have somethin to do with the drop, idk? I also remember readin around here somewhere redirectin a ton of pages to the home page is not a good plan.


10:31 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

If i do this, there will be two 301 redirects to latest url structure

Do you mean that a single request will be redirected twice (BAD) or that two different requests will redirect to the same url (perfectly OK if it is all the same page but it has been renamed more than once)?

oldestname >> 301 >> oldername >> 301 >> currentname

oldestname >> 301 >> currentname
oldername >> 301 >> currentname

That's assuming you are not trying to pull the wool over g###'s eyes by doing multiple redirects. It will probably not work, so don't bother.


10:40 pm on Feb 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Why are you adding a redundant
suffix back on to the URL? You do not need it.

With several changes in URL format in the last few years you now need to proceed with extreme caution.

The first step is to document all of the various formats, all those with parameters and all those without.

You'll then need to set up single step redirects from all of the old formats to the new format. You need to be very sure that no request results in a multiple step redirection chain. Rule order is crucial.


6:20 am on Feb 23, 2013 (gmt 0)

(My English isn't perfect. Sorry:-)

I wouldn't change the titles and the url structure at the first place.
It is a wrongful approach unless you delete the site and start from scratch. .
It is risky to make such changes, even though the site is over-optimized with its title tags and its url structure, .
This is because Google algo has already defined the keywords in which it sends traffic to the site.
Making such major changes, trigger a red light so the site placed at the bottom of ranking.
What I would do, is to -
1. Start looking very carefully to the redirection profile of the site and cleaning irrelevant 301 and urls.
It could be a good idea to remove any historical redirection no matter how many external links still pointing to the old urls.
2. See the site layout and segment its sectors and sections. Try to understand the way the internal links are formed. Does one section link to another? Could be that one section is way weaker than the other?
I'd make a separation. So that each sector will play on its own.
I have more ideas but this is a start.


12:37 pm on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

goodroi: I had proposed this to senior management, the website has a history and cleaning all the mess is probably going to take longer. I have created a content guideline for them and shall be executing content marketing campaigns to see if site improves.

Theoptimizationidiot: that was my first thought and first response to client, however, further investigation suggested there is something more to rmp

lucy24: i meant the second approach where all old url structures will point to latest one. But this fix can take time.

g1smd: you are right, actually i had given them option of going extension less or .html they opted for extension. Had i known about previous url structure or history of site, i would of been extremely cautious.

I am now trying to be cautious which is why i posted a thread to take some expert opinion and i am glad you posted. I have asked client to send me all the past major changes they have made to site which are not in my knowledge, i shall then take my next step. About the redirects, yes that is my first option, but i am not too sure how long it will take for it to work, my concern is that oldest url is now pointing to homepage, this oldest url structure has a lot of links as well, i also believe this oldest url structure was pointing to older url structure prior to this change and Google has recorded all these changes. But i shall go ahead and make sure all versions of old urls are redirected rightly this time and then do some content marketing and linkbuilding to see if Google picks up on new stuff.

Zivush: Thanks for input, i would not change the url structure if things were working right, but site was online for 2 years and had tons of backlinks and still not ranking anywhere and for that reason i implemented changes. I won't say it was a wrong approach, it might be risky though, but i believe the drop caused because of multiple wrong redirects.

Yes, i have two options to deal with it, first one being redirecting all old url structures to latest one or 404 old url structures and disavow old spammy link profile and start from scratch! i shall try to redirect all old ones to latest one first though.

We have also started to build amazing content and i have ability to pull out effective content marketing using socialmedia, i shall see if this approach works.


7:38 pm on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Personally, I would not have touched anything on that site until I had glaring evidence that they were under some penalty or filter. From the way you describe things in statements like:

Site was pretty much optimized to a point where it had become a honeypot to penalties.


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.


site was online for 2 years and had tons of backlinks and still not ranking anywhere and for that reason i implemented changes

it sounds to me like you have based ALL of the changes on your "gut" instead of basing them on facts. Sounds to me like you were just stabbing in the dark hoping to stumble onto something that might magically make them rank better.

Did you nail down the exact dates when the site incurred those "supposed" penalties and/or filters? Did you correlate them with specific updates from Google (Mayday? Panda? Penguin? EMD? Above the Fold? etc)? Did you determine if traffic dropped on a particular date for a particular keyword phrase (or small set of keyword phrases) or did they lose traffic on that specific date across almost all keywords that previously drove traffic to the site? Did you determine if traffic dropped on a particular date for a particular URL (or small set of URLs) or did they lose traffic on that specific date sitewide across pretty much all URLs?

If you didn't ask and answer all of these types of questions before recommending and executing a solution, then it's no wonder their rankings have gone from bad to worse. It's one thing to make uninformed changes to your own site based on "gut feelings". But making any changes to a client's site because of anything other than well researched facts is probably the worst thing you can do... for the client AND your reputation.

I really don't see anything wrong with the URL:


so I don't know why you would even have touched it. It's not a spammy URL assuming the content is about cheap blue widgets. I'm not even sure it's possible to have a spammy URL with just 3 keywords unless you repeat the same word multiple times like widget-widget-widget.html. LOL


8:08 pm on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for explaining zehrila. I feel 'about my username' as far as seo goes quite a bit, cause every time I think I have somethin figured out the bleepin rules change! lol


10:58 pm on Feb 24, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

ZydoSEO: Thanks for your detailed input. Let me clarify few things. The site had around 11,000 links majority of them were with rich anchor text "Keyword Keyword". I was told they ranked on page two for their prime keyword about 5 6 months after they started. Their overall traffic was 25 to 45 unique visitors a day when i checked, main keyword ranking on page 10. Top sites in this niche get 200k+ uniques a day roughly. I checked the stats for about 1 year and traffic was pretty much like that.

I have been under impression that if a site which is that old, building content regularly and has that many poor quality links and rankings this poor then most likely there is something wrong. I tried to match dates with panda penguin, but i could not find anything as the prime keyword was already ranking page 10, if a site which ranked page 1 and two and then lived on page 10 for a long time then there is probably something fishy in there. Anyway, i believed it had some sort of penalties in place. But i agree i should have done more to identify when exactly traffic went down in last two years time.

Any way, the first point was to start correcting things, The URL structure was pretty much like i used to have in 2006 - 2009 and i see every thing wrong with domainwidgets.com/cheap-blue-widgets.html domainwidgets.com/cheap-red-widgets.html domainwidgets.com/cheap-purple-widgets.html with titles like Cheap Blue Widgets - Free Cheap Blue Widgets etc etc. This yells cookie cutter, over optimized, same routine followed through out the site, template etc. I have seen penalties in past over such url/meta/quality of backlinks and it was my gut feeling to correct all those things which give a vibe that site is overly optimized. I feel changing the url structure has not caused the drop, drop has happened because tens of thousands of "oldest urls" which were previously redirected to "older urls" are now redirected to homepage and older urls redirected to latest urls.

This is where i should have had been more cautious, i had asked them about all the previous changes, the only thing they told me was that they have changed design about 2 3 months ago and no that design change did not impact their ranks negatively or positively. However, i think it would of been better if i had dug on data deeper.


12:57 am on Feb 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

How big is the site and how long ago have you made URL changes?

It normally takes some time for Google to recrawl the OLD pages to see redirects and until this happens, a drop is something to be expected more often than not. After all old pages have been recrawled, then the site may recover or even result in better ranking, depending what the new URL structure fixed.

It would however be better if you did changes in two steps: first change URLs and then when rankings settle, then change page titles (and improve page content at the same time)

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