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Does Google ever 'associate' websites without 301 redirects



8:57 am on May 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Back in October 2012 I decided to pull the plug on a website I'd built on widgets.org. There was plenty of really good content but a load of spammy backlinks that were just too much to control.

I purchased a new domain with the same 'brand' on a different TLD: widgets.info. I shut down the old website and carried out a site removal on Google as per their instructions using the 'URL removal tool'. All that remained on my server was a robots.txt file and an index page which mentioned the new website location. There was no linking and no redirecting.

After I had observed that the old site was no longer indexed I bought the new site to life. I transferred the content over and made sure all of the images, links and database was sorted out to correspond to the new widgets.info domain. Everything worked as I had hoped for the first few months. I continued to add a lot of good content and did what good webmasters do (no shady link building).

In March this year I noticed my homepage rank start to drop quite suddenly. There was a bit of fluctuation before that time but it would usually stay on page 2-3. Now it dropped its way down to page 6. I also noticed quite suddenly that some of my old pages from widgets.org seemed to reappear in the index. If you typed in the brand name without spaces the .org version actually appeared a few places above the .info version. They were not cached and had no description or anything due to the robots.txt entries blocking crawling.

I went into WMT at this time (March) and noticed that the removal request had expired. Since I didn't perform any sort of redirects in WMT or elsewhere (no 301s, 302s etc.) why should this have any influence on widgets.info? In md-late April decided to cut out the robots.txt block and let widgets.org just return 404s for everything hoping that things would just drop out of the index naturally.

Things didn't improve, though, and if anything got worse. On May 9th I noticed my homepage rank slip further, now at page 10. I also noticed WMT informing me of a large increase in 404 errors on widgets.org at this time.

I want to have an open mind about this and know there can be other factors at play here (this is on Google.co.uk, incidentally, and I know how volatile things are there at the moment). It just seems like a huge coincidence. So really my question is this: Does Google ever form its own associations (algorithmic or otherwise) between websites in a way that the performance of the new domain is affected by that of the old. I hope that makes sense.

[edited by: tedster at 4:53 pm (utc) on May 11, 2013]
[edit reason] defeat our forum's autolinking feature [/edit]


2:29 am on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Sometimes, but rarely, other Google products will associate websites for Google Search - Adwords, Adsense accounts and the like. Sometimes bad-history IP addresses or domain name history can do it. Not common, however. Yes, they do track a lot of background.


3:03 am on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

Please say that you just said ".info" for made-up-example purposes, and you're not really trying to get out of a bad place by moving from a dot org to a dot info. Ouch.


6:42 am on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the feedback guys. I am still not ruling out coincidence in this case, but it sort of adds another layer of complexity when trying to diagnose problems if Google has decided to pass along some sort of association. I used the same Google+ account (authorship) and the same social profiles but have never used AdSense on either website. The new domain was bought new and I haven't really owned any other websites. My previous domain did have a manual penalty imposed as well as algorithmic issues from links but the manual penalty hasn't transferred.

What is wrong with .info Lucy? Google treats it the same as any other TLD as far as I can see. And there is another '.info' site in my niche that is highly respected, users don't have an issue with it.


6:52 am on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

I dunno, it just makes my skin crawl. Not as vigorously as .biz, true, but still...


1:32 pm on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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

(Yea, we block .info and .biz now on general principle because of the spam coming out of them)

Are you positive all your algorithmic issues came from links and not content?


2:26 pm on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

To be honest .info was never my first choice, but it was the only choice I was left with if I wanted to keep the 'brand' the same. I say brand, it's an EMD.

The website (on the previous domain) never had any real content related problems towards the end of its life. It was not affected badly by Panda and individual articles would rank pretty well. It was always the homepage that was struggling - and that's where the vast majority of spammy links were pointed to. The website had a manual penalty that couldn't be shed and was knocked down by Penguin as well, understandably so.

That is why I moved home in the first place. In fact I asked for advice here before doing so - [webmasterworld.com...]

As I said the website was ranking very well until relatively recently. The end of last year and start of this year (up until about March) was great. My traffic has actually not been dented all that much and most of my individual articles seem easy enough to find. It is just my homepage that seems to have taken a knock around the times corresponding to 'WMT related events' on the OLD domain. So this is all very confusing. I wouldn't rule out something on the homepage content-wise that Google has taken a dislike to or something else that has made it decide I shouldn't rank as highly for my key phrases. I'd just like to know what and try to rule things out - and the thought that my old domain might be influencing things is frankly scary.


6:24 pm on May 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Does Google ever form its own associations (algorithmic or otherwise) between websites in a way that the performance of the new domain is affected by that of the old.

You mean say you have a site with content on it, what sounds like a large number of inbound links, then remove it from the index, block everything on it via robots.txt so Google can't see if the historic content is still there or not, then duplicate that site on a brand new domain with no links or history when the removal expires would it be possible for the original site with the history of the content and links to replace the new site with the duplicated content and no links or history? I certainly think so.

I'd 410 & rel="noindex" everything on the .org, including the home page. But I'd make sure I had the "moved here" notice and nofollowed link like you had on the home page there for visitors by serving the 410 via server-side script, like php.


header('HTTP/1.1 410 Gone');


Your HTML page here.

* If you really wanted to be cool to visitors who might have the .org bookmarked or find links to it you could do a custom 410 page that has a nofollow link pointing to the corresponding page on the new tld and letting them know they should update their bookmarks, etc.


7:54 am on May 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yeah that's exactly it.

Thanks for the insights TOI. I like the idea of the 410s and that's actually what I was originally planning to do. I got confused when I approached the URL removal tool to try to 'speed things up' as it said that you should use a robots.txt block as well (to block sites or directories). I now feel that the 410 and natural dropping of pages is what I should do.

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