Sorry for being so quiet over the past six or seven weeks but I’ve been messing around with a lot of stuff and I wanted to have some definitive results before writing about it. Essentially a load of the websites I’d spent the last 4 years working on got hit (eventually) by Penguin so I’ve been experimenting to see what is and isn’t a factor. The conclusion I’ve come to is that Penguin wasn’t really about penalising websites as such, it was about penalising linking and it’s for that reason that the 301 redirect escape route that so many so called experts are spouting on about is a no go. I want to share with you my experiences.
The theory is that you move your content to a new domain, 301 redirect the entire old site to the pages on your new website and all of a sudden all is well again in the world of Google. I tried it, it doesn’t work. In fact I tried it on no less that 23 websites. I now have more domain names flying around than can possibly be healthy! Anyway, there is a regular pattern as to what happens because I know at first people will be whooping with delight when they try 301 redirecting…but I assure you it doesn’t last. I even tried it with this website and even I thought it was going to act as a cure all, it hasn’t.
When you first do the 301 redirect you’ll not notice anything for 3-4 days, then all of a sudden you’ll see your old rankings starting to appear for your new domain! At this point please feel free to start throwing yourself in the air, giving it the “yee hah, Google take that bitch!”. For the next 2 weeks you will feel on top of the world as you see your “old” traffic return, your “old” affiliates sales start to roll on, basically you think you’ve cracked it….then Google catches up with you.
Welcome to the wall. As far as I can tell it takes a couple of weeks, 3 at most, for everything associated with the original URLs to get taken into account with the new domain URLs, when it happens you’re straight back into the world of Penguin again. That plus 50, plus 100, plus 200 ranking jolt you got on your original URL will follow you all the way through to your new domain. I’m not talking about a simple test with 1 domain, I tried this with 23 original websites that had been affected in one way or another by the Penguin update. I promise you that 301 redirecting to a new domain has not had a long term positive effect on any single one of those (including this website).
The Penguin update was about link text, too much of the same and you were identified as trying to game the system as an over optimiser. There isn’t any reason to assume that when those link texts are pointed at a new domain (via 301) that the new domain won’t suffer the same fate, that’s certainly what I see. Of course this does open up some interesting questions, top of which being “what happens if I 301 to one of my competitors?” I haven’t tried it but my gut feeling is that if their existing link profile isn’t diverse enough you could easily pass the parcel of your over optimised link text. If you are dealing with a mom & pop family business webiste that has few existing links I’m 99.99% sure you could kill their rankings in this way.
The Real Solution To A Penguin Penalty
This brings me all the way back to the start and why I’ve been so quiet lately. With everybody getting knocked back for over optimisation a big door opened for new websites with no optimisation to do well. This is what I’ve been working on. This can mean either moving content over to a new domain and leaving the old one to rot (have a look at moneyschemes.net to see what I’ve done) or creating something brand new from scratch, perhaps not ideal when you have around 1000 pages of content like this site! It does work though, it’s an absolute ball-ache to have to start from scratch but given the choice between doing that or banging your head trying to undo years of work it may be the only choice.