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Google And Abusive 301 Redirects-00-618
Here are some excerpts from a thread at the Webmaster World:
When the general webmaster/SEO community started to learn about 301 redirects, some went quite wild, throwing 301s around like confetti - and then getting smacked down hard. It was like a new toy on the market and it became "all the rage." The potential for 301 abuse is well beyond that offered by link manipulation - and so Google really gives 301 redirects a trust check-up. I'm sure that this is one of the reasons that changing to a new domain can be so difficult.
The webmaster knows when they are placing a 301 (or a chain of redirects) only because of trying to manipulate rankings - and when they are using it in an informative, intended fashion.
Too much 301 action, especially placing them and then switching them around, or chaining them in with other kinds of redirection, can definitely cast a pall over a domain or a network of domains.
Maybe some of these historical 301 penalties are part of those old penalties that are now being forgiven - I can't say for sure. But I can say that the 301 redirect is a kind of power tool and it should be used only as the instruction manual intends - essentially, pointing to a new location for previously published material.
And given that "cool urls don't change" I personally recommend limiting use of the 301 redirects. There are times it is exactly the right tool, but many times its use has become very casual and abusive.
Penalties for significant 301 abuse across several domains can be quite severe, including long-time or even "permanent" loss of trust. I'm talking a burnt domains, as in done, kaput, with no recourse.
An honest slip-up or technical confusion that accidentally fits a spammer footprint can be remedied, eventually, through a clean-up and re-inclusion request.
When dealing with redirects, I like to remember the old carpenter's motto "measure twice, cut once".
Interesting, i hadn't realised the impact of the redirects insofar as penalties were concerned until the recent comments. I should have been attentive to it, because we saw sites behaving differently in various circumstances.
Site A [ under penalty filter ] is redirected to Site B . Site B goes into a penalty situation. Non trust appears to have been transferred.
Site C [ trusted ] redirects to a new domain ranking inside 4 weeks. Trust transferred.
Site A [ under penalty filter ] redirects to new site E. Site E goes into sandbox for 1 year. Non trust transferred to new domain.
Site D has had frequent redirects applied to it , say every 9-12 months. The site has never come out of a penalty filter situation since 2005.
Google is well aware of various types of abuse, and has slapped several well known people for such abuse in recent months.
I'm not mentioning those tricks here, except for the one that Matt Cutts blogged about. That was all to do with buying a domain name and existng site, and then redirecting it to another site, purely to try to enhance the PageRank of the site being redirected to.
Internal redirects are less touchy - but still you can make a mess with chains of redirects. When completely changing the url structure of a site (to be avoided as much as possible, by the way) I still prefer only to redirect key url and let Google sort out the 404s and the new site structure essentially through normal spidering.
This is interestingyou're damned if you do and damned if you don't. I have been recently trying to rememdy duplicate title/descriptions reported in WMT by blocking some of the urls in robot.txt. I won't go into the technicalities but the crux of the issue is that my dynamic site produces two sets of urls pointing to the same page when people hop over to the online store. I figured the actual store's url was more important so I nixed the dupe urls that seemed to serve no purpose.
Apparently those 'transitional urls' were worth something as blocking them has led to a fairly steep drop in traffic. Now I have had to go back and pull the blocked urls from robots.txt. The only other way to remedy this that I can see is to use a 301 redirect on all the store urls (oy vey!)the first set of urls will never be removed though, they will stay in place. Is internal redirecting like that that risky?
Even when you're passing the query string, it should only be a single redirect in Apache. I'm not sure how IIS/ISAPI_Rewrite handles these cases, but I don't believe it's very different.
As for the larger issue, I wonder if there's a certain footprint that Google is looking for when applying these penalties. E.g. are they intentionally including/excluding sites from this penalty that are doing things like linkbaiting to a microsite, and 301ing that site to their main site after a certain point in time? Is there a certain number of 301ed domains (or certain aggregate PageRank) that you need to hit before you get penalized? Are they still penalizing you if the content on the old domain/URL is the same as the content on the new domain/URL?
The mass 301 is a legitimate (if buggy) tool when trying to consolidate old, poorly architected sites (yes, some single sites do have multiple domains for no good reason at all) into a modern CMS. This kind of penalty, while I see what they're trying to prevent, really makes one pause before putting effort into major development projects that have the potential to really help users and search engines alike.
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