8 January 2015
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From Old Domain to New Website – Safest Way of Redirecting


Penguin 3.0 was launched by Google this October. This particular update has proved to be deadly for many businesses. Over the past few years, we have worked with a couple of “Penguin Hit” Websites. Most of them were small businesses who did their own SEO or hired experienced professionals. At the end rather than getting out of the Penguin mess, they were trapped in a deeper hole. Some of them created a new redirected website for themselves but still could not rank.

Penguin recoveries have been a very engaging topic ever since its first release in 2012. There is so much data available online on this particular topic that it may confuse or mislead you.  In this post, we will shed some light on some legit ways for URL redirection of Penguin-hit websites.

The first thing that every Penguin hit website should do is to clean up every single link that can cause their website to be penalized. A Penguin affected website can get out of the black list by either disallowing or removing your natural links.

Penguin is not just limited to bad links, we also advise our customer to correct their web spam issues. Web spam includes activities such as keyword stuffing, auto-generated contents, cloaking, sneaky redirects, hidden links or text, doorway pages etc. It is important to analyse your website using Google Webmaster Tool before taking any action.

If you have cleaned up all the bad links and web spams, you will no longer be in the Penguin filter.

It is true that recovering from Penguin is very difficult but not impossible. There are two ways of recovering from Penguin

Work on the affected website by cleaning up bad links and web spams.
Start over again, by creating a new domain for your brand.

Small businesses often prefer create a brand new website rather than working on their existing blacklisted website. In such a scenario, we are often asked the following two questions :

  • Can I use the old site’s content on my new site?
  • Can I redirect the old site’s customers on my new site?


1) Can I use the old site’s content on my new site?

If you are starting over by using the exact same content for your new website then you are making a big mistake. Google can easily identify the similarity and relation between both the websites. It will consider your website as the same and penalize the new one as well.

There is a solution to this issue which we will be discussing shortly but it is advised to create new content for your new website, if possible.

Often creating and designing fresh content for your brand new website is a time and money consuming process. You can use some of the existing content if you use the following method :

  • Make sure each and every web page on your old domain has the Meta tags : NoFollow and NoIndex
  • Use the “Remove URLs” feature in Google Webmaster Tools. This option allows you to remove your links from the Google Index. Note that only when you remove links individually, their index and cache are cleared. So rather than using the entire directory, clear links one by one.
  • Use “site: YourOldDomain.com” search every day and analyze whether the bad links are removed. Make sure you do this “site:” analysis every day until all the bad links are removed from the search engine pages.
  • Once all the pages from the old domain are gone, you can launch your new website with the old content however make sure all the links you use are of good quality.

If you use this technique before launching your new website and continue good SEO practices the you can easily rank again on top search engine pages.

2) Can I redirect the old site’s customers tomy new site?

Redirecting website traffic has to be done carefully using the right techniques. When it comes to redirection of penalized domains, often people are misled by wrong advice. Listed below are some of the most common methods of redirection and how effective they are for Penguin affected website.

301 redirection :

In 301 redirection method, you have a small piece of HTML code in the “.htaccess” file. This method is an effective way to redirect user to a new site but I would never recommend it for websites with Penguin issues. Simply because, 301 redirect not only redirects traffic but also the traffic of the old website.

So if you are 301 redirecting a Penguin affected website then it would forward the degraded link value of the old website to the new website. This can even cause your new website to be penalized.

302 redirection :

302 redirect is used for temporary redirection. If you have a page that is temporarily unavailable then you can use this technique to redirect your visitors to a relevant page. When you use 302 redirect, the link value is not transferred to the new page. However, you are supposed to use this type of redirection for a limited period of time. If you use this for a longer period of time then Google will automatically start to consider it as the 301 redirects.

So if you are using 302 redirection on a Penguin affected weiste for a longer period of time then you would automatically redirect the bad Penguin signals to you new domain.

Meta refresh redirect :

Again this one too seems like a great option for redirecting visitors from a site that has Penguin issues but it is not. You must have visited webpage that says redirecting to xyz URL in 5 seconds… such kind of redirection is known as Meta refresh. It is one of the oldest techniques of redirection. Meta refresh allows you to time your redirection. You can also set it to zero seconds and use it like a 301 redirection.

In Google’s product forum, John Mueller says that Google does not recommend using Meta refresh redirect because many browsers doesn’t support it. This redirection shows poor user experience and confuses search engine crawlers.

JavaScript redirection :

JavaScript redirection used to be a safer way of redirection when search engines like Google did not understand JavaScript. The code used for redirection using JavaScript looks somewhat like this:

< script type=”text/JavaScript”> < !– window.location = “http://www.newdomain.com/” //–> < /script>

Today, search engine have become smarter and they can parse JavaScript up to a greater extent. They can easily understand that the code mentioned above is similar to 301 redirect. This will not only redirect traffic but also the bad quality links to your new website degrading its quality.

Nofollowed Link with a splash page :

Many SEOs considered this as the safest way to redirect visitors from the old website to the new one. In this technique users are not directly redirected to your website. They will be first taken to a page that says “We have moved, so kindly visit our new website www.newdomain.com” then you would set Meta nofollow attribute to newdomain.com. Using this technique will trap the link juice of your penguin affected old website and prevent it from flowing to the new domain.

Robots.txt blocked page redirection :

Based on my experience, this is the safest redirection techniques for sites with Penguin issues. You may find it to be a bit complex but it is quite effective.

In this method, you will direct your visitors to an intermediate domain then block the search engine from this intermediate domain by using robots.txt and then direct the user to the new domain. Just like splash page technique, your Page Rank gets trapped in the intermediate page. So users will be redirected to the new domain without passing the ill effects of the Penguin attack to the new domain.

This is the code that you will use in the robot.txt file of the intermediate page to block out the search engine :

User-agen t: * Disallow: /

For this type of redirection, you need three domains i.e. olddomain.com, newdomain.com and intermediate.com

Direct Robots.txt blocked page redirection without using intermediate page :

There is also a way to use the above mentioned robot.xt block technique without using the intermediate page.

These are some of the few effective ways of redirecting the traffic without passing on the link juice. I hope that you find this post useful. Feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.

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