In my post on the Google Penguin penalty and strategies for getting out, I mentioned that doing a 301 redirect to a new domain might work.  I also wrote: “I don’t see this as a long term solution”.  But you don’t know for sure unless you try.  Since I wanted to know for sure, I tried.  Here’s the result:

Google Penguin Escape Failure

Failed Escape!

The first graph shows a nice site moving along with normal weekly oscillations, until it gets cut down by a maniacal penguin.  Shortly after it got hit I purchased a brand new domain, uploaded the same content (different design but same text content/pages), and implemented a 301 redirect from the original site to the new domain.  After about a month the traffic was around 50% of the original site pre-Penguin.  Toward the end of July the traffic shot up to around 100% of the original site.  Then, after a spike, the Penguin dashed back in and cut it down again.

A Few Details

This was a totally legit, well researched, informative site, but rather small at less than 20 pages.  I hadn’t done much link building on the original site (but the link building was overly keyword focused), and only did 2 high quality guest posts for the new site, with generic anchor text.  It’s interesting that Google allowed this to work for 3 months before nailing it.  Was it another Penguin iteration?  I don’tthink so, as there wasn’t much talk on the web of other sites being hit, and I didn’t see such movement in the fairly large number of sites I watch.  Was it the case of Google all of a sudden nailing all 301 redirects for Penguin hit sites?  No.  I had two other Penguin hit sites 301′d to new domains (for shorter periods) and neither of them were hit again.

Some Thoughts

It looks to me, as I expected, that 301′s will only provide a temporary escape from Penguin.  Maybe you’ll get about 3 months out of jail.  Can you just do a chain of 301′s, one after another, to keep the money coming in?  It’s possible.  But if you’ve got a site that’s a real brand with real fans, this isn’t going to be an option.  You may also be burning the target domains.  (I’m testing this now…seeing what happens when the 301 is removed but the content stays on the target domain.)

It makes sense that Google would want to pass the penalty through a 301.  If they didn’t, spammers and genuine sites alike could do whatever they wanted, and simply 301 to a junk domain over and over again.

The best solutions are probably one or more of those I covered in my first Penguin post:

  1. Remove low quality links
  2. Delete pages with too many low quality links
  3. Split your site in to multiple sites
  4. Get more high quality, natural links

For me the verdict is in on redirecting a Penguin hit site to a new domain…it won’t work for long.

*Notice the spike in the graphs just before the Penguin hits.  I have no idea why there’s an unusual spike just before a site is nailed, but I’ve seen this before.

And An Unrelated Note

Aaron published an outstanding post over the weekend: Google Copyright Transparency Report.  I highly recommend reading it.  Google has demonstrated extreme carelessness with Panda and Penguin, destroying high quality, totally legit businesses and websites that did nothing illegal.  Many of these sites provided employment for multiple people, not to mention all their satisfied customers.  People who think Google can do no evil may come up with excuses for Panda and Penguin (which I’d strongly disagree with), but there is no excuse for what Aaron brings up in his post.  Google is punishing sites for copyright violations (not a bad idea on the face of it), but exempting themselves.  This is a bold, shit-in-your-face move, where they admit they’re going to punish small sites but exempt the biggest copyright thief in existence…Google.  Google steals and profits from copyrighted content left and right.  It’s a large part of their business model.  Yet, they’re announcing they’re going to punish others for doing what they do on an incredible scale.  Read the the post.  If you had any doubts about Google’s intentions, motivations, and duplicity, you no longer should.

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