Google Penalties Might Follow You To A New Domain Name

Feb 25, 2014 • 8:23 am | comments (70) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

traffic conesSo we know that if you have a penalty on your site and you move your site to a new domain and redirect the URLs to that new domain, the penalty will flow because of the redirects. That is known.

What I did not know is that if you took your site and moved it to a new domain but did not redirect the old domain to the new, that Google may also pass along the penalty without redirecting the URLs.

If the site is basically a copy of the site and all you are doing is moving it to a new domain in order to leave your link or other Google penalty behind, it might back fire on you. Google's John Mueller told me yesterday in a video at 23 minutes and 15 seconds in that it is very possible that the penalty will follow the new domain even without redirects.

John said that if you have a site with a penalty and you take the site and simply move it to a new domain name, even without using the site migration tool or setting up redirects, Google may figure out it was a site move and pass along the penalty.

So the easy answer is not to simply move to a new domain for your site, cause Google may pick up on it and stamp it as a site move automatically and thus pass along your penalty.

Here is the video, fast forward to 23 minutes and 15 seconds in:

Forum discussion at Google+.

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02/25/2014 01:57 pm

lol what!! Are we talking about manual or algo penalties here? If its algo then you cant escape the penguin!! So really you need to dump the domain name content and design and start from scratch? Whats next G storing your whois data and applying a penalty to whatever site you build in the future as well? This seems more like a "personal penalty"?


02/25/2014 02:08 pm

I do not think I believe this to be true I do not thank Google is algo. is that smart yet.


02/25/2014 02:10 pm

I do not think I believe this to be true. I do not thank Google's algorithm is that smart yet.


02/25/2014 02:13 pm

Ha, then you should find a new thing to be an expert in. 90% of Google is basically built to deal with stupid decisions webmasters make, including running the same site on two domains - does that sound at all like something they could use here?

Dimitar Dimitrov

02/25/2014 02:16 pm

This is just another BS because I can tell from personal experience the info is incorrect! We did this for few quite large clients with massive sites after some black hat screwed with the main domains - no penalties were passed to the new domains (the content was exactly the same).

Barry Schwartz

02/25/2014 02:16 pm

Thanks, how long ago?

Dimitar Dimitrov

02/25/2014 02:24 pm

The latest one was in January. Currently the new domain is performing on the same level as the old one in regards to organic traffic. There were 3 more in the summer of 2013 and one more in December 2012.


02/25/2014 02:39 pm

What about we just copy and paste articles from one site to another and then delete previous? Is it ok to do this, because both sites are ours and we moving our own articles without any backlinks?


02/25/2014 02:48 pm

If the penalty is pure spam then moving the pure spam does not stop it being pure spam. So in that scenario the penalty will most likely follow regardless.

Chris Gedge

02/25/2014 04:18 pm

We moved to a new domain due to a penalty. 301ed and passed the penalty. Removed the 301 and the new domain fully recovered, so this is nonsense.


02/25/2014 04:39 pm

i think they are inadequate. Imagine they ban article which was distribute by thousands of newspapers. So all that websites will get penalty. Imagine situation where some adult tube site was banned and google banned thousands of different tube sites because of their "redirection penalty" (because content is same, not too much free content in adult industry). Every new thing i listen from google make me believe they are totally lost and don;t know what to do, and have only one purpose to tank 99% of websites to make more money. What is about search quality? google search looks like not have any quality anymore.


02/25/2014 04:57 pm

desire for money has forced Google to close their eyes, turn off the logic and guided by greed in all its updates


02/25/2014 05:00 pm

everything is possibly, google need more money...


02/25/2014 05:30 pm

Proof? I don't believe a single word of this.

Don Marks

02/25/2014 06:10 pm

We switched domains and links from the old url are showing in the new webmaster tools account, I think this needs more attention, this seems grossly over reaching from Google, we tried for 3 months to get 30 or so bad links removed, disavowed some links, etc and sent 4 requests for reconsideration without luck so made the decision to go to a new domain name only to have this dropped in our lap, I posted this in the web forum a week or so ago, we have not received a penalty but this is cause for concern.!category-topic/webmasters/webmaster-tools/16A_H_5IaeE

Ashish Ahuja

02/25/2014 07:10 pm

since you used a static link to your website, google knows that the website has moved and may penalise the new domain also

Ashish Ahuja

02/25/2014 07:13 pm

see proof site made PR7 when linked to PR7 with a link without 301 redirect

Ashish Ahuja

02/25/2014 07:14 pm

I think you are misunderstanding 301 redirect

Ashish Ahuja

02/25/2014 07:15 pm

I have done that for sites in the past and have not seen penalty transferring, but we make sure that there is no link that google can find easily from the new site to the old site

Ashish Ahuja

02/25/2014 07:19 pm

We have done the same and found that penalty does not pass if the two domains are not linked, but eventually it depends on many factors including if the content is good or not. If you listen to the video John says that may forward the penalty to the new domain, so its not absolute certainty that the penalty would be passed.

Durant Imboden

02/25/2014 08:06 pm

Sounds reasonable. Why would Google want to reward "churn and burn" behavior?

Don Marks

02/25/2014 08:39 pm

The link is on a page that is noindex, nofollow I don't believe this policy (following new domains) with a penalty been fully disclosed before.


02/25/2014 09:34 pm

So in other words Google is penalizing webmasters and not just websites? That's what I take away from this. I can understand passing a penalty for on-page problems, but if it's a link based penalty there appear to be no escape. The funny thing is I remember John Mueller saying a method to disavow links, before the disavow tool was available, was to simply rename the URL. Apparently that information is no longer accurate or John is passing conflicting information onto the webmaster community. It does not matter much anyway IMO. Just look at the search results for any products. How many small businesses do you see? I see very few, if any, on the first page. The first page of Google's search results looks more like a corporate directory or Amazon site search. Although the SBA says small businesses account for 54% if all sales at, these small businesses may get 5% visibility in Google's search engine or less. Google's search results definitely don't mirror the market. Applying new and never expiring penalties is a quick way to pump up Adwords revenue. I'm just not liking the strong armed profit generating tactics Google is using these days.

Ashish Ahuja

02/25/2014 09:37 pm

google does not disclose many things explicitly and many times they answer when a direct question is put to them


02/25/2014 09:42 pm

I have a new client who came to me last month, the seo their last company did no longer works (india SEO 7k links), so they should stay punished based on what the indian seo company did years back? I dumped the old domain and put the site on a new domain... to bad for them eh?

Peter Watson

02/25/2014 10:27 pm

Depends what the penalty is. If its Panda, then moving the site to a new domain won't fix the problem because its on page. But if you are suffering from Penguin, then copying the site to a new domain (without a 301) will work fine.

Marie Haynes

02/25/2014 10:35 pm

A while back I helped someone move to a new domain after their site was hit badly with Penguin. We did the move properly and there was no connection at all between the old site and the new other than the content was the same. However, shortly after doing the move, WMT started to show all of the links from the old site as now pointing to the new site using "via this intermediate link". I'm not sure if these links passed pagerank or whether they passed penalty signals. We solved the problem by completely removing the old site from the Google index and cache using the url removal tool. Fortunately we did it before Penguin refreshed again so we did not get a chance to find out if Penguin would have hit the new site as well.


02/25/2014 10:41 pm

John Mueller says Google will figure it out even without 301s. Where is your evidence for "will work fine"?

Durant Imboden

02/25/2014 10:43 pm

Ultimately, your client is responsible for what was on its site. And in any case, the site (not the SEO company) is what Google was indexing. Still, if the unnatural links have been cleaned up, isn't the penalty likely to expire at some point?


02/25/2014 10:48 pm

Shocking isn't it? A business trying to make money.

Peter Watson

02/25/2014 10:48 pm

You think Google will penalize a site for unnatural links, when they don't have any links? lol. The question isn't 'show us the evidence that it works', the question is 'Show us the evidence that what he says is true'. In other words, who has been penalized for doing this? The one!

Dan Shure

02/25/2014 10:49 pm

Mmm since I found myself commenting on Twitter, just going to add my two cents here. I think John is saying that it's possible for them to forward link signals (and thus penalties associated with them) but this is under certain conditions; 1. the sites are essentially copy/paste or very close to exact duplicates of one another in terms of content. 2. The old site must still exist and return 200 codes 3. It can take 6-12+ months for Google to actually pass the signals, if at all. It's not like an automatic transfer of a penalty, it's on a link by link basis and takes time (just like the disavow takes time). 4. It's more easily applied to the homepage or top level pages like category pages and more likely link signals will pass from links to those pages onto the new site. I don't believe his answer means that there is any sort of automatic transfer of a penalty from one domain to the other, it's much more nuanced than that, and especially the case that the old pages still need to return 200 codes.

Patrick Coombe

02/25/2014 11:00 pm

John thank you for your post always and Dan great points made as well. I have definitely seen this happen and have tested this when Penguin 1.0 or (or whatever the first Penguin was) first came out. Definitely agree with your time frame Dan but I would say that the range is actually more like 1-12 months depending on when the latest Penguin refresh happens.

Dan Shure

02/25/2014 11:01 pm

Thanks Patrick! - I was just quoting John who said 6-12 months :)

Patrick Coombe

02/25/2014 11:01 pm

right on Dan - I think that it is definitely subjective

Jim Wood

02/25/2014 11:14 pm

I am sure they can and probably will.

David Sandy

02/26/2014 12:22 am

If google is determining this via content it'd be trivially easy.

Craig Hamilton-Parker

02/26/2014 12:26 am

As Google is a domain registrar it makes me wonder if they pass penalty based on the domain owner. As a registrar they can look up the whois details easily. Has anyone tried changing the domain name owner and seen a recovery?


02/26/2014 12:28 am

What a load of BS. Just more Google propaganda.

Don Marks

02/26/2014 01:49 am

So the area they point webmasters, their help forum has been suggesting to users for years that if they have a website with a horrible link profile, they need to switch to a new domain name and magically this week they now say they can penalize the new domain, even if the old links don't directly point to this. This is beyond disclosure, I would ask you to point to any reference or suggestion by a reputable source that this is not a change of course from interpretation of guidelines they have previously posted. Again, not panda related sites, just passing penalties to new domains, not 301 redirected. In my opinion, It's a new curveball.


02/26/2014 06:54 am

We have a site penalized by Google few months back. We are now re designing that site, changing the entire text content and planning to use the same domain. Will google be ready to take away our penalty? the answer is yes, but it will take time. isn't it? but how much time? no one knows. What Google need to do is say things clearly other than sending this Google guys to spread confusions !!!

Soni Sharma

02/26/2014 07:00 am

There are many signals by which they can identify new site if using same content, pages, and links

Martin Woods

02/26/2014 09:09 am

I wrote a really long comment on this yesterday before I left the office, but it didn't upload for some reason. So for the sake of people reading this who are struggling to know what to do here's my 2c on the subject of moving a domain to escape a penalty. A believe that Google has many systems in place to stop both webmasters & users of it search engine from 'missing out' on traffic/information, because of poor awareness in the wonderful world of SEO. One of these as Maria mentions about is the "via this intermediate link" ( which I believe to not be for tracking down people who'd switched domains, but people who don't know what a duplicate domain/ power of links have on a website. So back to my experience on switching domains. To clarify; no one here (I think) is talking about the old 301 redirect hack, which used to work just after Penguin (until it caught up with you). What people here are talking about is canning an old domain, because it's simply just too burn't, and there isn't really anything to worth salvaging. For those of you who haven't done manual penalty removal, link removal is a big part of this used along with the Disavow, don't let anyone tell you otherwise!!! I have switched without any issues (bar one, early on when I wasn't aware of this "via this intermediate link" issue, only way to learn right?) dozens of domains now and as long as you lock down every (or most at least) signals that Google can use to see that you've switched the domain, I can say with confidence that this currently works, and the penalty does not pass. So if you've done it right you'll have nothing from the old site apart from the content in many cases and this as long at it's removed form the index on the old domain doesn't hurt your new site. Although I usually rewrite the main landing pages & homepage anyway just to be safe. If anyone is interested I've been asked to contribute an article on the Huff about this subject, so if anyone has any questions please add them here and I'll do my best to cover them.


02/26/2014 10:40 am

@durantimboden:disqus the company, a small local painter brought the SEO service from google addwords because he trusted Google and the results they provide, does Google have any responsibility over the advertisers they promote? The site is to small to clean the backlink profile and is cheaper to start over.

The Link Auditors

02/26/2014 12:16 pm

There are no cheats or cheap tricks to get out of a Google Penalty. I have had many clients who complain that they have tried re-directing, moving domains and more, with no result. I have to tell them each time that once you have been hit with a penalty, you have to remove the toxic links that are affecting your campaign before even thinking of moving on. I advise them that the best way to do this is to conduct a link audit, using our tools to detect the backlinks in question. Then once they have been found, they can be removed. I also cannot stress the importance of checking your backlink profile. Why wait for a penalty to be given to you? Keep a close eye on your backlinks to ensure that you will never be hit with a Google penalty.

Patti Paz

02/26/2014 12:35 pm

I can see how objective and unbiased this post is: "I advise them that the best way to do this is to conduct a link audit, using our tools to detect the backlinks in question" Oh, well, such is the SEO world of highly professional. Nothing against this poster, personally. . . .

Patti Paz

02/26/2014 12:40 pm

There's one among many, gigantic problems with: "For those of you who haven't done manual penalty removal, link removal is a big part of this used along with the Disavow, don't let anyone tell you otherwise!!!" Once you have removed and/or disavow all those Tens of THOUSANDS of toxic or possible toxic links, you are left with an old site, with usually dated content, and NO Links. What do you really have? Is it better to save all that money it cost you to pay professionals to do the clean up, usually tens of thousands of dollars, and just start out with a new sites?? I say, YES, and speak from experience, unlike most who comment here.

Martin Woods

02/26/2014 02:17 pm

Agreed, on some jobs it just not worth doing the clean up. It's a judgement call, like most things in the penalty removal. If you work on big brand cleanups, then this obviously isn't an option when you're banned for your own brand name. So how much are you spending on your brand name each day??? (me) Wow! I had an interesting project a while ago now, but the client had two domains for different geographic markets, both of which were toasted by spam (pre Penguin). After considerable research it was decided to save one, and move the other to a new domain. Moving domains was the easy one, removing 100,000s of links was a little harder... They are both now free from penalty and back to their original traffic volumes from before the manual. I think it comes down to common sense like most things in SEO, can you afford the time/resource, or expense and do you have the expertise to do the job? There are a lot of people who comment on things which they have no, or little experience on. Some times these are very influential people who are in turn are used as references. I'm not excluding some people from the big G in this statement either. (remember when we were all told to disavow URLs rather than domains?) I think as more and more knowledge of lifting penalties surfaces, whether Panda or Penguin, by link removal or Disavow hopefully more people will be empowered with better information and can decide for themselves.

02/26/2014 04:09 pm

"There are no cheats or cheap tricks to get out of a Google Penalty." There certainly are.

Martin Woods

02/26/2014 04:19 pm

I've tested both ways, with and without changing registrar/whois data both were fine, but I do always insist on changing the IP of the site, to not only another IP, but also another C class subnet mask.

Durant Imboden

02/26/2014 04:28 pm

Ads are ads. If your client had bought AdWords ads for his painting business, would he expect Google to inspect and vouch for the quality of his work? In any case, what do you suggest? That Google's antispam team give a "Get out of Jail" card to everyone who says "My SEO did it?" That's neither rational nor realistic.


02/26/2014 04:39 pm

@durantimboden:disqus starting over isn't a get out of jail card, that's a hard job in and of itself. Dude even child killers get out of jail at some point to say someone should be punished 4ever just because they made a mistake that hurt NOONE is really insane! The guy didn't kill mat cuts hamster...

Ashish Ahuja

02/26/2014 04:58 pm

when it came to light that doing a 301 redirect to new domain passes the penalty, we reached a conclusion "reading between the lines" that if the old domain is anyway related to new domain, even through links, then the penalty may pass to the new domain. We have got so accustomed to reading between the lines of what google says it never crossed my mind that there is no explicit policy in this regard.

Durant Imboden

02/26/2014 05:00 pm

Who said anything about punishing someone forever? As I said earlier: "If the unnatural links have been cleaned up, isn't the penalty likely to expire at some point?" (Google's "reconsideration request" form exists for a reason.)


02/26/2014 07:15 pm

it not shocking, but google have special status - because peoples using it only because their past quality. Hope it will changed soon.


02/26/2014 09:31 pm

Google are still arseholes. Who knew?

Lyndsay Peters

02/26/2014 10:37 pm

Ouch, those algorithms bite hard. But really if you're trying to sneak out of a penalty the easy way... it seems like google's main concern is making sure it's as hard as possible to be sleazy.


02/26/2014 11:01 pm

I have a long standing fairly trustworthy site with a manual link penalty which I've tried to clean up without success - now we are planning on moving the site in its entirety onto another domain we own then deleting the site off the old domain. We intend to place a homepage on the old site telling people we have changed the site onto the new domain but not linking to it - only giving the url in text. Then we intend to point the good links we know we have from the old site to the new site instead. My question - does this sound ok to you or do you think we will get the penalty moved across also

The Link Auditors

02/27/2014 09:43 am

There are, but they will always catch you out in the end. It is best to solve the penalty straight away, the right way.

Jitendra Vaswani

02/28/2014 04:49 am

Yes Lyndsay , Google now bites you hard if you do any suspicious stuffs.

Jitendra Vaswani

02/28/2014 04:50 am

If you clean up your site then google will not have objection.

Gracious Store

03/02/2014 02:49 am

Does the Google penalty last forever? If the intention of moving the site to a new domain without redirects is to start afresh and clean up whatever might have gotten that site into trouble with Google, will the pebalty still hang on the "neck" of that site?


03/11/2014 05:36 pm

I saw a penalty transfer back in Oct 2012 when I transferred a site that we penalized to a new domain without a redirect. I am glad Google is finally acknowledging this publicly, although it is a little late.

Casey Meraz

03/20/2014 04:35 pm

What are the dangers of moving a site once a manual penalty is lifted?

Richard Andrews

03/24/2014 11:26 pm

Has there been any examples of a penalty passing from one domain to another, even after locking down the penalised domain. Some of the advise given here suggests that Google is tagging data from the penalised site to pass on the penalty to any subsequant domain for the same business? Company Name, Company No? VAT No? Phone Numbers? Address details? It has even been suggested you have to change EVERYTHING!

Lauren Lawton Perfors

03/26/2014 04:47 pm

I understand and agree with the logic flow that if you conducted spammy link schemes in the past on purpose to manipulate Google, you should be held responsible for making an attempt to clean it up. However, Google also needs to allow people to make mistakes in the past. Link schemes were a dirty trick, true, but they were also very effective trick 5 years ago. If you make an honest attempt to clean up your mess, Google needs to provide a way for you to be forgiven for your past actions. Changing your entire domain name may be a bit of a cheap trick, but it also means that you literally have to start from zero gaining links and authority. Isn't that enough of a punishment to have to start from nothing again? Fortunately, I do not have to deal with this issue, but I see honest businesses who made a single mistake 5+ years ago buying links who didn't know any better who are now paying for it, with no way out.


06/19/2014 04:29 pm

Just a note: This SPECIFIC case is a Manual Review and not an Googlebot associating a domain with another domain. This is real human intervention. Google as referenced (implies the Webspam Team). The specific example is a very serious case of webspam.


06/27/2014 06:18 pm

So if have a penalty we shall commit suicide is that what Google is telling us?


06/27/2014 07:00 pm

They do have links, because you are 301 and Google follows those 301 and find your new site, so the domain change is worthless. Google see no difference between new and old site (because there isn't any)


07/22/2014 08:31 am

Moving website from .com to .net version, with fresh content and without 301 redirect can save us from penalty as we are not copying domain as it is? But yes few hundred click might have to be edited (from .com to .net) that are good quality links and sending regular traffic and sales.. Will this can save from passing penalty from .com to .net?

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