Can You Redirect A Google Penalty? Probably.

Jul 23, 2013 • 8:58 am | comments (37) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

traffic conesShould you redirect a site that has a Google penalty to a site that does not have a penalty?

I get this question all the time from webmasters. They have a bunch of sites, some of those sites got hit by either an algorithmic or manual penalty. They don't want to lose everything, so they ask if they should 301 redirect the penalized domain to the unpenalized domain.

My answer is almost always, don't do it. Don't send the negative link signals from your penalized domain to your unpenalized domain.

I don't think Google ever specifically answered this question - they may have. But it seems logical not to want to redirect a bad site to a clean site.

Oh, so what about negative SEO you ask? Good question. What is to stop you from redirecting your penalized domain to a competitors site? I guess Google has some failsafes for stuff like that?

What do you think?

Forum discussion at BlackHat Forum.

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Uri Lederman

07/23/2013 01:21 pm

nothing good has come or will come from redirecting a penalized site.. I have done the test with redirecting to a google pages site... not good.. :-)


07/23/2013 01:33 pm

I agree, Don't do it - Even if it doesn't directly pass on the negatives, you're still telling Google where to look for manipulation (and they will be more in-depth next time!). In fact, I remember someone on BHW posted about having a 'poison domain' once - I think before the penguin. Every site he redirected the domain to was hit hard shortly after, some even were deindexed. I can't find that post now though.

Hannah Mahira

07/23/2013 01:43 pm

Your GIF Sucks! :( Rest, I won't suggest to redirection in such cases.

Jonny Lis

07/23/2013 01:49 pm

I don't see how redirecting a penalty could ever be a good idea, although I'm intrigued by the idea of redirecting a penalised domain to a competitor's site. It's not unusual to see sites that are ranking well to suddenly get hit by negative SEO from competitors (which Google can't prevent), so it seems unlikely that Google could prevent that from happening as well.


07/23/2013 01:56 pm

Manual penalty no. Panda/Penguin penalty - probably yes. First you have to be sure that you don't have any actual bad links and shouldn't really be considered a "content farm" with the content you're redirecting, but it is effective. If someone has lost 50% of their traffic over night due to an algo "penalty" (yes they don't call it that, but it's what it is) and redirecting can fix most of that problem, how do you make the argument that you shouldn't do it? Doesn't have to be an existing domain, could be a brand new domain. Point is that Panda/Penguin affect the entire site (or at least entire categories of a site) and place a new ceiling so that content can never rank/get enough traffic as a site that doesn't have this applied dampening. So if you're convinced that the site was caught up by an overaggressive change or you've cleaned up the issues, a domain move is the fastest and most significant way to recover lost traffic.

josh bachynski (SEO)

07/23/2013 03:08 pm

John Mueller has stated a number of times that yes you will forward the demotion/penalty to the new site and that they have safeguards to try to stop you from forwarding the penalty.... how well these safe guards work is another matter


07/23/2013 03:18 pm

From experience, it's simply not true - at least from what I've seen. I 301'ed an entire Panda-hit 500+ page site on a page-by-page basis to a new domain and completely revamped site and got a huge boost of traffic - triple of what the old site had before the 301. It still continues to rank extremely well.


07/23/2013 03:29 pm

interesting... Could the "page-by-page" factor play a positive part in this?


07/23/2013 03:29 pm



07/23/2013 03:44 pm

Re-read that BHW thread. he redirects a domain he bought TO the penalized site, not away. interesting idea and he posts some follow up showing improvement.


07/23/2013 04:43 pm

Don't do it :)

Saroj Nayak

07/23/2013 05:01 pm

Yes, you are right Barry. Redirect from Penalize domain to New Domain is a bad SEO tactics.

Craig Hamilton-Parker

07/23/2013 06:09 pm

What if we redirected penalised sites to Google for a while?

Craig Hamilton-Parker

07/23/2013 06:11 pm

Or maybe just redirect some of the very best pages slowly one at a time.

John Doherty

07/23/2013 11:03 pm

Barry, here's an interesting study by Ian Howells about it.

Peter Watson

07/23/2013 11:20 pm

If a webmaster redirects a penalized site to a competitor, the competitor can simply disavow the url. Done!


07/23/2013 11:35 pm

I'm dealing with that now. The site received a penalty from Google about a year and a half ago, I believe because of spammy run-of-site links. Their response to this (long before I got involved) was to 301 to a new domain, and it worked very well for them, until Penguin 2.0. At that point, they saw about a 25-30% drop in organic traffic. So now I'm disavowing ROS links from a few hundred domains, and once that's done we're going to undo the redirect.


07/24/2013 06:33 am

I have seen sites performing well after being hit by Google Updates. They simply bought a new domain (some keywords rich domain) and redirect their penalized site to a new domain page by page and they jumped back in ranking.


07/24/2013 09:28 am

Does The Disavow Tool work?

Peter Watson

07/24/2013 09:32 am

lol......I doubt Google would spend time and money on something that didn't work. In my experience it worked a treat!


07/24/2013 10:26 am

Yeah, it provides Google with a load of free data, and saves them employing people to find which types of sites are being used for dodgy link building.


07/24/2013 10:30 am

Panda is easier to recover from though, so i'd imagine you're less likely to pass a panda penalty across because it's more to do with on page factors. Penguin however...


07/24/2013 10:51 am

I guess even Matt Cutts doesn't have an answer for this.


07/24/2013 01:07 pm

Hi I know, it provides a lot of free data, but after disavowing, have your site re-covered from Penguin?


07/24/2013 01:08 pm

Did your site re-covered after disavowing?

James Louis

07/24/2013 03:23 pm

^haha that is hilarious


07/25/2013 09:43 am

It works very well: it provide Google useful data. Does it help webmasters? Hard to say.

Peter Watson

07/25/2013 10:39 pm

It depends on your interpretation of 'recover', but yes it recovered.


07/26/2013 05:10 am

Instead Google should disavow/ignore the penalized site automatically unless the webmasters are same for both the sites, giving one less task for competitors.

Jonny Lis

07/30/2013 02:45 pm



09/11/2013 09:31 pm

I setup two identical websites. One to forward the penalized website to which is noindex and another domain with the site that is indexed. This way the old links still work but in a way that doesn't bother the new site. I can't get Google to remove the penalty after more then a year and I resolved the issue long ago. If Google won't restore the website in the index what is a person to do other then to create a new one? The real challenge was the PPC campaign spending doubled from $250 a day to $500 because the only way people could find the site was to click on the ad. Sneaky way to ring up more ad sales Google. I was forced to setup a new website to stop bleeding from PPC costs.

Mike Rothwell

12/10/2013 10:42 am

What if you redirected your site through a script or directory that is blocked in robots.txt? Isn't that sending Google bot down a black hole?


12/16/2013 09:11 pm

Great article, but I didn't find an answer for my problem: I got hit by Penguin and my home page and few other pages got deindexed. I already purchased a new domain and what I care for is content itself. Can I just transfer all content with WP Theme? Would I be penalized again because it will be the same site with the same content but with no backlinks and a new domain?

Peter Park

03/11/2014 06:42 am

I started a new website after a Penguin hit. I deindexed my old site and blocked the robot.txt and then started the new site by transferring all the content. On the old website, I put a nofollow link to my new url. I'm wondering if I should now do a 301 redirect from my old site and whether it will make any negative seo impact since the old site is completely out of Google. My reason for wanting to redirect is simply for user experience.


04/11/2014 10:01 pm

I hope you don't work in-house, in an agency, or as a consultant. You have all of the data but none of the understanding. Torch your own sites if you want, but don't hand out garbage advice with shit logic to others.

Jeff Grant

04/28/2014 05:27 pm

it's very probable you'll be penalized anyway just if copy the contents from a penalized domain to a new one

Cristian Sepulveda

05/08/2014 11:27 pm

About last question, Negative SEO can be very bad, and i think Google is not yet prepared for that king of staff. How can they do that? If i have a panalized domain and want to start fresh with new domain and hurt my competitor site i can do a redirect. So the question is, can google do something today? What kind of staff may they do for this kind of practices? Is not a small problem.

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