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Redirect Case Study: Transferring Google PageRank




Barry Schwartz reports that an old WebmasterWorld thread has been revived with data on how long it took Google to reassign the PageRank of the URLs he had redirected.

According to Barry, the author had set up a new URL structure and had redirected the old URLs to the new ones using a 301 redirect. If you have ever done this with a client, you know the next thing that happens is their PageRank disappears and they call you frantically at 2am wondering what went wrong.

In an effort to help us better prepare our clients for the impacts of moving a page (or site completely), the author put together the following timeline:

  • October 2nd - Site migration and 301’s implemented
  • October 10th – Week or so later lost all PR on new URLs (all to PR N/A)
  • October 30th – Month later, PR N/A now changed to PR0
  • December 29th – 3 months after 301 redirects back to original URL PR

The whole process took about three months, but to reiterate an important point made by Barry:

Although the Toolbar PageRank didn’t appear in the new URLs for three months, it likely had PageRank internally but not yet visible in the toolbar. I am sure the traffic from Google took less than three months to get to where it was.

At any rate, this is a important reminder to document critical processes like these so you can set better expectations for your clients/bosses when redirects need to be created.

  • http://www.petinsurancepro.com/sitemap/ Mikael

    How could he only guess that the traffic took less than three months. If he is monitoring pagerank in such detail I’m sure he must have tracked the traffic as well?

    Mikael’s last blog post..How to Find Affordable Pet Insurance for Dogs

  • http://quilmesverano.tv Quilmes Verano

    Matt Cutts stated the Googlebar updated its PR in his blog:

    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/last-toolbar-pagerank-update-of-2008/

  • http://twitastic.com Mattias

    This is more of interest to people who actually measure their work in Toolbar PageRank and not in actual substitution of url in the result list. Even though this may not affect all who work in the industry it is an interesting “detail” in the diminishing value of Toolbar PageRank.

    Mattias’s last blog post..Twitter Tools for Mac Users

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com Jaan Kanellis

    If the client is worried about PR in the toolbar then they might not be as educated as they need to be. As traffic flow from old URL to the new ones is what is really important.

    Jaan Kanellis’s last blog post..Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions Book

  • http://www.tampaseo.wordpress.com Pavlicko

    No surprise here – toolbar PR is not a reliable indicator at all. I see the same thing happen during complete site redesigns when old URLs are redirected to the friendlier urls within the same domain. The sites usually drop back for a while, then come back up fast. Still, very important to let your clients know what to expect before you make a major change like that.

    Pavlicko’s last blog post..More Proof the Internet Is Good For Business.

  • http://www.ninebyblue.com/blog Vanessa Fox

    I just did a post last night showing how a redirect impacted my site:
    http://www.ninebyblue.com/blog/a-short-case-study-on-redirects-301s-vs-302s/#comment-4101

    Seeing when visible PageRank updates is a poor metric, since as commenters have pointed out, that’s simply updated 3-4 times a year, and is no indication of actual PageRank transfer from the redirect. So a timeline of of the toolbar PageRank display isn’t really helpful, although a timeline of search traffic changes would be.

    In my case, while the new URLs seem to have now replaced the old URLs in the SERPs and now ranking in the place of the old ones, I did lose ranking for a time. Google brought me half as much search traffic in December as it did in October. (I did the move in mid-November.) I got 25% of the visitors from a search for [vanessa] for instance. I’ll check at the end of January to see if my traffic is at pre-move levels.

    I always recommend that large sites that rely on search for a large part of their revenue move their site in batches, if possible, since I have often temporary dips in search traffic as the search engines deindex the old URLs and reindex the new ones.

    Vanessa Fox’s last blog post..By: SEO Chicks – Too Cool For School? » SEO Chicks

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Vanessa – as someone that’s worked “behind the Google curtain” I hope folks pay attention to your findings. ;-)

  • http://www.fairytalebaby.com Jason Kuiper

    The almighty pagerank, man I wish my pagerank would increase!

  • http://www.velvetblues.com Shirley

    Yeh, toolbar PR is always delayed. Google only updates it to reflect the internal PR every three months or so… So I would assume a similar delay like this. However, it would be interesting to see the traffic statistics to see how that was affected to see how much delay there was in the internal reassignment.

    Shirley’s last blog post..Is Search Engine Optimization Unfair For The Little Guy?

  • http://www.seoresults.co.za/pages/seo-tools/ Jacques Seoman

    General consensus is that PageRank doen’t really matter, but when you lose ranking on your keywords in Google your traffic volume will definitely suffer as a consequence.

  • http://www.paystolivegreen.com Patrick

    I agree with most of the commentors that traffic is more important that pagerank. It does suck that you don’t get the refreshing sign that your site’s pagerank isn’t that high, but as long as the traffic is coming in, who cares.

    Patrick’s last blog post..Shower Water and Energy Use Calculator

  • http://www.greatpriceshere.com Nicole Price

    Yes indeed, the old mantra – document what you do and do what you document. Thanks.

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..New Year Resolutions to Help You Save Money

  • http://www.gadgets4nowt.co.uk PS3

    In the example given, what would happen to any new backlinks to the old (redirected ) URLs. Would the PR automatically get “credited” to the new destination URL?

  • http://www.jordankasteler.com/utah-seo-pro-blog/ Utah SEO Pro

    Well you had to way for the toolbar pagerank to update. the real pagerank, i’m sure, was much quicker.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..An Interview with Utah SEO Pro (Jordan Kasteler) by Martin Bowling

  • http://www.saadkamal.com Saad Kamal

    Toolbar PR only updates 4 times a year. So i don’t think this could have been done any quicker.

    But i’m sure the actual pagerank (that we can’t see) of all the pages were transferred to the new site in due time.

    One way to find out is to check your Google Analytics logs, and monitor the search traffic for the whole period. After a 301, the search traffic should decrease for a while and then it should level up again — and thats when the pagerank transfer completes.

    Saad Kamal’s last blog post..Saad’s Hot Picks – Jan 7, 2009

  • http://www.propdata.co.za/ Robert

    I’ve recently moved a very large website. With minimal rewrites but a good system of XML sitemaps the site was re-indexed and is now generating more traffic than before. Believe it or not, but I reckon Google do a decent enough job of figuring out the move on their own. Provided you map it out for them.

  • http://www.velvetblues.com Shirley

    Yeh, Google does do a good job of figuring things out, but they need to be properly told (via sitemaps and redirects) what is going on. Otherwise, there’s the whole duplicate content issue which would delay the reindexing of the moved website.

    Shirley’s last blog post..Google Maps’ Street View Helps Fight Crime!

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  • http://www.free-istuff.co.uk Milo

    that’s surprisingly clever.:-P

  • http://www.thinknearn.com/blogs/ Kim

    Check the live pagerank (multi-datacenters) of your website for free at tools.khrido.com/webtools/pagerank-checker.aspx

  • http://www.netage.co.za Goran Web Design

    I think at times like this it is generally a better idea to educate your clients than it is to alleviate their fears.

  • http://www.goodies4free.net Wii

    I have always wondered how moving a server would affect the PR of a site. This little ‘experiment’ is very interesting. Thanks

  • http://www.thewhitehatter.com John

    well toolbar pagerank and all redirect pagerank took effect every 3 months?

    John’s last blog post..Busby SEO Test the hard way

  • http://www.seofemenino.com Posicionamiento web

    I ‘ve been moved a very large website during 3 months I really don’t know how many redirect 301 I ‘ve done into different urls, and in the last update pagerank have been really great! .

    Posicionamiento web’s last blog post..Euskaltel lleva 6 dĂ­as sin darme el servicio de internet

  • http://www.dataflurry.com DF Marketing SEO

    I had just recently transferred a page on my website using a 301 permanent redirect and the same thing happened. Pagerank was lost and then upon the next update re-loaded.

  • http://www.edwinsdesignlab.be/blog/ edwin

    What happens if you try to cumilate a high pr site by redirecting it to an medium pr website ?

    edwin’s last blog post..Duplicate content opsporen?ontmasker de copycats

  • http://www.gadgets4nowt.co.uk PS3

    I recently took off a 301 redirect for a couple of days, maybe Google hadn’t visited because when I put the redirect back on, PR hadn’t changed at all.