How I Got A Top Ranking Back After I Lost It

I used to rank no1 for a keyword which drove a decent amount of traffic every day with an internal page

Over the lifetime of a page, I used to 301 old (out-dated and not-searched for) pages on the same topic, to one single up-to-date page on the topic (the page that ranked no1).

It wasn’t a money key term, so I didn’t keep an eye on things. I wasn’t trying to manipulate things too much, just consolidate any ranking power in one location (all the pages had picked up natural links).

Anyway, just out of curiosity I checked the performance of the page recently and found for the last few months the page had tanked in Google – flatlined.

The target page  (with natural links, on a well linked to page) wasn’t there at all (another page on the site was, but ranking lower on the first page).

Steps I took:

  • removed ALL the 301 redirects going to the topic page (or more accurately URI)
  • and then I changed the URI (the web page address) of the topic page
  • and put a single 301 redirect from the old URI to the new URI

A few days later:

  • I have a no1 again, and it’s my target URI
  • and a double listing
  • and a pretty big spike in traffic on that one key-term

That’s all I did.

Cool URI don’t change, of course, for accessibility reasons (a bit unpractical advice from the W3C) but changing the URI, and removing the old 301 redirects seemed to have a positive impact in Google, don’t you think?

Improved Rankings

Thinking out loud….

  • Perhaps Google thought I was trying just a bit too hard in keeping the original URI at number 1 with those redirects, even with natural links.
  • Perhaps the original page had picked up a light internal anchor text penalty over time ( I play about with that stuff a lot) and changing the uri has had a positive effect?

Like many things in SEO, perhaps everything, it’s impossible to isolate.

The important thing is I’ve got my no1 back, I’ll check on it again in a few months with some tighter tests running on it, i’ll move on to the next no1.

If you have an internal page that used to rank, but doesn’t, and you are doing some of the same stuff as above?

You’ve nothing to lose by giving the above ideas a try.

I’ll be publishing more granular-observational-type posts in the coming weeks – I think it’s more valuable and you can get seo news on a 100 other websites.

Published SOON – how I more-than-doubled my traffic to an old page by making a few simple tweaks (image below)….

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23 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    Nice post Shaun This particularly intrigues me because I tend to 301 a lot! I quite often think “ahh this page would be better named as XYZ” so set it up then redirect… I wonder if the sheer amount of 301s I do is affecting things? Also, I have a sub page that used to rank top 3 but has recently been overtaken by exact match keyword domains… Any ideas how to beat it? My domain is far older, with like 600k links or something. The page in question has a good few thousand links and about 2000 likes on facebook… What else can I do to push it up? Cheers :)

    • Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

      Buy an exact match domain? It’s time to think about owning serps, and not just with one site – exact match domains don’t seem to be going away :)

  2. Cornwall SEO says:

    Tasty bit of Info. It’s so hard to isolate these examples and know exactly what causes them, so any examples like these add to the knowledge.

    • Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

      Indeed Lyndon, and my upcoming posts in the coming weeks will all revolve this. Relaying observations for discussion is where this seo blog is heading :)

  3. kev grant says:

    most interesting.. have been wondering about internal 301 decay lately, and changing URLs and titles and old-new 301 is one of our staple WP tactics for a couple of years now, so this definitely needs coming back to again in testing mode now. thx for the heads up amigo ;)

  4. Robyn says:

    Interesting post Shaun. Someone else suggested we do something similar to our site just a little while ago – remove the 301 redirects to our target page (although there are only like 6 or 7) that seem keyword heavy, and watch our rankings increase as a result. This is for a major keyword though and there are other things we need to improve to rank #1 so we haven’t done that yet. It seems kind of silly to think you would be penalized for light use of 301 redirects…they’re a perfectly logical thing. What do you think about redirects of multiple keyword rich domains you own to one target domain? We have a few and don’t really know what else to do with them, but if there is a better solution I’d love to try it.

    • Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

      I would not redirect multiple sites like this to one domain. I used too, but it just doesn’t seem to have the effect it used to, and any benefit might well be very temporal. I don’t use mini sites for linkbuilding either. DEVELOP the keyword rich sites as small mini sites to get into the top ten for those narrow keywords. Don’t build links, build websites :)

  5. Chrisss says:

    I’m just in the middle of a process where I need to make a lot of 301 redirects, due to some structual changes on my website. It’s nice to be reminded not to make any errors in this process and to carefully ensure and monitor that thingsgoes as planned. And to remember to check up on Google in 2-3 weeks from now :) Thanks for a good post.

  6. Andrew says:

    Or perhaps the ranking will have fallen again after a couple of weeks….

  7. Chris says:

    Very true andrew!

  8. Robyn says:

    Thanks for the advice Shaun. Do you think it’s possible that redirecting keyword rich sites to one domain causes a (small) penalty now? It’s not something I’ve read a lot about in the past months but it wasn’t so long ago that this was a best practice. Mini sites…geez that sounds like a lot of work >:( Just kidding, something to look into surely, maybe an opportunity to attack some new keywords.

  9. David Blizzard says:

    Thanks for the scare Shaun. Just kidding, this is the type of info that some would keep to themselves and I appreciate your willingness to share. I voted on that poll at Holistic Search, looks like you don’t have to worry about being last :)

  10. Shaun Guido says:

    Ok … This is interesting, because I’ve been stumped on this one for a bit. I had a site at #1 in google for about 2 years, for a pretty competitive term, and the same homepage had about 20+ keywords in the top 10 Now the homepage isn’t ranking anything in G .. I’m talking page 4 or 5, and it’s been that way for 2+ months. Now that I read this post it’s made me think twice. 1st I thought manual edit, but maybe not. This is a ecomm site that used to have different products. Since I didn’t want to lose the link base, I 301’d those inner pages to the homepage. So in all I have 10 … 301’s pointing from those dead pages to homepage. All of those “dead” pages have incoming links. So what’s the best course of action here?

    • Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

      Hello Shaun Remember every site is different. It’s treated different every time. At the moment, I’ve removed **unrelated** multiple 301s and (so I don’t lose link juice) I’ve just pointed those links to my contact page. Google can kill that all it wants. I’m monitoring this on other sites and pages too so I will let you know :)

  11. Shaun Guido says:

    So here’s a thought …. Create a “new page” say “interesting.html” … then have that 1 page .. 301 to the homepage? But then again I guess if it’s a punishment, then in theory those links are useless? I’ll test this out and see what happens

  12. Shaun Guido says:

    actually come to think of it … i’ll just redirect those pages to the new page and stop there, and see if that brings back some rankings..

  13. Shaun Anderson (Hobo says:

    301 still works. It’s multiple 301 redirects to the same that **might** cause an issue… but it would need more testing to confirm this a bit more.

  14. Shaun Guido says:

    i’ll keep you posted if it makes a diff

  15. Everfluxx says:

    Extremely interesting post! I have a similar issue on a site doing internal 301s, so reading your article was a sort of a wake-up call to me. About the URI that “tanked”: did the page just drop in rankings, or had it been deindexed as well? Thanks a lot for sharing this!

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