Published on February 2nd, 2012 | by Rav6
Exact Match Domain 301 Penalty
The purpose of this post is to share with you some interesting results I have discovered when testing 301’s with exact match top level domains.
Every SEO understands, by acquiring a top level, exact match domain name, such as books.com you can almost guarantee Google will rank you in the top 3 positions for the term “books” (with a little link love).
Many SEO’s tend to 301 exact match domains to their website, with the intent to boost the receiving website for a specific term. Basic example: 301 redirect shoes.com to myreallyniceshoes.com. 99 times out of 100 this will result in myreallynicshoes.com ranking better for the term shoes. How right or wrong this is, I won’t comment on.
The basic principles are, build links to your top level domain (shoes.com) and a later stage, 301 redirect the domain to your website (myreallyniceshoes.com). This ensures the juice and authority is passed to your receiving website, resulting in you ranking for that term.
My Strange Results
I tested the basic method above; however I decided to 301 my top level exact match domain to an internal page of my 2nd website. I started off initially by building links to TLD, achieving a position 5 rank for its main key term.
My 2nd website was ranking position 3 for the same key term. My thoughts were to 301 redirect my TLD to the 2nd website, helping it boost its positions. Now generally this would work without any glitches.
After the 301:
1 week after applying the 301, my 2nd website fell from position 3 to page 2. My top level domain disappeared from SERPS altogether (still indexed). I was quite puzzled with these results, so decided to sit and wait a few months before making any changes.
Several Months Later:
3 Months of waiting, I finally lost patience, nothing had changed. At this point I decided to take off the 301 from the TLD and see what happens.
Within days of removing the 301, my 2nd website was boosted back to position 3 and my TLD reappeared back at position 5. It seems Google had either penalised me for using a 301 on TLD to an internal page, or they are now penalising websites that have 301 redirects from exact match domains.
I have ruled out the fact the TLD domain links may have affected the receiving website, as this site regained its old positions back once I lifted the 301.
Moving forward, I aim to 301 the same TLD to the same website, yet this time using 301 to the homepage (not the internal page) . Based on the results of this, I can conclude if this only applies to internal pages.
Would love to hear anyone else’s experiences with similar tests. As always, look forward to your feedback. If you want to keep upto date with any future tests we run, follow me on Twitter.