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I have a situation that I have never seen before and I didn't find any relevant questions/answers on here...I'm not new to this, I'm just hesitant to post about it so forgive my being somewhat vague:

I registered an expired domain (with nice backlinks) and redirected it to my website.

The previous registrants had created a plugin for a well-known open source CMS (with a high authority domain) and the plugin page featured a link to their site/domain (and had gotten nice coverage by blogs at the time).

I set up a 301 redirect from that domain to my domain.

My site is in the same industry/niche as theirs so the relevance is fine.

My site/domain is verified in Google Search Console/Webmaster Tools.

About a week after I set up the redirect, I checked the 'Links To My Site' report and saw a couple hundred links from domain.org.

This was actually a pleasant surprise because the links were from all the different sub-domains the domain.org uses to host content that has been translated into different languages for different countries.

A couple/few weeks later, those links weren't included in the Google Search Console 'Links To My Site' report anymore.

I know GSC reports are kinda buggy and can have long delays so I didn't really worry about it...but now it's been months.

Google found the links and reported them within a week of setting up the redirect but maybe a month later they weren't in the report anymore. That was probably 6 months ago.

The redirected domain has other nice links from blog coverage of the plugin and those show up in the 'Links To My Sites' report, the link from the plugin page still exists (I even visited it and clicked it to register the traffic in GA).

Have you ever had Google ignore links from high authority/quality sites?

I'm not interested in white/black/grey hat discussions and I'm fully aware of RankBrain and Google's increasing use of AI.

What I have never seen before is Google indexing, and then disregarding, reasonably relevant links coming from domains of the highest authority.

Anybody experienced this or have theories about it?

  • Anybody can detect this simple things. They have who is data, they know the links are dead from many years, now they see the domain is registered by someone else, they just see the date of domain register(If who is protection is enable). Now they will see the domain owner just done 301 redirection, which means they just try to get link juicy by using someone else work, so let's cut the power line on 301 redirect. – Goyllo Mar 24 '17 at 7:05
  • Of course Google can detect it, the domain expired nearly a decade before I registered it...it was probably parked for years before it was abandoned and i found it. I didn't try to imitate the old site or conceal my registration details. But if Google was going to discount the links due to a new registrant, I'd think they'd apply it to all links, but they haven't. Other desirable backlinks are still being reported, it's just the links from the high authority domain. – adam-asdf Mar 24 '17 at 7:25
  • Yes adam you're right. It's various from one website to another. Blackhat/Greyhat webmaster still paying high amount to expired domain which have quality backlinks, it means it's works for them, but most of that kind of webmaster don't implement 301 redirection, instead they put content on that site(Either their own content or via web archive index) and then they get contextual links. Google have many algo steps to detect those kind of links, and I think 301 redirection is their first and simplest way to detect those links. – Goyllo Mar 24 '17 at 8:05
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Google certainly does ignore links conditionally. There are at least three reasons why Google may be ignoring these links:

  1. The domain changed registration. Google watches domain expirations and whois data. Google may choose to ignore old links when a domain expires and is not re-registered by the same person.

  2. The redirects go to a 404 or a "soft 404". Google ignores links and redirects that don't work anymore. If they encounter a 404 error or a soft 404 error they ignore the link and redirect. Google would consider it to be a soft 404 if you redirected everything to the home page for example.

  3. The content of your page is not similar enough to the old content. Google knows what used to be on the pages. If you redirect the pages to content that is not similar enough, Google may ignore the links and redirects. Just having a site in the same niche is not enough. You have to make sure that the content of the landing page from the link will satisfy users that clicked on the link.

  • Thanks for the explanation. The domain did change registration (unavoidable) but I didn't think about/review the similarity of content (besides being in the same industry). – adam-asdf May 4 '17 at 23:49

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