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I am trying to determine the short-term and long-term effects of bad 301 redirects.

We launched a new website, and gave our developer a list of 301 redirects. The developer said they implemented the 301s, and all was good. However, we found out 60 days later that the 301s were going to non-exsitent pages, so none of them worked.

The pages that were redirected were mostly long-tail pages that did not get a lot of traffic, but we can't figure out the effect on our site as a whole. Some pages were very important, high-traffic pages.

Our overall organic traffic has dropped by 50% since our launch. We don't know how much affect these 301s had on our organic traffic drop.

We fixed the 301 redirect problem five days ago (the 301s now work), but we have not seen any improvement in organic traffic since the fix.

Questions:

  1. How long will Google punish you for a bad 301, after you fix it? Are we starting from scratch, or are these pages tagged in a negative way that will cause lasting damage?

  2. Did these bad 301s effect SEO for our whole site? Meaning, did we lose domain authority for the whole site - not just the pages with bad 301s? Did Google lose respect for our site!

  3. Could this problem have caused Google to throttle our crawl rate? We have noticed very slow crawl rates on this new website.

  4. Is it possible that Google figured out the problem quickly, and that it did not have much affect on us?

  5. Is there a way to look at 301s historically, and see how Google was treating them?

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    It should take at least as long as it was broken if not longer. And Yes. It did effect search performance. It likely did not effect your crawl rate much if at all. You confused Google, no doubt. However, Google is a machine. All will be fine in the end. It is a matter of discovering the new changes, building the metrics, and then finally, stabilizing the metrics and possibly building upon them by creating new content. Simple. Do not over think things. Cheers!! – closetnoc Dec 10 '17 at 17:17
  • You can look at the crawl errors as described here and mark them as fixed: support.google.com/webmasters/answer/55281?hl=en. It might take longer for your userbase to recover than it will do Google. Anyone who visited a 301 link is going to be potentially redirected to the invalid page as the browser rememebers 301s and will not even ask for the original url. – Rob Sedgwick Dec 10 '17 at 18:55
  • Are you migrating your site from old-domain to new-domain? Why you've used only 301 redirection, you can use change of address tool as well. You already said we have launched a new site, but still I want to confirm that you're migrating your site to new domain. – Goyllo Dec 11 '17 at 5:03
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  1. Google doesn't "punish" your website for a bad 301 - If you redirected to a 404 then Google thinks that the page doesn't exist anymore and will remove it from the index after some time.

    Depends on when Google gets round to recrawling the broken URLs. (because they broken might take a while, as they wouldn't have much priority)

    ... could check some with 'Fetch as Google' - even a redirecting URL can 'request indexing' - MIGHT speed it up. No Guarantees!

  2. No, redirects only affect the page that was redirected. It can be 'approximated' by taking something like the sum or average of ranks for all pages in a site,

    ... if some pages went missing (or got lower rank, eg to broken links) - then yes, the overall sum/average may go down.

    (the site had fewer pages, less internal links (which distribute PageRank!) so yes, pages would be ranked lower)

  3. No, But it's possible you did cause Google to get stuck in a bunch of dead ends meaning it hasn't crawled your site properly - depends on the size of your site really.

    But if a large proportion of attempts have issues, Google could suspect the server is having capacity problems, so it slows down, to avoid making the problem worse.

  4. Google might have held your pages in the index thinking you made a mistake but 60 days is long enough for the majority of those pages to lose their rank if they previously held any

  5. In what way? if Google found them it treated them as a 301. Frankly its quite hard to figure out what Google thinks of a currently indexed URL, let alone worrying about getting historical data.

So there are two issues that immediately crop up from bad redirects - ranking isn't preserved and moved over, users aren't moved over so might think that item is no longer available on your site.

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