One of the benefits of having a unified platform like EBN is that we can do analysis on a large number of PBN blogs. Because some users reported having more than just a few blogs deindexed in a sweep (later to be known as Panda 4.2), we did an analysis of all deindexed blogs and found one really obvious pattern.
Keep in mind this is a minority of users and blogs on the platform and no users or servers lost a significant number of blogs.
Lots of 301 redirects for 404 errors
We found the large majority of deindexed blogs in the latest sweep have in common two things:
- they’re doing 404 error redirects,
- they have a large number of 404 errors (meaning the old website had a lot of subpages).
In exact terms this looks like this:
- 80% of deindexed blogs have 30% or more of all traffic redirected to the homepage.
- 90% of indexed blogs have less than 5% of all traffic redirected to the homepage.
This could mean that Google finds a 301 redirect on a majority of subpages very problematic, especially if they go to the homepage or a completely different subpage than it was previously. This is not an issue of a plugin but of a redirect (so using different plugins, hiding plugins or doing it with htaccess won’t help).
While a lot of 301 redirects to a new URL but with same or similar content does not cause issues (this happens when people redesign websites, move subpages to a different category, move from non-www to www, remove .html from the URL and similar), it seems a large number of redirects to homepage most likely causes deindexation (or at least a manual review).
Which, come to think of it, makes a lot of sense. There are not a lot of legitimate uses for redirecting tens or even hundreds of subpages to the homepage when content changed.
We don’t know if you can get this kind of deindexed websites reindexed but we’d love to hear if anybody has tested this.
At this time we highly recommend you disable all 404 redirect plugins for blogs that had a large number of subpages before you bought them. If you know of a subpage that has some strong juice, you can rebuild that page with the same URL and content or you can create a custom 404 page that has a link to the homepage.
Conclusion And Our Recommendations
Besides the obvious redirect issues, we also found that blogs with more posts (10+) and more pages (5+) are a bit less likely to get deindexed. Therefore our two recommendations are:
- immediately remove all 404 redirects and rather rebuild important subpages,
- add more (quality) content and more pages.
Follow the above recommendations and we can say with certainty you’ll lower the chances of your blog getting deindexed. I also recommend you read our blog post on the last year’s deindexation aftermath that covers a lot of the above plus Searchmetrics’ analysis of high-ranking websites.
We’ve started building an advanced analytics platform that will help us analyze blogs better and hopefully give us even more actionable information. We’ll keep you posted!