Last week we spotted a strange thing happening with Google, it seems that anchor text is no longer passing via certain types of 301 redirect.
So far this has only been verified for a couple of websites under certain conditions so the following information should be treated as theory based on observation rather than concrete facts.
We’ve seen this happening on blogs but it might happen on other sites too. The blogs in question used to have pages with incoming links from some huge blogs which we can safely assume are never going to be penalised by Google.
The pages no longer exist so rather than wasting the incoming links they have been 301 redirected (12+ months ago) to the sites homepage.
When a link passes anchor text it means that if TrustedSite.com/blog-post/ linked to www.website.com/old-page.html with a unique phrase we would see both the TrustedSite.com page and the website.com/old-page.html page ranking in Google for that unique phrase. Clicking on the “cached” link in the search results would show a message from Google saying “These terms only appear in links pointing to this page” rather than highlighting the results as normal.
In the past if the old-page.html page was deleted and redirected to the homepage then the homepage would also start ranking for that query.
Now this doesn’t seem to be happening, in effect the link is still (perhaps) passing PageRank but it isn’t passing anchor text.
Google is certainly passing anchor text when URL structures change and when pages are moved but they don’t seem to pass anchor text when a page is deleted and redirected to the homepage.
Thinking about it from Googles point of view this is logical – if a page has been deleted then why rank another unrelated page based on the links built to the old page? Most likely there is some kind of filter similar to the Googlebomb algorithm which stops the 301 passing anchor text if the target page doesn’t contain the actual text of the original link or is substantially different to the deleted page.
Perhaps the end for bait & switch tactics?