Google stops passing anchor text through certain 301 redirects

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  • January 31, 2009

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 linked to with a unique phrase we would see both the page and the 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?

Patrick Altoft

About Patrick Altoft

Patrick is the Director of Strategy at Branded3 and has spent the last 11 years working on the SEO strategies of some of the UK's largest brands. Patrick’s SEO knowledge and experience is highly regarded by many, and he’s regularly invited to speak at the world’s biggest search conferences and events.

  • Conrad

    It would be intersting to see whether this only happens with redirects to a homepage.

  • Steve

    Redirecting to a homepage is effectively wasting a valuable link anyway – there’s far more benefit to redirecting to something relevant.

  • Rosenstand

    Hi Patrick
    I’ve seen similar patterns here lately. It seems that a 301 redirect from to does pass PR but no longer pass the “anchor text value”. Actualle I’ve seen this on three very different sites in different niches over the past 2-3 weeks.

  • Jill Whalen

    Interesting. Thanks for bringing this up.

    It does make sense from Google’s point of view to do this. I think it’s a really smart move on their part.

  • Miguel

    This actually does make alot of sense, given the idea that redirecting a listing that ranks to a page that is irrlevant and having that page rank made no sense.

  • Alan

    This is pretty interesting. Do you think the same thing happens with cname redirects not passing anchor text description?

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  • Biswajit

    CooL post.
    @Alan CNAME redirects are not problem.

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  • DazzlinDonna

    I’d guess that your theory, “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.”, is likely the correct one.

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  • Arnie K

    I agree with Donna, we always thought that if the target page doesn’t contain the actual text of the original link or is substantially different to the deleted page, then the 301 redirect was almost worthless from a link juice perspective.

  • zoekmachine optimalisatie

    Very intresting post ! Thanx. I think passing pagerank with 301 redirect will soon be history to.

  • Greg W

    Interesting- this makes sense, link to the new page, for there should be a relevent page on a new site, I always went the page by page 301 method, makes more content to content match. Google seems to prefer this as your theory is pointing out.

  • Greg W

    I wonder if anyone has any current thought on how many sites if there is a limit you can set 301 to point to a new site…we are launching a new main site to consolidate about 7 sites and plan to 301 all those 7 sites to one main new site by page 301 for relevent content matching. Does Google accept more than 3 sites at a time doing a 301 to one main site..? should it be done over time? like 3 months?

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  • John Britsios (aka Webnauts)

    A very interesting post which make a lot of sense to me. I always believed that is should be so, that’s why when I remove pages, I redirect them to the next existing page which content matches most. Thanks for bringing up this issue. Very cool observation.

  • Christoph Cemper

    Awesome finding Patrick – do you have any insights in regards to domain-wide 301 redirects?

  • krishna

    This is an interesting find. I need to throw some more light into it before coming to a final conclusion. Well do you have any particular details on websites which explains this. Just curious :)

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  • Jesper Jørgensen

    Great findings Patrick

    I was just googling on how 301 pass anchor text value, so this is great stuff.

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  • Dennis

    Wow, thanks for the posting. I am curious about more insights …

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  • Pauline

    Is this still the same currently? or have changed?

  • Anders Holm

    Well, in my opinion this makes sense because you should not be able to just redirect all of your pages to a specifik page to get it to rank higher.

    ….Google +1 !

  • Google Sniper

    This is interesting. I guess we need to wait and see how this plays out.
    Any updates?

  • Google Terminator

    This makes perfect sense after all why would you count a anchor text to a missing page. Thanks for great info!

  • John S. Britsios (Webnauts)

    Patrick did you notice that the member Google Sniper and Google Terminator is the same person and a comment spammer?

  • Google Sniper

    I don’t see myself spamming as this is really news to me, I’m not an SEO expert yet but I do read this blog and subscribed to this post.

  • Troy Tanner

    Thanks for the post. I am pretty new to SEO and the idea of linking to inner pages is challenging to me. You still have to do it as an overall insurance policy to make sure your site(s) have relevancy, right?

  • Amy

    It does make sense for Google to do this.

    Read more about Google stops passing anchor text through certain 301 redirects by Blogstorm SEO Blog

  • anna

    I recently redirected from to

    Now my new page is coming in result but not showing any back links or “” instances for old page
    Just want to ask does google also transfer links or not
    2. As new page is already there shall i delete my old page and remove redirect from .htaccess

  • dividir apartamento brasilia

    Thanks for the post. I was preparing to work on redirects and luckily found your blog on the way before doing it.
    Great blog, by the way!

  • johnson

    I don’t want to seem like a complete dork… but here goes anyway. Does this mean that if someone lands on your blog for a certain keyword they will only see that particular page?

  • Google Sniper

    Great every time I start thinking i am getting a handle on this crap Google goes and changes the rules.

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  • Driver Robot

    Great I like it so much.

  • Herpes Remedy

    Thanks Patrick. Its always a battle keeping up with Google.

  • cabinet woodworking

    I am really fed up from there polices. I implement what they like because they are the search engine leader.

  • fb siphon

    Its not good at all. Sometime it become necessary to use 301 redirects but this policy can really loss your previous efforts.

  • Info Prodigy

    Thanks for informing .. a lot of effort is wasted!

  • Info Prodigy

    HAHA i didn’t even observe this..thanks

  • Quick Cash Concept

    Google is really making online living difficult. They take full benefit of the monopoly they have and sometime do it in a negative way.

  • Traffic Siphon

    makes sense i suppose

  • Quick cash Concepts

    As always Google is smarter than we think. I fully agree with Googles policy on this.

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  • Google Sniper

    Patrick is there any other method to do a redirect now and gain trust in Google eyes?
    You really done a great job with this article…

  • Dan

    Excellent article you have written Patrick. It’s well researched and very informative. I agree with the others who have said that Google knows best in this case. I agree with the policy as well.

  • Deadbeat Millionaire

    It’s very useful to learn how Google looks at the things all the time in search engine marketing. Now I’ve got more knowledge about 301 redirect…

  • Stock Assault


    Really great post you have written here.
    I didn’t know about that.
    Ehh, now Google is smarter…

  • Google Sniper Dan

    What are we suppose to do now for redirects to include our anchor text?

  • george brown

    I guess the simple answer is to redirect to the nearest relevant page when you take another page down. i can hardly blame google for using logic like this at all though…… makes a change.

  • intoto

    Well from a customer point of view it makes perfect sense, that Google doesn’t pass the “anchor text value” if you delete a page and 301 to the homepage. I don’t think it’s good SEO to just 301 to the homepage, it should be to a page that offer content close to the deleted page.

  • Bjørn

    Thanks for bringing this up.

    Many regards from sweden

  • PC Help

    I fully agree with google. A lot of people just try to pass google policy and great a better SERP…

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