Q and A: Why hasn’t Google indexed our 301 redirected site?

QuestionHi Kalena,

I have been asking around forums with no luck and you were suggested. I have a site which is 4 years old. One year ago we changed our url and management system and did a 301 redirect on all urls. The problem is one year on and Google is still seeing the original page and title and not recognizing the new work and page title, Any ideas?

Thanks so very much,


Hi Steve

You don’t provide your site URLs, so it’s going to be a tricky one to answer. It’s very unusual for Google not to recognize the 301s after such a long time. I have a couple of questions:

1) Have you moved from a free hosted site?

2) Is the old site still live?

If you moved your site from a free hosted site, you may not have had full control over the redirection or the 301s may not have been implemented correctly. If you no longer have control over the old site, or you only have access to some pages (through a CMS or similar), you could try using rel=canonical instead of a 301 redirect as recommended by Matt Cutts of Google in his video below:

If your old site is still live in some form, you should try to remove any remaining pages to ensure that Googlebot can no longer index the old site. If Google can still index some original page content, it may impact their ability to obey the 301 redirects. The ideal scenario is to maintain ownership of the old domain until your new site stabilizes, but this may not always be possible.

3) Did you redirect the old pages to their corresponding new pages on the new site?

You should always redirect on a page to page basis, rather than just using a top level 301 to redirect all old pages to a new domain.

4) How many redirect hops did you use for individual pages?

While there is no limit to the total number of 301 redirects you can use, there is a limit to the number of *hops* or the number of redirect levels you can use for a single page. 1 or 2 hops might be ok, but if you have a page that has been redirected 3, 4 or 5 times (a chain of 301s), Googlebot probably won’t follow them all.

In his video for Google Webmaster Tools, Matt Cutts explains how to use 301 redirects correctly:

5) Is your old XML sitemap still being indexed? Did you create a XML sitemap for the new site and upload it to Webmaster Tools?

One of the first things you should do when migrating sites is to create an XML sitemap listing all the new pages and get that sitemap uploaded to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. Make sure you remove any outdated sitemaps from your Webmaster Tools account/s.

Aidan Beanland of Yahoo Australia recently gave a fantastic, detailed presentation about migrating a large site using 301 redirects. This might help you.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint what went wrong for you Steve, but the points above and Aidan’s checklist should help narrow it down. Also refer to Google Webmaster Tools for more 301 redirect advice.

Let us know how you get on and best of luck.


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About Kalena Jordan

In my day job, I’m Director of Studies and tutor at the online training institution Search Engine College. In my spare time, I’m a search engine agony aunt and SEO to global clients. I’ve been marketing websites online since 1996 and blogging about search since 2002. To learn more, visit