Hiding From That Google Penalty? It May Find You At Your New Home

google-flyswatter-penalty-600Did you know that even if you try to run away from your Google penalty, it might end up finding you anyway? In a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, hosted by Google’s John Mueller, John said that even if you move your penalized site to a new domain name and don’t redirect the penalized site, Google may still find it and pass along the bad signals.

In the video, 23 minutes in, John answers my question about penalties following sites. He said that if the site is extremely similar and you simply move the site from domain A to domain B, that Google may pick up on the site move without you even giving them signals of the move. So even if you do not set up 301 redirects or use the change address tool in Google Webmaster Tools, Google may indeed know that you moved from domain A to domain B and pass along all the signals.

In that case, if a site is penalized, simply moving it to a new domain name might not be enough. You might have to go the extra mile and rebuild the site, content and user interfaces to convince Google it really is a new site.

Here is the video, again fast forward to about 23 minutes and 15 seconds in:

Yesterday Eric Ward wrote a piece for us named When The Best Move Is To Kill The Site, which covers what to do when your Google penalty is so severe that you can’t recover from it. Eric mentions that in about two-thirds of the cases he sees, he recommends you “kill” the site. Some may want to take shortcuts on “killing” a site by just migrating it to a new domain name, but that might not work.

Based on the feedback from this news, I’ve heard three responses from the SEO community:

  • Google is a liar and it does not pass either positive or negative signals when there are no redirects or change of address requests made.
  • Yes, Google does pass the penalties in these cases, Google is telling the truth.
  • Not only does the penalty pass but sometimes you will see the links from the old domain show in the new domain show up in the new verified section within Google Webmaster Tools.

What is your experience with site moves without changing the site design, content or structure and while not using redirects or other signals to communicate the penalized site has moved?