If you’ve ever had a penalty, you know the feeling.

After countless hours of creating content, setting up hosting, linking, social signals, and waiting for the site to get out of the sandbox, it’s starting to jump up the rankings.  Traffic is starting to increase and you’re finally cash flow positive.

Then all of a sudden, boom, your rankings plummet 5-6 pages in the SERPs.

You log into Webmaster Tools to work out what is going on and you find one of these lovely messages…

Thin Content, Onsite Penalty


Unnatural Links, Offsite Penalty


Two years ago, this had happened to a potential client who had come to me for penalty recovery. I did a simple trick and it popped back to #2.  No links required and no disavow was needed.  The site has survived two Penguins since then and still generates $4k+ revenue every month for my client (and of course, earning me a nice monthly retainer for keeping him there).  How did I do it?

Double 301 Redirect

This hack still works today.  A double 301 redirect allows you to pass the link juice to the final domain without passing any penalty.  It’s so simple, you might be skeptical, but the proof is in the pudding and I’ll be walking you through it with a live example.

The Testcase

I have an affiliate site that was penalized last month for thin content.  This happens often in competitive niches where some people prefer to report each other rather than compete fairly (don’t get me started). I won’t be giving out the site name or the niche, so let’s just say the penalized domain is dogshaver.com.

The Tech

Step 1) Clone the penalized site exactly and move it to a new domain.  Ex: dogshaverhq.com

Step 2) Register a new domain with a similar but different name.  This will be the middle-man. Ex: dogshaverpros.com

Step 3) 301 redirect the original, penalized site (dogshaver.com) to the middle-man (dogshaverpros.com).

 This can be done one of two ways.

A) .htaccess file (recommended)

 301’ing through the .htaccess file is more effective than the alternative below.  However it requires you to clone and host the original site to the middle man site.

Once you’ve done that, all you need to do is add the following code to the .htaccess file on the original site (obviously customizing it for your own domain names).  This code makes sure that every page from your old site gets mapped to the corresponding page on the receiving site.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.siteA.com$

RewriteRule (.*)$ http://www.siteB.com/$1 [R=301,L]



B) Through the Registrar

301’ing through the registrar is very simple.  This is how I did it on NameCheap.

Doing it this way is certainly faster, but isn’t as effective because it points all the pages of the sending site to only the homepage of the receiving site.  It’s not a page-to-page mapping.  However, it doesn’t require hosting and cloning at the middle level, so if you’re lazy or busy, this is the option for you.

Step 4) 301 redirect the middle-man to the final site (dogshaverpros.com -> dogshaverhq.com)

The Result

Wait a few weeks and you should see something like this (actual images from the site I used for this testcase)…


Do the rankings stick?  For this particular testcase, it’s been 1.5 months since the 301 redirect, and not only is it sticking, but the site is now back to page 1.  No additional links necessary.



Article by

Matt Diggity

Matt is the founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, The Affiliate Lab, and the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. He actually does SEO too.