|January 16, 2005
Redirects and Search Engine Optimization
There are multiple reasons to redirect URLs. For one, your web pages may have
moved but their old URLs may still live in users' bookmarks or in search engine indexes.
Without implementing some sort or redirection, that traffic would be lost to a 404 Error Page.
On occasions, you may also want to
register several extensions for your domain
'mydomain.com', 'mydomain.net' and 'mydomain.org', and have 'mydomain.net' and
'mydomain.org' automatically redirect visitors to your site, hosted under 'mydomain.com'.
Furthermore, if your company sells several products, you may want to give each of them an
individual domain name, and have it point to a specific
subdirectory of your main site. For example, if you own a site called
'businessvideos.com' that sells a product called 'Marketing Made Easy', you may want to
set up a domain such as 'marketingmadeeasy.com', and redirect it to subdirectory:
There are several ways to redirect domains, however, most of them will get you in trouble
with the search engines. The search engine friendly way to redirect URLs
is to use what is know as a 301 redirect (you can see how Google and Yahoo!
specifically endorse this kind of redirection). Here is my take about the different
redirection methods and their implications on search engine optimization:
of the page you want to redirect. With this method, you can specify the number of seconds
before the visitor is automatically redirected to the new page. Search engines don't like
this method, because of the potential for abuse: you could write an
optimized page for a non-competitive search term, and then automatically redirect your
unsuspecting visitor to whatever URL you want. For example, it could be relatively
easy to write a page about english literature, have it indexed and highly ranked by the
search engines, and then redirect your visitor to a casino or Viagra site. If search
engines allowed this, users would quickly stop trusting them. That is why search engines
penalize this practice, and why you should avoid it.
You could register an additional
, park it, and make it point to the DNS
servers of your main site's hosting account, so that when somebody types the additional
domain, they will be transported to your main site. However, this approach may lead
to search engines listing the same content twice, one for your main domain, and one for
your additional domain. In the past, unscrupulous webmasters would use multiple
domains to spam search engines and directories, making them list the same pages hundreds
of times under different domains. Even if your intentions are good, we don't
recommend this approach to redirecting your additional domains, since search engines may penalize
your site for duplicate content.
302 and 301 Redirects
When a request for a page or URL is made by a browser, agent or spider, the web server
where the page is hosted checks a file called '.htaccess'. This file
contains instructions on how to handle specific requests and also plays a key role in
security. The '.htaccess' file can be modified so that it instructs browsers, agents
or spiders that the page has either temporarily moved (302 redirect) or permanently
moved (301 redirect). It is usually possible to implement this redirect
without messing with the '.htaccess' file directly, using your web host's control
From a search engine perspective, 301 redirects are the only acceptable way
to redirect URLs. In the case of moved pages, search engines will index only the new
URL, but will transfer link popularity from the old URL to the new one so that search
engine rankings are not affected. The same behavior occurs when additional domains are set
to point to the main domain through a 301 redirect.
The URL Forwarding Feature
Most domain registrars offer a feature called URL Forwarding. With this feature, you
can register a new domain, such as 'mydomain.net', and have it point to mydomain.com (or
to any other URL). The problem, however, is that registrars usually do this by
implementing a 302 redirect (page moved temporarily). While Google
handles 302 redirects very well, passing link popularity from the additional domain to the
main one, other search engines don't do this well, diluting link popularity by splitting
it between the two domains, and negatively affecting rankings. Therefore, it is
better not to use this method, and implement a 301 redirect instead.
Redirecting Old URLs
To '301 redirect' an old URL to a new one, just go to your web host's control panel,
and choose the "Redirects" option. You can then set up the redirect by filling
the blanks. You want to chose redirect option "Permanent" to implement a 301
Redirecting additional domains
To 301 redirect an additional domain (like in the case of the .net or the .org version
of your domain name), you have to set it up as an add-on domain with your web
host (some hosts offer this option for free, and some others charge a small monthly fee
per domain). If the additional domain was not registered with your web host, you
will first have to go to your domain registrar and change the DNS (domain
name servers) to the DNS of your web host (you may have to wait a couple of days before
this change becomes functional). Once you've done this, go to your web host's
control panel, choose the "Add On Domains" option, and set up
your add on domain as follows:
New Domain Name: additionaldomain.com (Do not put any http:// or www)
Username/directory/subdomain: additionaldomain (Enter 'additionaldomain'
by itself. Do not put any '.com' or 'www')
Password: 123ABC (Enter whatever password you want).
Then, set up the redirection by filling the appropriate box with the URL
of the landing page (where you want your traffic to go).
Once your additional domain is redirecting to your landing page, take this one last
step to see if everything is working fine: go to a server header checking tool,
type your add-on domain in the query box and hit enter. If you get a message similar to
this: "Status Code HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently", then your
301 redirect is working.
You can also use 301 redirection for common mispelled versions of your domain name, or for
other good domain names that you don't want your competitors to get.
You can freely reprint this article provided that you include the following resource
Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest ( http://www.theinternetdigest.net
), an internet marketing content site packed with useful articles and resources,
and SEO Tutorial ( http://www.seotutorial.info )
where you can learn the basics of search engine optimization in four easy steps.
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