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301 Does Not Pass On All Authority?!


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9 replies to this topic

#1 scouseflip

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 04:24 AM

Hi All

I wanted to check something I have been told by our SEO company...

I have asked for a review of the SEO campaign, and the company has said there is one potential problem - that the site is not located in the root of the domain, but in a sub folder. We have a redirect in the root that passes a 301 message, but have been told by the company that in a recent interview, Matt Cutts has confirmed that 301 redirects do not pass on all the authority. I have not seen this interview nor heard anything about this!

Just for the record, the SEO company involved are reputable and professional, and having also worked with them in a successful PPC campaign, I have faith in their ability and no reason not to trust them... just need a bit of a sanity check please!

Thanks!

#2 scouseflip

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 06:18 AM

Sorry just found this article - ht tp://www.stonetemple.com/articles/interview-matt-cutts-012510.shtml - which I presume is what they were referring to

QUOTE
Eric Enge: Letís say you move from one domain to another and you write yourself a nice little statement that basically instructs the search engine and, any user agent on how to remap from one domain to the other. In a scenario like this, is there some loss in PageRank that can take place simply because the user who originally implemented a link to the site didn't link to it on the new domain?

Matt Cutts: That's a good question, and I am not 100 percent sure about the answer. I can certainly see how there could be some loss of PageRank. I am not 100 percent sure whether the crawling and indexing team has implemented that sort of natural PageRank decay, so I will have to go and check on that specific case. (Note: in a follow on email, Matt confirmed that this is in fact the case. There is some loss of PR through a 301).


Does anyone know where I can find more about this? Under which circumstances can 301 cause loss of PR?

#3 Jill

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 07:51 AM

All I can say is just because MC says something it doesn't make it true. Not that I think he lies or anything, but that he says things in a way that are in Google's best interests.

And it's definitely in Google's best interests for SEOs to believe that 301's lose some link juice along the way.

The fact is that they might, or they might not.

#4 qwerty

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 09:04 AM

Just for the sake of argument, let's say it's true, and I can see why it would be. "Some loss" doesn't necessarily mean a significant loss, and we've been saying for a long time that it's likely you'll at least temporarily lose something (be it PR, ranking, or whatever) if you use a 301. So if you've believed all along that you'll experience some dip at least for a while if you use a 301, does it change your opinion of the tactic if you have reason to believe that you could permanently lose .1% of your PR? How about 5%? We don't know how much "some" is.

I think the thing to keep in mind is that you really need to have a good reason to redirect a URL. Are you doing it just because you read somewhere that sticking keywords in the URL is the be-all and end-all? Is that really a reason to make changes to a page that's well established?

scouseflip is redirecting from the root of a domain to a subdirectory. I assume this is because of some requirement of the CMS. My first thought is that you should avoid that situation if it's at all possible. But if you can't avoid it, what are your options? A 302 wouldn't be the way to go, and you definitely don't want to stick a meta refresh in there. If you really have to have a redirect, I can't think of a safer way to do it than a 301.

#5 scouseflip

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 12:02 PM

Thanks for the input Jill, Qwerty!

Nothing to do with keywords this one - the reason for the redirect is that we have aliased domains on one host domain. So if you request the domain root of one of the aliased domains, the index page on the hosting domain analyses the requested domain and forwards you to www.aliaseddomain.co.uk/subfolder.

I am not against moving the site to its own space - we had hoped to share resources across the site in our initial plans , and felt this would be easier on alised domains, but in practise the benefits have not really been felt.

But my dilema would then become - if we do move the content to root level, I am still going to need redirects to take people from the old location of the content to the new. This means moving from one redirect (i.e. the homepage which is indexed under www.aliaseddomain.co.uk) to many (i.e. all the other pages where I would need to redirect from the subfolder where they are currently already indexed, back to root level). So in theory any loss of authority we are currently experiencing on the home page would then affect all the other pages in the site...

I am coming to the conclusion that it is probably not worth doing - we have a number of sites on 2 different host domains which perform well in the SERP's, despite being hosted in this way. Only reason I can really see for doing it would be to demonstrate that this issue is not what is holding our SEO campaign back and I am loathe to try and fix something that is not broken, just to prove that it is not broken! But I have asked the company to explain the pros and cons in their view so will obviously listen to what they think as well.

I really appreciate your input as I think its important not to get into these conversations without knowing as much as possible!

#6 marketsitepro

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 12:06 PM

just out of curiosity, why is your site not in the root?

#7 scouseflip

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 12:15 PM

Hi martetsitepro

Its simply because we have used aliasing...

QUOTE(scouseflip @ Apr 8 2010, 06:02 PM) View Post
... the reason for the redirect is that we have aliased domains on one host domain. So if you request the domain root of one of the aliased domains, the index page on the hosting domain analyses the requested domain and forwards you to www.aliaseddomain.co.uk/subfolder...


#8 qwerty

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Posted 08 April 2010 - 12:54 PM

QUOTE
But I have asked the company to explain the pros and cons in their view so will obviously listen to what they think as well.


If neither you nor the SEO have some need for confidentiality, I'd be interested in getting their opinion on this. You could send them a link to this thread and ask if they'd like to get involved in the discussion.

#9 scouseflip

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 11:32 AM

Not really a need for confidentiality on my part, but I would have to clear it with the first. I will be having a conversation with them soon and will see if I can drop it in there...

#10 Randy

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Posted 12 April 2010 - 11:55 AM

I know what Matt has said. And I'm not sure I believe it wholeheartedly myself.

An example, one that I have repeated multiple times and seen the exact same results.
  • A domain starts out at the root level.
  • A new shopping cart gets chosen to be used for the site.
  • This new cart is placed in a subdirectory so that it can be developed.
  • When the new cart goes Live, a simple redirect is placed on the site to send all traffic from the old setup at the root level to the new cart subdirectory location.
  • It typically takes a week or so for all of the changes to be reflected in the SERPs, so that the old pages disappear and the new pages get spidered. But, and it's an important but, the new pages basically take up the same SERP position the old pages had held since the content and internal linking structure have remained intact. And of course the new redirect is sending all link juice from external links to the new page locations.
  • A year or two later, this whole process get repeated because yet another cart is chosen because it has new/better features or simply handles large traffic numbers better.
  • The outcome is the same. A week or two after flipping the switch the new-new pages replace the new pages in the SERPs, said new pages having previously replaced the old pages.

I have done this same type of thing with literally dozens of sites over the years, across a wide spectrum of markets with varying levels of competition. And even in those markets that are highly competitive, I've not seen any detrimental effect that lasts for more than a week or two while the new pages get spidered and the old pages drop out of the index.

Long story short, I can't say Matt's not 100% correct. However I can tell you in practice I have seen no big detrimental effect to doing this type of thing. And quite honestly from a management perspective it makes the 301's a lot easier to set up when you bring whole new subdirectories in, rather than having to figure out each and every old URL and its new URL and make sure you don't miss any.

If there is a loss of PR passing through a 301, it appears to be either a small loss, or maybe they simply view such Mass 301's differently than they view page or two 301's.

As Jill said, they may have other motives for saying there is a loss. One that always jumps to the front of my mind is 301 affiliate links, which of course they view as being pretty close to paid links. Let's say for instance they want to try to convince people that doing 301 redirects on affiliate links is a useless exercise. How does one accomplish this task while still saying 301's do pass link value. Well, the easiest way is to say 301's do not pass all link value, essentially saying those links don't count as much as normal links.




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