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Sudden Links Via 301S


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#1 qwerty

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 08:18 AM

This is partly a redirect question and partly a link building/Penguin question.

 

My company partners with a lot of other companies in our niche. Their sites contain links to our sites which, for new users (if you're not already cookied), lands them on a cobranded page. Some of their sites link to our site in this way a lot. When requests for the URLs being linked to hit our server, we redirect to a different URL that strips out some of the parameters in the original URL, which are there for tracking purposes, since both we and our partners want to know how many people click through.

 

The thing is, that redirect we perform is a 302, and I'm pretty sure that means we get no algorithmic credit for the links. I'm thinking that if we were to switch it to a 301, there would be quite a flood of link juice to our landing pages. So question 1 is whether I'm correct in that assumption: will changing the redirects from 302 to 301 allow those links to pass PR?

 

Question 2 is contingent on the answer to question 1 being a yes, since there would be no point in asking it otherwise: would the sudden appearance of a large number of links like this cause the appearance of something unnatural? Google has known about the links all along, but the change, as I see it, would be sort of akin to removing nofollow from them. And we're talking about a lot of links. According to Majestic, the 6 pages with the most of these links have a total of over 200,000 pointing to them, some of them from the main navigation of partner sites.

 

 



#2 Jill

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 08:31 AM

I would guess that the answer to your first question is yes.

 

For your second one, my concern would be that Google might mistakenly think that those links are affiliate links and may not want to count them.

 

I reviewed a site that was penalized for unnatural links which seemed to have been made up of a lot of affiliate links redirected in that manner.

 

But of course, it's impossible to say for sure. You could try it on just a some of the links maybe and see what (if anything) happens.



#3 Alan Perkins

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 08:38 AM

qwerty, if I understand you correctly, you have

 

partnerURL -> yoursiteURL?params -302-> yoursiteURL?fewerparams

 

If that's the case then you are already getting algorithmic credit for the links. Even so, I would still advise changing to a 301 as you don't really want those 302 URLs to be indexed and, as 302s, they are more likely to be.  It won't hurt you to do so, and you may get slightly more credit if they're 301s rather than 302s.



#4 Jill

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 09:05 AM

Just thought of something else. What if you don't redirect them at all but just use rel=canonical on the resulting page?



#5 qwerty

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 10:42 AM

Well, we've got two types of co-branded pages: the kind I'm referring to here involves our normal URL, but based on the referring URL or a cookie, the page is co-branded. That is, we've got a page at site.com/page.htm with our logo on it, but if you reach that page from the partner site, you're still on site.com/page.htm, but you see both our logo and the partner's. And I believe that once you're there, you're cookied, and the whole site will provide you with a co-branded experience, although that's not what Googlebot would see. In the bot's case, if it follows the link from the partner page to our page, it will see the co-branded page after the redirect because it doesn't already have a cookie, and of course it won't get a cookie from landing on this page, but that won't change what it sees on that page and that page alone.

 

The other type, which is the same as the method that was used when I was working at Monster, is a partner subdomain. If, for example, you clicked through to a jobsearch page from a page on nytimes.com, you would land on a page on the subdomain nytimes.jobsearch.monster.com. That page, apart from the presence of the NY Times logo, would be a duplicate of a page with the same search parameters on just jobsearch.monster.com. So that was an easy fix: I just set up canonicals on the partner subdomain pages pointing to the Monster pages. I plan to do the same thing here for pages that are similarly set up.

 

But this is different from that. There may be exceptions, but it looks like the URL that one lands on is identical to the URL you'd land on if you didn't come through the partner site, so rel-canonical wouldn't make a difference. You initially request a different URL, but the redirect sends you to the standard URL. The page just happens to look a little different.

 

Alan, I'm not clear on how we could currently be getting credit for these links. No one ever lands on the page to which the links are pointing, and my understanding of 302s is that they don't pass PR the way a 301 would. Maybe I'm wrong on that. I posted here a few weeks ago about a 302 that seemed to be doing just that, but even then I thought that was an exception to the rule. (Actually, I've just had a look at that other thread, and that's not what it was about. It was more an example of a 301 acting like a 302, not the other way around.)

 

My concern, if we do switch to 301s and if the 301s will pass more link equity, is that 1) it's a lot of links changing in this way all at once, even if I don't do it for all of the URLs in question and 2) these are not editorial links by definition. They're part of a business agreement between my company and its partners. They're certainly relevant -- one gaming site linking to another gaming site -- but they're not "votes". As such, maybe Google would prefer to see them nofollowed. But we didn't do that with links from partner sites on Monster, and it didn't appear to hurt us.


Edited by qwerty, 18 April 2013 - 10:47 AM.


#6 Jill

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 10:45 AM

As it sounds like there's a paid relationship there by being "partners" it could be very similar to an affiliate link situation where Google would not want to count them. I'd definitely be careful with this and perhaps use nofollow.



#7 qwerty

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 10:48 AM

Yeah, that's what I'm afraid of. Pity.



#8 Jill

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 10:49 AM

Maybe just leave well enough alone and don't do anything?



#9 qwerty

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 10:57 AM

I suppose I could do that, but our sites use a lot of 302s. Nobody here gave SEO much thought for years (and when they did, they created spam -- some very nasty stuff I've convinced them to delete are internally referred to as "SEO pages"), We've got internal tools that automatically generate 302s when you delete or move a page. We've got links in our main navigation menu that have run through 302 redirects, I think for as long as those links have existed.

 

So I've made it my mission to evangelize 301s and practically ban 302s. Every time the subject comes up, I'm like Frankentstein's redirect monster: 301 good, 302 bad.

 

This would kind of take me off message. And besides, if these links are, as Alan stated, passing PR despite the 302s, and if they're to be considered commercial, maybe leaving them as they are makes us Penguin bait. Changing them to 301s would, in that case, be even worse, but maybe I need to think about weakening them even more. That would kind of suck.


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#10 Alan Perkins

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 11:32 AM

Bob, I can't reconcile all of the above into what the actual situation/problem is. One minute you're talking about 302s, the next about static pages/canonical/nofollow.

 

As I understand the situation, you currently have a partner that links to your site and if we consider one example of such a link, it is as follows:

  • The partner links from a page pageP on their domain to a URL (pageA) on your domain using a follow link
  • pageA is a 302 redirect to another URL (pageB) on your domain
  • pageB issues a HTTP 200 response and pageB is on the same domain as pageA

In that scenario, pageB will receive credit for the link from pageP to pageA.  Even so, it would be better if the redirect was a 301 rather than a 302, for the reasons I gave above.



#11 qwerty

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 11:47 AM

...pageB will receive credit for the link from pageP to pageA.

 

Got it. I wasn't aware that link equity passed through a 302 redirect. My main issue with them has been that the way they're treated by search engines seems to change for the worse after they've been in place for a while, with content from the old page initially credited to the new URL, the old URL remaining in the index, and then everything becoming a lot less predictable. I've seen Google's response to a 302 change in less than a week. In that case, it didn't seem to me that the new page had inherited anything from the page that was redirecting to it.

 

And I don't know how that changes when the old URL was never indexed and the 302 has been in place for as long as the target page has existed.



#12 Alan Perkins

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 11:56 AM

Yes, 302s are a bit flaky but many people who implement a redirect without knowing anything about SEO will implement a 302, simply because a 302 is the default Apache redirect when you use a "Redirect" command in your Apache conf.  You have to specifically say "RedirectPermanent" to get a 301, and again, if you are not considering SEO, who cares?  They both behave the same to the end user, which is what the sysadmin cares about. And Google needs to (and does IMO) take account that that's what's going on in the real world.

 

When it comes to a 302, Google's behaviour can (and sometime does - it varies) change depending on whether the 302 is from a page on a domain to a page on the same domain, and whether the 302 is from a simple URL to a more complex URL, especially if the simple URL is the home page of the domain. If you have 302 from a home page to another page on the same domain, then almost certainly the content on that other page will be indexed under the URL of the home page.

 

In your case I'd switch to 301s, Bob.



#13 Michael Martinez

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 12:12 PM

Do you actually need the additional PageRank?  If not, then why change what is working?



#14 qwerty

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 03:09 PM

Yes, I'm afraid we do need to increase our links, in my opinion. All I've compared is raw numbers at this point, but some of our competitors have about 10 times as many backlinks as we do. And I already know that a number of our backlinks are not only irrelevant, but point to pages that 404. That's due to the history of a couple of our domains and their purposes changing years ago. Our company includes a television network that shares its name with one of our sites. That domain now contains our games rather than their shows, but a lot of the sites linking to us from years ago are pointing to now non-existent pages about the shows. I plan to 301 those to the network's site, but my primary responsibility is the game sites, and that won't help them.

 

I have ideas for how we can gain some solid, relevant links, and we're also talking about outsourcing (very carefully) with some agencies, but knowing that there are literally hundreds of thousands of links that are already out there but that, if they're helping us algorithmically at all, aren't helping as much as they could, is kind of maddening.






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