Tuesday, November 18, 2008

SEO Tip: Redirecting Traffic to Your Site

There are many different reasons why you will need to redirect web site traffic to another location (another URL) on your site or even to another domain name that you own. There are several types of redirects that you can use, and although they all technically will send some from one web page to another web page there is only really one type of redirect that you will want to use: always use the 301 Permanent Redirect.

If you are a regular reader of this search engine optimization blog, you might recall that recently Google themselves did not set up the proper type of redirect when they released their Search Engine Optimization Guide. I am glad to report that apparently Google has taken our SEO advice: the domain name in question, brandonsbaseballcards.com, is now redirecting with a 301 Permanent Redirect to Google.com.

Types of Redirects
There are several types of redirects that you can use to redirect visitors to another web page or another web site. I’ve outlined each below and made some comments as to why or why not you would want to use it.

302 Temporary Redirect - The 302 redirect is essentially a “temporary” redirect. This type of redirect might be okay to set up if you are going to temporarily redirect visitors to another URL. I would say that if you need to redirect visitors for a few minutes or a few hours it might be okay to “temporarily” use it. But, since there are so many issues that can arise when using the 302 I tend to recommend that you never use it at all. In the past, there have been problems with domain name hijacking and even basic search engine ranking problems that occur when using a 302 Redirect. I wouldn’t use it.

JavaScript Redirect
There are ways to redirect human visitors using web browsers to view your site without redirecting the search engines. The search engines currently do not execute JavaScript code, so they won’t be redirected. If you want to hide something on your web page then you might use a JavaScript redirect to give content to the search engine spiders and not to the humans. This is typically a method that search engine spammers use, so if you’re using it then the search engines could potentially look at you in a negative light or even ban your site or penalize your site for using it. I wouldn’t use it.

Meta Refresh Redirect
The meta refresh is really an outdated type of redirect. Although it will still redirect visitors, it does not give the site you’re redirecting to any SEO value: so there’s really no need to use it.

301 Permanent Redirect
The 301 Permanent Redirect tells the search engines that you are permanently redirecting visitors to the new location: so since you’re telling them that this is a permanent change, they can rely on it. You are redirecting visitors, but at the same time passing on “link credit”, PageRank, and other SEO value to the site that you’re redirecting to. The search engines themselves recommend that we all use 301 Permanent Redirects to redirect visitors.

When you set up a 301 Permanent Redirect, the important thing to remember is that you are “transferring” SEO value (link value, PageRank, etc.) to the domain name you’re redirecting to: which is a good thing. If you use another type of redirect then you don’t get the SEO value passed to the new location.

A Simple Link

I have also seen people use a simple web page: they set up a web page and add a message telling visitors to click on a link that they provide to go to the new location (or the new site). While it might be a good idea to tell your visitors that you are now at a new location (a new domain name, a new URL), you’re still not passing any SEO value to the new location. So, while that might be okay I don’t necessarily recommend using it.

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