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Problems using 301 redirect for www.domain.com and domain.com
Webmeister

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 8:06 pm on Mar 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

About a month ago I decided to "comply" to popular SEO theory and redirect example.com to www.example.com using the 301 redirect. I also put 301 redirects on two domains that had duplicate content of www.example.com on. Until I did this, I had several #1 Google rankings for www.example.com under several popular keywords. About a week after making this change, my rankings dropped to between #5 and #20 on the Google SERPS. My rankings on Yahoo remained the same as before (#1).

I have been tempted to go back and undo what I did with the 301 redirects. (Don't ask if I did them correctly, because I did.) I have learned in the past that if you change something and then something goes wrong, you should immediately undo the changes. However, all I hear on the SEO forums is that I will be penalized for duplicate content if I DON'T use the 301 redirects.

Maybe it is coincidence that my Google rankings dropped abruptly after I made these changes. I have never been one to jump on SEO forum myths and rumors, which is why it took me so long to finally make these 301 redirect changes. But it seems very odd that after three years of enjoying #1 rankings I would lose these rankings right after I made these 301 redirect changes.

Any input would be welcomed (something backed up by facts would be a plus).

(P.S. - I didn't give my actual domain name, I used www.example.com as a generic reference.)

[edited by: tedster at 10:26 pm (utc) on Mar. 6, 2006]
[edit reason] use example.com as a generic domain [/edit]

 

Webmeister

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 5:37 am on Mar 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Has anyone else ever had an experience like this?

MrRoy

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 6:59 am on Mar 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

Initially you are bound to see some changes in the SERP. Using 301 is good but for search engine spiders, it will take some time to settle down. The whole transformation might take some time (how much time nobody knows). But yes in the long run you will be getting back your positions.

g1smd

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 11:35 pm on Mar 7, 2006 (gmt 0)


Beware of a 301 redirect from non-www to www where the defaultsitename is domain.com and where you are linking to a folder, and where you forget to add the trailing / to the URL in the link.

If you forget the trailing / then your link to www.domain.com/folder will first be redirected to domain.com/folder/ {without www!} before arriving at the required www.domain.com/folder/ page.

The intermediate step, at domain.com/folder/ will kill your listings. Luckily, this effect is very easy to see if you use Xenu LinkSleuth to check your site: it shows up as reporting double the number of pages (when you generate the sitemap) that you actually have, with half of the pages having a title of "301 Moved".

Webmeister

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 3:40 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Has anyone on here implemented this type of redirect before on your website(s)? If so, have you seen good or bad results on your SERPS afterwards?

Thanks!

Vampster

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 3:59 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

Webmeister,

Before ANY move, please have a read on this thread: [webmasterworld.com ]. I know the subject is different from yours but read everything.

You you want a case like yours, you can read more about my case here: [webmasterworld.com ]. It's a huge read but you'll know if you are or not alone.

What we MUST do? Honestly I don't know anymore and I think nobody really knows... Join the club if you want: [webmasterworld.com ].

Webmeister

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 7:02 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

With as much emphasis on this forum that has been put on making sure you don't have two domains of the same website out there (one with www and one without), I would have figured at least 100 people would have replied to this post by now. I am baffled that no one seems to be able to tell me anything about this dilemma. Maybe the whole www and non-www issue is just another SEO myth that I got sucked into?

?

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 7:16 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

I implement this kind of 301 for clients who are showing a problem (both versions in the index) or for a brand new website before launch. If the site is established and there is no visible "www" problem (and that's the great majority, IMO) then I make no changes.

Also, the timing of your rankings drop here coincides with the the Big Daddy issues that are tangling up a lot of domains. It's hard to establish cause and effect in the current situation.

jdMorgan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jdmorgan us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 33387 posted 7:39 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

No, it's not a myth.

Many hosts will set up accounts by default such that the content of a site is accessible from both the www and non-www versions of the domain. Your specific case is complicated by the fact that you also have additional domains pointed to that same content.

In the usual case, where no canonicalization attempt is made, the search engines often use back-end processing of their spidered URL database and content to 'figure out' that the non-www domain and its www subdomain contain the same content. If they find that more than a few domains are producing the same content, and that they are all actively-promoted, then this may actually invoke a penalty, since it amounts to 'spamming' the search index.

I can't tell you what will or should happen in your case because you haven't specified a few things that enter into the diagnosis:

  • Is the canonical domain being redirected-to the one with the highest Google PageRank and Link-Popularity in other SEs?
  • How are your current backlinks apportioned between all of these domains and www-subdomain variants?
  • Have you actively promoted these alternate domains, trying to get more that one listed for any given keyword/keyphrase search?

    If all of your backlinks go to the canonical domain, then 301-redirecting the others to that one should have absolutely no effect on your ranking -- this establishes one 'limit' of the equation. It's only when the search engine results are messy with many different variations of your domains that you should expect problems. But even then, unless you've got dozens of these variants, the whole mess should straighten itself out after one complete re-index cycle, and in the case of Google, one more PR-re-evaluation cycle.

    What you will have accomplished after this transition period is two-fold: Your site will no longer rely on a possibly-buggy back-end canonicalization process at the search engines, and you will have directly 'concentrated' all of your PageRank and LinkPop into one domain, resulting in stronger ranking.

    In addition to doing this 301 redirect, you should also try to get most of your backlinks updated to point to the canonical domain. You don't have to --and shouldn't-- do this all at once, but say, over the next three months. It's a good idea to keep a very few minor backlinks to the non-canonical domains for say, six months to a year, so you can be sure all of the SEs will spider them and actually see the 301s.

    For those who are just starting new sites -- Put this 301 redirect into place before allowing your site to be spidered or linked-to, and you'll never have to go through this somewhat-painful process.

    But if you've already got the problem described here, then it might be worthwhile to analyze your annual traffic and revenue, and pick a time of year that's in your 'off-season' to get this done. Plan on 30 to 90 days. First, try to get most of your backlinks corrected to point to the correct domain, and then put the 301 into place.

    Jim

  • europeforvisitors



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 8:38 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Has anyone on here implemented this type of redirect before on your website(s)? If so, have you seen good or bad results on your SERPS afterwards?

    1) Yes (www to my default non-www). I did it at the suggestion of lammert and dazzlindona after my Google referrals had plunged 70-90% overnight.

    2) A little less than two months after I made the change, my Google referrals came back (and then some). There may have also been some benefit in terms of PageRank, since link:www.sitename.com and link:sitename.com showed the same number of inbound links for the first time.

    Of course, it's possible that the recovery after two months in purgatory may have had nothing to do with the www-to-non-www change, but the change didn't do any harm.

    Webmeister

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 1:44 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Thanks for the replies. They have been very enlightening, and the last one above was very encouraging. Thanks again!

    pageoneresults

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 2:04 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I also put 301 redirects on two domains that had duplicate content of www.example.com on.

    The above would concern me. If there were any penalties involved with the two domains that had duplicate content, implementing the 301 from those to the primary domain may also be transferring the penalities over.

    Webmeister

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 5:27 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    If there were any penalties involved with the two domains that had duplicate content, implementing the 301 from those to the primary domain may also be transferring the penalities over.

    That sounds strange to me. If this was true, I could simply make a few duplicate content websites of my competitor's website, wait until they get penalties, and then 301 redirect them to my competitor's website to transfer the penalties to them. I don't think G would allow that.

    pageoneresults

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 5:49 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    If this was true, I could simply make a few duplicate content websites of my competitor's website, wait until they get penalties, and then 301 redirect them to my competitor's website to transfer the penalties to them. I don't think G would allow that.

    I think there is a bit more to it than that. Whois information, etc. In your case, can we assume that the Whois information is the same for all three domains?

    Webmeister

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 5:51 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I think there is a bit more to it than that. Whois information, etc. In your case, can we assume that the Whois information is the same for all three domains?

    Yes, but would G go to all that trouble to check that?

    pageoneresults

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 5:54 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Yes, but would G go to all that trouble to check that?

    I do believe it's an automated process, no trouble from Googles side.

    If you do a site: search for those three domains, is Google listing pages from all three? Usually in a case like this, the site with the most inbound links (or popularity) is going to be the one that Google keeps in its index. The other two will get purged.

    Webmeister

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 6:55 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    If you do a site: search for those three domains, is Google listing pages from all three?

    Yes, all three show up in the results. As a matter of fact, the two duplicate sites are showing more pages than the original domain (120 pages for the original as opposed to 172 pages for the two 301 domains).

    Should I drop those 301 redirects on the duplicate websites and just kill the extra sites?

    Thanks!

    pageoneresults

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 7:19 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Should I drop those 301 redirects on the duplicate websites and just kill the extra sites?

    Hmmm, I wouldn't want to be the one to suggest that. This is something you will need to determine. Are those redirects the root of the problems you are seeing. They may, or they may not be. Much more research would need to go into this to determine if the redirect on the dup content is causing a problem. It is a possibility.

    As a matter of fact, the two duplicate sites are showing more pages than the original domain (120 pages for the original as opposed to 172 pages for the two 301 domains.

    This would concern me! If that is the case, based on my experience, the main domain may go Supplemental here shortly while the dup content takes over. Then, one of those two remaining sites will probably go through the same process. Which of the three has the most inbound links?

    Brian

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 7:31 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    This one comes up again and again. And every time, my two cents is: why bother? Personally, with a domain.com site and occasionally seeing that others link to me at www.domain.com, I've never had any impression that there might be a problem. I don't think duplicate pages on one site are penalised: one (or more) is simply ignored - by an algorithm which spots substantial word repetitions. If there was a penalty, zillions of pages (like a lot of mine) which have slugs of boilerplate text would be penalised - and that would make no sense.

    I say: skip the redirects, and include a link on the index page that points at itself.

    europeforvisitors



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 7:54 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    This one comes up again and again. And every time, my two cents is: why bother?

    What bother? All it takes is a few lines of modified boilerplate code in your .htaccess file.

    pageoneresults

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 8:26 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    What bother? All it takes is a few lines of modified boilerplate code in your .htaccess file.

    Or in your httpd.ini file on Windows. :)

    Lorel

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 33387 posted 8:48 pm on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I have 301 redirected all my clients (currently around 30 most of which are redesigns) and I always check first, as described above, to see which version has the most links and PR and I check with the site owner to see which verion he was using to submit his site.

    I also install base href tags for every page and write out full URLs for extra protection.

    The only problems I've had were for misspellings and not checking the site immediately after I set up/changed the 301 redirect to make sure it was working right. Once the site went down for a week. I now make it a point to check with every change of the 301.

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