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Domain Forwarding & SEO Impact
Is there an SEO impact on changing 301 redirects?
PixelBella




msg:3469538
 12:02 am on Oct 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

We recently purchased multiple domains that cover misspellings, possible direct searches, etc. We have a current e-commerce site that focuses on one niche market. After Christmas, we will be launching a new site, new domain, that covers multiple niche markets (verticals). Eventually, we will redirect the old site domain to the new. We'll run both sites concurrently for a couple months and slowly redirect pages to the new site.

Question:
Is there any "SEO history" on 301 redirects? We will only be keeping this old site for a few months. Any suggestions regarding the following options?

a. 301 to old (current) site now and then 301 to new site when it's live.

b. 302 to old site and 301 to new site when it's live.

c. 301 to new site now and forget forwarding to old (current) site.

 

Quadrille




msg:3469566
 12:43 am on Oct 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'd stick to 301s, to the new site, and get some content there now; relevant pages where the index and 'section indexes' will be - that will give the SEs chance to focus on the new URLs before you take the Big Step.

there's plenty of threads which advise on the details.

But nothing is guaranteed with moving domains; the material you are moving may well suffer, at least for a while.

PixelBella




msg:3469701
 6:12 am on Oct 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thank you...we are just starting to add content to the new site as you suggested, and it's because of WebMasterWorld info that we've been privy to the importance of this. We have been perplexed about the best practice for the 301s, so thank you so much!

Fortunately, the previous site has multiple 5/10 PageRanked pages, so we'll supplement with some additional SEM when switching.

Robert Charlton




msg:3470869
 9:09 pm on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Is there any "SEO history" on 301 redirects? We will only be keeping this old site for a few months.

I think from the level of your questions you know this... but for others who might be reading this thread... keep in mind that a 301 disappears when the old domain disappears.

You're going to need to maintain ownership of the old domain as long as there are any references to it on the web, and you'll need to keep your 301s in place as well.

Once the old site is gone, though, you won't have to maintain a separate web hosting account for the old domain. At that point, I suggest you set up the DNS of the old domain to address the IP of your new site, and (assuming you're using Apache) use the .htaccess on the new site to rewrite queries from the old domain to the new one.

Where you have inbound links to pages on the old site, you'll want to preserve PageRank and link reputation by redirecting those individual pages. It's best to redirect like pages to like pages, rather than to direct everything to the default address of the new site.

Use Yahoo Site Explorer to check out inbound links to your old site... make a list of those... and then, as much as you can after the site moves, get those links changed. This may speed up the building of trust for your new domain on Google.

Where the old pages don't have inbound links, I've generally just let those pages get 404s.

In terms of redirecting type-ins and misspelling for the new domain, you might as well set those up when you set up your .htaccess for the new domain. You can include your old domain in the code and just leave it commented out until you're completely moved over. I recommend checking out WebmasterWorld's Apache Web Server forum [webmasterworld.com] when the time comes to do your redirects.

Quadrille




msg:3470876
 9:27 pm on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Where you have inbound links to pages on the old site, you'll want to preserve PageRank and link reputation by redirecting those individual pages. It's best to redirect like pages to like pages, rather than to direct everything to the default address of the new site.

I agree - but this is best done by using one domain to domain 301, and preserving the structure of the old site on the new; exceptions can be covered by further 301s within the new site (though the jury is out on the SEO effects of this).

Individual 301s implies major restructuring - which is to be avoided at all costs (because all costs are exceptionally costly!).

If restructuring is planned, either do it first - at least six months before the move - or at least six months afterwards. This allows the SEs to fully assimilate one major shake-up before you do the next one. And assimilation requires at least one full cycle of spidering your site and all those around it.

Why? Because the serps are relative, not absolute; it is not enough that your new site has been spidered, the whole niche needs to be.

Robert Charlton




msg:3470907
 11:13 pm on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'd said....
...you'll want to preserve PageRank and link reputation by redirecting those individual pages. It's best to redirect like pages to like pages...

By this, I didn't necessarily mean individual 301s. If sites have been set up right, yes, you can find redirect patterns.

Individual 301s implies major restructuring...

...Or, this implies a relatively small number of pages with inbound links that need to be preserved.

Often, sites where I've been called in prior to a restructuring and a move haven't been optimized, aren't structured well, and don't have many deep inbounds. In this case, individual 301s can work well, and they're often the only choice you have.

My major point was that you don't want to redirect all of your changed inner pages to the home page of the new site.

I do everything I can to persuade clients with well-optimized sites not to change domain names, unless it's absolutely necessary. I make it very clear that, if they do change, they're going to lose rankings and traffic for a while. A gradual approach is most definitely the best under such conditions.

Quadrille




msg:3470911
 11:29 pm on Oct 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think we agree :)

PixelBella




msg:3470998
 5:41 am on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

THANK YOU! A couple more questions and clarifications

1. "...set up the DNS of the old domain to address the IP of your new site, and (assuming you're using Apache) use the .htaccess on the new site to rewrite queries from the old domain to the new one."

To confirm, you are suggesting redirecting to the IP (555.55.555.55) instead of to the URL (http://www.xyz.com)?
And 555.55.555.55/about-company.html instead of [xyz.com...]

2. "Individual 301s implies major restructuring - which is to be avoided at all costs"

Please define "major restructuring."

3. Re DNS Forwards (301 Redirects thru the registrar)
We have MANY domains (some currently pointing and some pointing to the new site and other recently-purchased ones just parked).
Should we go ahead and redirect the current old-site-pointing domains away from the current site and to the new site now as well, for SEO purposes? We are linking from the new temp site back to the current site.

In advance, thanks!

Quadrille




msg:3471012
 6:29 am on Oct 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

2. Changing file and folder names is the same to SEs as placing new ones and removing old; when changing domains, that is one further 'risk' that just should not be taken.

The worst case scenario is that the whole site returns to the 'sandbox' (read: "is treated as a new site").

A few minor changes will do little damage; but if it looks 'substantial', postpone the changes.

One risk too far.

3. Yes; go for it!

[edited by: Quadrille at 6:30 am (utc) on Oct. 7, 2007]

Robert Charlton




msg:3471495
 4:23 am on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

1. "...set up the DNS of the old domain to address the IP of your new site, and (assuming you're using Apache) use the .htaccess on the new site to rewrite queries from the old domain to the new one."

To confirm, you are suggesting redirecting to the IP (555.55.555.55) instead of to the URL (http://www.xyz.com)?
And 555.55.555.55/about-company.html instead of [xyz.com...]

...DNS Forwards (301 Redirects thru the registrar)

If I correctly understanding what you're thinking, no. I had to think about this for a while, as I wasn't sure what you're asking... and I'm still not exactly sure, so please forgive in advance if I'm interpeting wrong.

From your question, and from the use of "domain forwarding" in the title of this thread, I think that you may be confusing the service a lot of registrars provide, frequently called... as I thought about it... "domain name forwarding," with 301 redirection. They're generally not the same thing.

"Domain forwarding" is a very inexact term, but it generally results in a 302, not a 301. I think I have heard that some registrars do have services to provide 301s for you, but I've never seen one who does it.

Under "domain name forwarding" as I've seen it, the registrar "points" one domain name "at" another. Unfortunately, this setup, often used by registrars to provide type-ins for you, effectively creates duplicate content in the eyes of the search engine.

Use a server header checker to check your current response codes. If your current type-in domains show up in your address bar when you enter them to call up your site, you don't have 301s.

What I'm talking about is setting up both your type-in domains and old-domain.com, so their DNS A-records address the IP # of whatever hosting account the new-domain.com would be hosted on. You would then rewrite all but your main domain to the canonical form of new-domain.com, and specify a 301.

As an alternative... you can, if you like, keep the A-records of old-domain.com to continue to point to the current hosting account of old-domain.com, and set up an .htaccess on the old-domain.com hosting account to redirect the domain name "old-domain.com" to the domain name "new-domain.com", but this arrangement requires two hosting accounts, and that's a waste of money and resources.

Let's clarify the above, and then I can maybe comment on the rest.

Robert Charlton




msg:3471567
 6:58 am on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

You would then rewrite all but your main domain to the canonical form of new-domain.com, and specify a 301.

Should be...

You would then rewrite everything to the canonical form of new-domain.com, and specify a 301.

If you have a 301, by the way, when you enter, say, www.type-in.com to call up example.com, the url http://www.example.com/ should appear in the address bar. If you see type-in.com instead, it's likely that you have a 302, though a registrar might instead set it up via DNS so you have a 200 response, which would be just as bad, if not worse. They wouldn't normally call that "domain forwarding" though.

PixelBella




msg:3471905
 4:01 pm on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

DNS REDIRECT:
Thank you. I didn't realize how a 302 worked. Yes, that would be duplicate content...trying figure out why someone would want that, but that's another topic.

Our registrar does 301 redirects. When you set up a "forward" in their system, you have a choice of "301 Permanent Redirect" or "302 Temporary Redirect." Our current redirects are resolving to the target URL.

HTACCESS REDIRECT:
Previous post (sorry, I haven't figured out yet how to use WebmasterWorld forum's quote box feature):
"...set up the DNS of the old domain to address the IP of your new site, and (assuming you're using Apache) use the .htaccess on the new site to rewrite queries from the old domain to the new one."

To confirm, you are suggesting redirecting to the IP (555.55.555.55) instead of to the URL (http://www.xyz.com)?
And 555.55.555.55/about-company.html instead of [xyz.com...]

I was trying to differentiate between domain name (the registered domain name) and the numeric IP address.

When setting up individual 301 redirects from old site pages to new ones (when new site is ready), are you suggesting that the redirects be to the IP address and equivalent pages using the numeric IP address or the domain name?

Again, THANK YOU!

Robert Charlton




msg:3472044
 6:37 pm on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

When setting up individual 301 redirects from old site pages to new ones (when new site is ready), are you suggesting that the redirects be to the IP address and equivalent pages using the numeric IP address or the domain name?

No.

I'm suggesting not using your registrar's domain forwarding at all. I don't think you can do what you want using it, whether they produce 301s or not.

What I am suggesting is that you do your redirects using mod_rewrite in the .htaccess on the new-domain.com hosting space.

In order for the DNS system to see that old-domain.com also addresses that hosting space, you'll need to change the A-records of old-domain.com to address the same IP as new-domain.com.

But again, the redirects are done in mod_rewrite, which, using regular expressions (and a good programmer), is capable of fairly complex pattern recognition. You can't do this with domain forwarding.

PixelBella




msg:3472089
 7:10 pm on Oct 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm sorry...I've been discussing 2 things. Sorry for the confusion.

1 - "Forwards" of domains (type-ins)
2 - "301s" in htaccess for the old site to new site.

I am using the registrar's 301s ONLY for the "forwarded" domains, the ones people might misspell, the type-ins.

I plan on using .htaccess for the 301s as you explained. I was trying to determine what you meant by "IP address" and if you were suggesting that in the Redirect I use the numerical IP rather than the equivalent domain name. I've never done a Redirect to the IP address and have used the hosted domain name (and its specific target pages.)

Robert Charlton




msg:3473262
 12:19 am on Oct 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I've never done a Redirect to the IP address and have used the hosted domain name (and its specific target pages.)

And you probably never will redirect to an IP address. Again, that's not what I'm suggesting.

The redirect is in the .htaccess, and it is to a hosted domain name (and its specific target pages).

To save you extra hosting accounts, though, you can "virtually" host many domains on the same IP... and then have the .htaccess on that hosting account rewrite them all to the domain name and pagenames you want.

You set this up by addressing the A-records of your various domains, from the DNS (domain name server) of each domain, to that one IP.

Or, you can address the A-records of your various domains to different IPs, and then pay for each hosting account separately.

It's cheaper to do it the first way, all on one IP account, but it's slightly trickier to understand, because you need to understand DNS setup as well.

Either way, DNS A-records need to be set up to your hosting accounts for each domain, but it's likely that the registrar has done this for you.

Are you understanding what I mean by an A-records and by domain name servers? I'm thinking that's where we're talking past each other, but I'm not sure.

I think you're conceptualizing these IP addresses as urls, and that's not what I'm talking about.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 12:27 am (utc) on Oct. 10, 2007]

Robert Charlton




msg:3473304
 12:59 am on Oct 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Our registrar does 301 redirects. When you set up a "forward" in their system, you have a choice of "301 Permanent Redirect" or "302 Temporary Redirect." Our current redirects are resolving to the target URL.

Just to removed this part from the discussion for now... yes, if these are 301 redirects, then you can use them for your type-ins and misspellings.

I'd have the type-ins and misspellings for the old domain stay with the old domain until you completely move it... and I'd set up those for the new domain to redirect to the new domain as soon as that domain is live. Use them as they'll be helpful to each domain. They're for your users... not for SEO.

When you set up your redirects in .htaccess, though, there's simply no reason not to include these type-ins in that .htaccess as well, and to drop the domain forwards.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:00 am (utc) on Oct. 10, 2007]

PixelBella




msg:3473485
 4:46 am on Oct 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thank you for the continued explanation which is very helpful.

The A record is the mapping of the hostname to the IP address.
The CNAME is the mapping to the domain name (the alias), and it points to the A record.

I misunderstood you when you referred to IP address vs. domain name. I think we both agree that the redirects in the 301 mod_rewrite should be dealing with domain name and associated pages.

And with this, you really answered a couple of my initial questions...
"I'd have the type-ins and misspellings for the old domain stay with the old domain until you completely move it... and I'd set up those for the new domain to redirect to the new domain as soon as that domain is live. Use them as they'll be helpful to each domain. They're for your users... not for SEO."

And I hadn't considered this approach...
"When you set up your redirects in .htaccess, though, there's simply no reason not to include these type-ins in that .htaccess as well, and to drop the domain forwards."

Again, thanks!

Robert Charlton




msg:3477570
 5:50 am on Oct 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

The A record is the mapping of the hostname to the IP address.
The CNAME is the mapping to the domain name (the alias), and it points to the A record.

You're correctly understanding that mappings are involved, but the above specifics are not correct.

Here's a thread on DNS basics that's not perfect, but it's better than most....

Request for members to post up tutorials on DNS set up & other issues
Please help build an overview thread of mini-tutorials on DNS issues
[webmasterworld.com...]

The post by jamesa gives a good overview, including NS records and A Records. He doesn't mention CNAMES, and, in my opinion, claus's post that discusses them muddies the waters, because he's getting into opinion and theory and going beyond standard practice. What he's saying is great if you know enough to follow it.

Best resource on CNAMES I can find now are jtara's posts in this thread...

www and non-www : cname redirection
[webmasterworld.com...]

I recommend reading all of his posts several times, as he touches on best practices (and there's also some sorting out necessary among the posts).

I generally don't use CNAMES. I use an A record for the base name and an A record for the www... and then do the redirect to the desired canonical form with .htaccess on the site's web server.

As jtara points out, you never can be quite sure what "side effects" you might encounter when you use your DNS provider's redirection.

Robert Charlton




msg:3477572
 6:00 am on Oct 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

PS:

Previous post (sorry, I haven't figured out yet how to use WebmasterWorld forum's quote box feature)

Right click on the tiny "help" link in the menu up at the top of the page and open it in a new browser window... then go down and click the "HTML Style Codes" link, and read through the sections on special codes and smilies. ;)

WebmasterWorld, like many forums, uses [square brackets] instead of <angle brackets> in its message formatting codes.

vincevincevince




msg:3477579
 6:26 am on Oct 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

My take on the original issue is that you should 301 to the new site now, and 301 the new site to the old site. That way you just remove the new->old 301 when the new site is ready and add one in the other direction.

jdMorgan




msg:3478165
 7:24 pm on Oct 15, 2007 (gmt 0)

I can't recommend redirecting the type-ins to the new domain, and then redirecting the new domain to the old domain. This is just too much of a 'switcheroo' for me to have any comfort with.

If this were my site, I'd leave most of the type-ins redirecting to the old domain (to get the traffic through Christmas) and then redirect one or two of the type-ins to the new domain, just to get it in 'on the map' with the search engines.

I'll agree with Quadrille above and say 'get some content on that new domain!" Put up a "coming soon" page with basic info about the new site, your company, and its services and products. Then offer a prominent link to your "current" site. Using this link instead of a redirect eliminates the risk of falling into a 'funny business' filter if/when you reverse a 301 redirect.

Between Christmas and your actual 'go live' date, slowly switch more of the type-ins over to the new domain and start building links to this new domain in advance of the cut-over date.

Then to the extent possible, keep using the same page names (URL-paths) on the new site as on the old -- You can use mod_rewrite to map (internally rewrite) these old URL-paths to new filenames transparently. This avoids some of the risk of an otherwise 'sudden change' and may reduce the amount of time it takes for your new domain to build trust.

Jim

jd01




msg:3478389
 2:14 am on Oct 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I was asked to throw my two pence in here, so let me ask a question and make a suggestion or two...

Eventually, we will redirect the old site domain to the new.

Why move the established site?

I would recommend leaving the established site as is, and building the new site with the other vertical markets you will be covering... Then when the new site begins to rank in the other vertical markets you can move the old one over and fill in the 'missing' vertical.

The reason for this is redirecting within a domain (EG changing page names, extentions, etc.) is treated very differently than redirecting a site externally (to a new domain).

When redirecting within a site you do not lose 'age' or 'trust' which is already established, but when redirecting to a new domain you start over. (Been there done that.)

If you do not redirect to the new domain as soon as it is live (or within a couple of months), you will still enjoy the traffic on the old domain, and be able to build traffic for other verticals on the new domain, then when you have established traffic and sites on both if you want to redirect the old one to the new one go ahead, you might get some sales out of the deal rather than risking all traffic for a period of time to move to a new name.

(Personally, I would plan on waiting a year or more to combine the two.)

If you got really creative you could probably find a way to use the old site to help the new site rank sooner without redirecting.

If / when you do redirect there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. If you redirect the 'root' (home page) of a site to an internal page on another site, things do not work the same as internal page to internal page (in Yahoo! for sure & possibly with Google). For some reason when redirecting a home page to an internal page it is treated as a 302 and the *old* domain will show with the contents of the new location.

2. Make sure you accomplish all redirects on the old domain to retain link weight.

DO NOT redirect www.OldDomain.com/page.html to NewDomain.com/page.html and then have NewDomain.com/page.html redirect to www.NewDomain.com/correct-page.html this is a 'stacked' redirect and link weight will not be passed.

Make sure you redirect www.OldDomain.com/page.html directly to www.NewDomain.com/correct-page.html

I would not worry too much about URL changes between the two domains, unless you go from /keyword/key-phrase-page.html to /123garbage/id47/itemA.html... If you go the other way /123garbage/id47/itemA.html to /keyword/key-phrase-page.html it should not cause any more trouble than moving from one domain to another, but I would seriously consider redirecting them to the new URLs on the old domain and getting them indexed on the old domain then redirecting them to the new domain (I think previously suggested) to keep the consistency jdMorgan mentions.

Be careful when choosing URL structure though, I have read quite a few posts where people redirected to adverse results, which means either:
A. They botched the redirect and lost 'link weight'.

OR

B. They inadvertently changed the 'theme' or 'focus' of their site and their rankings declined as a result.

Should we go ahead and redirect the current old-site-pointing domains away from the current site and to the new site now as well, for SEO purposes?

I would do what is best for visitors...

301 the 'type-ins' and misspellings to the place people will find what they are looking for. They are not going to make too much difference in rankings anyway. (There are many other things which are much more important to rankings, so send people where they will find what they are looking for quickly and easily.)

Use mod_rewrite or mod_alias for all redirects; DO NOT USE POINTING --- It is essential to be in control of all header codes sent to SEs and visitors if at all possible, and not have them 'switched' to a 302, etc. because of a host error or change in policy.

I agree with jdMorgan on *not* redirecting the new domain to the old... I have used the landing page with a link as suggested and a 5 second meta refresh successfully before.

Hope this give you some ideas.

Justin

PixelBella




msg:3479503
 5:14 am on Oct 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thank you! Returning from travels and processing these valuable suggestions and best strategies and what we can afford.

Unfortunately, the current site e-commerce platform has bugs that we are "living" with, yet paying too much for, each month. The provider has a new version that would result in all new page names with a new directory structure, so we have been stuck with the 301 redirect issue no matter which way we go (not to mention the hosting costs). But, we have big plans and realize there will be a cost to reach our destination.

We see the need for building up the new site as soon as possible, and the Christmas dilemma means our energies are placed on the old "developed" site, especially since it has such great traffic and ranking. sigh...

I'll be doing a lot of reading and re-reading of DNS as R. Charlton suggests.

Again, THANK YOU so much to everyone for their input.

[edited by: engine at 8:01 am (utc) on Oct. 17, 2007]

jd01




msg:3480080
 6:43 pm on Oct 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Sounds good...

Make sure you understand:
If you 301 to new pages within the same domain the rankings should be fine.
If done properly you will not lose traffic; your site will not be considered new.

I have personally successfully moved 1000's of URLs within a site without hurting traffic levels... Changing software and URLs on the 'old' domain should not hurt traffic if done properly.

Moving to a new site, whether done properly or not will very likely take from months to years for recovery.

Changing domains is totally different than changing URLs.

Justin

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