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301 Redirects, www and Non-www

What should we do - what can we expect?

     
7:28 pm on Jul 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

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There's been a lot of talk about using a 301 redirect so there aren't two versions of your site out there (www.widgets.com and widegets.com) - I believe it is also a way to avoid being hijacked. It seems like everyone is doing it now.

I have a couple things I would like to clarify on 301's via this example:

A site currently has no redirect - google sees both widgets.com (PR 7) and www.widgets.com (PR 6).

It seems like this site should do a 301 redirect to widgets.com (the higher PR ranking).

Here are my questions:
1) Might this give the site an overall boost in PR?
2) What is the short-term effect of making this change (could it change your rankings and for how long)?
3) Is www. better than non-www?

Also, if you recently made this change yourself - how did it go? Thanks for your help!

8:44 pm on July 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I've set up a 301 redirect from a free domain to my webpage and the result was an increase of the PR.
Before that, I used a framing method.
I think the boost was just because more pages where linking to the "real" site. Those pages linking to the free domain and those linking to the site directly.

www or non-www depends on the users you are focused on. www is very common, people can get confused if you have a domain without.

8:56 pm on July 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Probably the most asked [google.com] question here.

>> 1) Might this give the site an overall boost in PR?

Yes, you basically consolidate two "sites" into one. Don't expect a significant change though.

>> 2) What is the short-term effect of making this change
>> (could it change your rankings and for how long)?

As for "how long" it's permanent. It will most likely change your rankings positively as you no longer "split" your site across two sets of URLs, hence each URL will get more link power.

As for "short term" don't expect any results the first four to six weeks. You might see improvement before that, but don't expect everything to be fixed in the SE before that. It takes time.

>> 3) Is www. better than non-www?

There's absolutely no difference for the SE's.

For the users, I'd personally argue that "www." is just an annoyance (four more characters to type) but others have other views.

In your case, as the non-www domain has the higher PR I'd advice you to select that one. Apparently more people link to the non-www version already, so if you pick that one you minimize the risk of problems.

9:52 pm on July 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Try to access your site using a page name that does not exist. Look at the 404 error page. Look for the bit that says::

Apache/2.0.46 (Unix) mod_ssl/2.0.46 OpenSSL/0.9.6b PHP/4.3.2 Server at www.domain.com Port 80

If the URL shown in the 404 page includes the www, then redirect to that. If it does not include the www then redirect to the non-www version instead.

If you want to use the other one, opposite to what is listed, then you must change the server alias setting in httpd.conf to reflect what you want to do, as well as setting up the redirect itself. If you don't then you will end up with a lot of problems.

If your server default is www.domain.com (as shown on the 404 page), but you want to use the non-www version instead, then this is what can happen if you fail to also edit the server configuration:

If you have a link to domain.com/folder (without trailing / on it) then the server will automatically redirect to www.domain.com/folder/ (the server default) before the 301 redirect kicks in to redirect you to the domain.com/folder/ that you wanted.

This can sometimes lead to all of your pages still continuing to be duplicate listed. The symptom is easy to spot if you use Xenu LinkSleuth and use it to generate a sitemap. You will see that the sitmap contains twice as many pages as you expected (twice as many as really exist), and that half of the listed pages have a title of 301 Moved.

If you link directly to domain.com/folder/ then no redirection takes place, and this does not occur. One careless link without a trailing / will be enough to start it going wrong. Don't rely on exactly correct linking within and to your pages, instead set the server alias to exactly match what you are redirecting to.

10:00 pm on July 6, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Great answers (especially Claus). Yes, there's been so much 301 talk here over the years, that it is difficult to nail down what should be done for sites now. That's why I started this thread.

Thanks for your help!

4:58 am on July 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Not showing code of 404 error. its showing page can't be found. How to go for this...
9:54 am on July 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Did anyone understand my post?

1:34 pm on July 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>> 1) Might this give the site an overall boost in PR?

Yes, you basically consolidate two "sites" into one.

I would rather say: two sets of inbound links into one.

2:02 pm on July 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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g1smd, good post. Regarding www. & stuff, I would add DNS configuration files should also be part of "to take care of" checkings.
3:15 pm on July 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I need to do this, too. It seems half my inbound links and indexed pages are without the leading www. Will non-www links still count as IBLs to www pages? I'm confused about the effect. When I check my links in the SEs, I always have to check with and without the www and I get different results. Will this change? I wouldn't think it would.
3:21 pm on July 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Did anyone understand my post?

I did. And although it's a mechanism I knew of, I did not think about it in this context. Well spotted, I should say!

4:20 pm on July 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>> Will non-www links still count as IBLs to www pages? <<

They will if you use a 301 redirect from all of the non-www to the matching www pages.

That is one of the (at least four that I can think of) reasons for doing the redirect.

12:26 am on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Great post g1smd :)

It's a great benefit to set up your server with the right default hostname when you do this stuff (or to have your host do it for you). Anything that can minimize the risk of errors is a good thing to do.

1:14 am on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If you consolidate you should get a higher PR because you are merging 2 sites into 1.
2:53 am on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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In my experience... the site's PR was split between the two version (www and non-www). This is what clued me in that I had a problem. When I put them together, PR went up for example:

Before:

site.com = PR2
www.site.com = PR3

After the redirect...

www.site.com = PR4
site.com = PR0

It seems as though you still get credit for the IBL pointing to site.com. Clear as mud?

2:57 am on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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g1smd, you have pointed to a very vital fact. If the web server is not configured to have the proper default (www or non-www), there will be so many redirects, it will take ages to load the site.
4:18 am on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The server alias name only appears to be a problem (at least on Apache) if UseCanonicalName is on. But it is certainly worth doing the test that g1smd describes above to be sure you don't have a problem.

To avoid the "friendly error page" (so graciously provided by MSIE) that obscures the vital server response, use a non-IE browser to do this test, or dig into the IE advanced options and turn the "Show friendly HTTP eror messages" option off. You'll also have to temporarily disable any custom 404 error page you may have in order to see the default server response containing the server name.

Jim

10:54 am on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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In my experience... the site's PR was split between the two version (www and non-www). This is what clued me in that I had a problem. When I put them together, PR went up for example:
Before:

site.com = PR2
www.site.com = PR3

After the redirect...

www.site.com = PR4
site.com = PR0

Billy, how long was your 301 in effect when this happened? It my case, this did not happen. After doing a 301, my www and non-www versions still have the same PR (www still being 1pt higher).

1:33 pm on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks! You've all cleared up my main questions. I'm excited to maybe get a PR bump. Once the 301's take effect, is it an instant PR change? Or, is it on the next PR update?
2:08 pm on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Could somebody thats better at this stuff than me write the three? lines of code I and other dummies need to paste into my file to do this? I need to send everything to www.site.com

Thanks loads in eagerly waited anticipation! Seen it the other way around but cant get that working...

2:49 pm on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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7:25 pm on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Billy, how long was your 301 in effect when this happened? It my case, this did not happen. After doing a 301, my www and non-www versions still have the same PR (www still being 1pt higher).

Two PR update cycles. I'm not sure the 301 was recognized by Google during the first toolbar PR update. By the second toolbar update, the PR was "fixed."

10:46 pm on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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is there any reason to do this i personally dont see how having a ihategargen.com and www.ihategargen.com out there is a bad thing
11:38 pm on July 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Look at the last 50 threads [google.com] about this.... all of them posted this year.

You are providing "duplicate content" and there are many reasons why that is bad.

7:48 am on July 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Two PR update cycles. I'm not sure the 301 was recognized by Google during the first toolbar PR update. By the second toolbar update, the PR was "fixed."

So how much time is that exactly? ;) Weeks, or months?
Thanks.

6:25 pm on July 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Up to 6 months or so.

Some effects can sometimes be seen in two to three weeks.

7:48 pm on July 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Would not implementing a 301 when you know Google has both the www and non-www versions indexed cause neither to rank highly when one would if it was all by itself? I've found a couple of my sites that are not apparently sandboxed, but are very far down the SERPs list for keywords they've been optimized for. One of these sites is #1 out of 25,000,000 pages at MSN and in the top 20 at Yahoo, but is about #400 at Google for the same keyword. Could the lack of a 301 be the culprit (or at least be a major contributing factor)?
8:52 pm on July 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I did the 301 and I'm surprised how quickly G reindexed all the pages. It happened in about 2 days. PR is still the same amount for all my pages. But I think some of the non-www pages used to not show PR while the www pages did. Now all the www pages show PR.
9:14 pm on July 11, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Changes in the green URLs you see in the SERPS usually happen relatively quickly. Changes in PR and changes in ranking take a good deal longer time.
8:19 am on July 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I started a site in 1997, and most of the links are to "www". I recently got rid of that in all the internal links, did a redesign, added a blog inside the site, etc.

I'm doing a 301 redirect from the "www", and my 404 page shows without the "www".

My home page was PR5, now it's PR4. An internal page that used to be PR6 is now PR3...

Bear in mind this is an "old line" site that was around before google. It doesn't have scads of content, but I've got a few yahoo and dmoz links, links from a well-known computer manufacturer, links from .edu sites, etc. Not much link growth recently, however.

One unrelated problem could be because I used to host another blog in a directory off the domain, and I moved that to a new domain and 301ed all those pages. That had a lot of inbound links, but none of them had anything to do with or linked to the PR6 page in any way. Another might be because I linked to some of my newer sites from the main page of the old site. But, one of those has PR consistent with the old site's PR.

Could this just be a temporary glitch?

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