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I now moved the bluewidgets subdirectory to its own bluewidgets.co and placed a .htaccess (301) in the old directory - there was a meta refresh placed there for a few months because bluewidgets.co was not indexed by google. When I do a search for bluewidgets.co on Google the URL that shows is widgets.co/bluewidgets
Would the .htaccess cause Google to replace widgets.co/bluewidgets with bluewidgets.co? or would that cause widgets.co/bluewidgets to be dropped until bluewidgets.co was indexed?
Should I wait until bluewidgets.co shows up before I use a Redirect 301?
(oh, I am a long time lurker(2 years) and I finally registered and posted!)
No, you should get that 301-Moved Permanently redirect installed as soon as possible so that Google's deepcrawler will pick it up on the next crawl. You will then see the desired result about a month later, whenever Google updates again. Having the 301 and some incoming links to the new domain will help get the new domain indexed properly.
Do yourself a big favor, too. Once you install the redirect, test it using the WebmasterWorld Server Header Checker [webmasterworld.com]. Make sure your server is returning the proper 301 status code. Simple errors can prevent this kind of stuff from working as expected, so testing is a good idea.