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Eric Enge: Let's say you move from one domain to another and you write yourself a nice little statement that basically instructs the search engine and, any user agent on how to remap from one domain to the other. In a scenario like this, is there some loss in PageRank that can take place simply because the user who originally implemented a link to the site didn't link to it on the new domain?
Matt Cutts: That's a good question, and I am not 100 percent sure about the answer. I can certainly see how there could be some loss of PageRank. I am not 100 percent sure whether the crawling and indexing team has implemented that sort of natural PageRank decay, so I will have to go and check on that specific case. (Note: in a follow on email, Matt confirmed that this is in fact the case. There is some loss of PR through a 301). [my emphasis]
I wouldn't say that means never use a 301 - it is one of the useful tools in our toolkit. But it does mean don't throw 301 redirects around like confetti. Do get legacy backlinks changed when a domain changes. And it's better to fix a server infrastructure issue directly, whenever you can, instead of just doing a patch job.
Matt Cutts: re: link juice loss in the case of a domain change: “I can certainly see how could be some loss of PageRank. I am not 100 percent sure whether the crawling and indexing team has implemented that sort of natural PageRank™ decay”
My Comment: In a follow on email, Matt confirmed that this is in fact the case. There is some loss of PR through a 301.
301 Redirect Means "Some Loss of PageRank" - says Mr Cutts
Is It a Bad Idea to Chain Redirects (e.g. 301-->301-->301)?
"It is, yeah."
Matt was very clear that Google can and usually will deal with one or two redirects in a series, but three is pushing it and anything beyond that probably won't be followed. He also reiterated that 302s should only be used for temporary redirects...but you already knew that, right? [seomoz.org...]
"You can tell by the fact that Matt couldn't immediately answer Eric Enge's question that this is not a major issue"
"...that sort of natural PageRank decay..."
"On the other hand he did no specifically say that it only applies to domain name changes: it could well be that on site 301s lose some PR as well."