Is domain name redirection hurting your SEO values?

Written on 30 September, 2013 by Verity Meagher
Categories DomainsSearch Engine OptimisationTags domain namessearch engine optimisationseo

Every now and then circumstances arise where you need to move a site or service to a new domain name – but you don’t want to burn the efforts you’ve put into SEO. There are good and bad ways to handle a domain switch, and if you follow these tips you’ll ensure minimal loss of SEO value for your site.

There are five primary ways to redirect one webpage to another, and they each have their own circumstances. But if you want to preserve your page ranking and link weighting then you need to choose the right domain name redirection.

Domain Name Redirection

Note: HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and has two major versions: 1.0 and 1.1. It’s this protocol that dictates how URLs are used and work in the browser. Generally HTTP 1.1 is the current standard. HTTP code redirects are handled on the server, often via configuration of the web server or special files in the root of the website. HTTP uses “status codes” to tell a web browser or search engine spider how to handle the page being requested.

301 moved permanently

The 301 status code is a permanent redirect and is the only method to reliably transfer your “link juice” or search engine rankings on to the new page. When a search engine hits a 301 redirect it ultimately moves the various content and link credits from the old domain to the new one.

302 found/moved temporarily

302 is a temporary redirect and is generally inadvisable as it passes on no rankings or link juice. In HTTP 1.0, the 302 status code was seen as “moved temporarily” but HTTP 1.1 changed it to “found”.

307 moved temporarily

This redirect is the HTTP 1.1 successor to the older 302 redirect. Many major search engines will treat this redirect type the same way as a 302, so it’s not advisable to use this for permanent redirection. In theory, search engines can understand this as a temporary relocation (say for development or testing purposes), but only if the engine has previously recognised your site as supporting HTTP 1.1. There is no way to check whether this is the case, so generally 301 is a better option.

Meta refresh

A meta refresh redirect uses the HTML meta tags and is used at a page level. They’re slower, as the user’s browser has to load the page content then redirect itself to the subsequent page – you’ve likely seen them before associated with a countdown: “This page will redirect in five seconds…” More importantly, they provide a substandard user interaction experience and pass on very little link value in search engines.

Client code redirect

Finally, a webpage redirect can be achieved using JavaScript on your site – but this method is to be avoided at all costs unless you have a specific application-based reason to do so. Any SEO rankings and weighting will be lost via this method.

Shifting domains is best avoided if possible, but if you absolutely have to move then rely on a server-based 301 redirect to keep your SEO advantage. For best results, you can set up individual URL redirects rather than a single domain redirect, linking pages at the old domain directly to their new counterparts at the new domain.

It is important to remember that, if you’re redirecting a domain to your site simply to gain traffic from an unrelated domain or one without content, you may end up being penalised in search engine rankings as this is often seen as a form of link farming or spam.

Your web host provider or developer can usually help with setting up these redirects, so be sure to enlist their aid before making the switch. Netregistry offers Domain Manager to help customers manage their domain name redirection in the correct way.