Multiple Domains and 301 Redirects

    December 7, 2004

A common area of misunderstanding and confusion within search optimization has to do with how and when one should use a redirection document. If you’ve moved a site to a new domain and you want your normal traffic to follow, a 301 permanent redirect needs to be employed. However, there are other occasions, also involving domain-based issues, when 301’s should be utilized.

301 redirect
Redirecting Traffic To Your Current Site

Are you confused about redirecting traffic to a new domain? Do you have any questions concerning 301 redirects? If so, discuss them at WebProWorld.

According to a resource page, a 301 redirect means, “The requested resource has been assigned a new permanent URI and any future references to this resource SHOULD use one of the returned URIs.” Meaning the site has moved and the user will now be forwarded to the domain indicated within the redirect.

301 redirects are normally used when a domain has been moved. However, there are other scenarios where a 301 redirect is appropriate. On, Adzleese asked what could be done about having a number of domains point to specific pages of his company’s website: “we have the domain which used to be for a regional office but is now not in use – I would like to point this to our Malaga page which provides info about the area and links to properties in the area.”

Adzleese’s post was answered by Bill Hartzer, who suggested using 301 permanent redirects to accomplish the task. “If these additional domain names aren’t redirected properly all of your sites may end up getting banned in the search engines. To redirect them properly, pick one main domain name. Then use a 301 Permanent Redirect to redirect all of you additional domain names to that one main domain name.”

Because the search engines are sensitive to duplicate content, using a 301 redirect in a situation like this can save your site from undue penalties. The alternative is to take your chances with linking out-of-use domains to the current one, which can result in banishment from search engines. 301s are also acceptable when switching sites from .nets to .coms, etc.

Google also suggests using 301 redirects when moving domains or URLs change. According to their page, “Regrettably, we cannot manually change your listed address at the same time you move to your new site.

That said; there are steps you can take to make sure your transition is a smooth one. Google listings are based in part on our ability to find you from links on other sites. To preserve your rank, you will want to inform others who link to you of your change of address… Once your new site is live, you may wish to place a permanent redirect (using a “301” code in HTTP headers) on your old site to inform visitors and search engines that your site has moved.”

Doing so not only informs any site visitors, it also informs search engines (except for Yahoo) that the site has moved. As for Yahoo, currently their search engine bots don’t “handle” 301 redirects correctly. This has been a frustrating issue for sometime. On, Buddhu pretty much sums up popular opinion regarding Yahoo and its handling of 301 redirects: “when is Yahoo gonna catch up and cope with 301s? Why do they want to keep us without a way of eliminating accidental dupe content from their index?”

Although, Yahoo has been attempting to correct their handling of 301s. In an interview with Yahoo Engineering Manager Tim Converse conducted by Yvette Irvin, we learned that, “In the time since we met with Tim, the team has rolled out a fix for 301/302 redirects. Documents will be handled by the new redirect policy as they are re-crawled and re-indexed and webmasters will start to see many of the sites change in the next couple of weeks. The index should be fully propagated within a month.”

Potential Yahoo bot troubles aside, 301 redirects are an important tool to utilize when site movement or multiple domains become an issue. If you have questions about the implementation of redirects, there are a number of resources that can be found by doing a quick search. For a comprehensive list of 301s and in what environment they should be used, visit Search Engine Optimization Rules.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.